New Mexico Route 66 Adventures

“Woohoo, another state on the books!” I yell as we cross the border from Texas into New Mexico via Interstate 40. It’s a first for me in the ‘Land of Enchantment’ and that’s not the only cause we have for celebration.

We have several spectacular things to be shouting about. We have timed our visit perfectly to cross off one of my longest-standing bucket list items! But let’s start at the beginning.

The sky is bursting with gray robust clouds but it has yet to sprinkle on our parade. We are highly anticipating this part of our trip for two reasons: my husband is visiting with the family he has not seen in twenty years and we are attending the largest balloon festival in the world.

You would be hootin’ and hollerin’ too!

New Mexico Route 66

We exit the interstate immediately after passing the “Welcome to New Mexico” sign to pick up information at the Visitor Center. The woman behind the desk is friendly and points out the free coffee in the corner of the room.

“I like New Mexico already,” my husband says with a smile.

After selecting an overabundance of pamphlets – not sure if I mentioned this before but I have a teeny problem when it comes to collecting travel literature – we get back in the car to drive to our first New Mexico Route 66 town.

We arrive in Tucumcari midmorning and are disappointed our day traveling has us missing out on the neon world prevalent at night on Route 66. Driving down Main Street, we notice the old signs used to lure in weary travelers back in its heyday.

One thing missing from our trip is the excitement of not knowing what’s next or how far we will go. With a set schedule and having to be back in the Midwest in two and a half months, we found ourselves booking ahead and preplanning. I cannot wait for the day when we just get in our car and go, stopping at whatever place catches our eye.

New Mexico Route 66

Which brings me to the Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari. If we didn’t preplan our trip, I would have made this beautifully restored motel an overnight stay. The vintage motel is so dang cool it has made it to the National Registers of Historic Places.

Next on our agenda for the day is the Blue Hole in Santa Rosa, one of the most popular diving spots in the United States, and a Route 66 recreation stop. It is an 81-foot deep, big round clear blue swimming hole. I can’t imagine pioneers coming across this blue gem in the middle of the desert, they probably thought it was a mirage!

Start at the beginning of our Route 66 Adventure!

From Santa Rosa, we went north as a side trip off Route 66 up to the ski town of Taos and the historic state capital of Santa Fe. We spent a few days exploring New Mexico’s northwest region.

Taos is enjoyable, but Santa Fe was exceptional. I’ll fill you in on that part of the trip another time since we are focusing on Route 66.

New Mexico Route 66
Scenic Drive around Santa Fe

And now the time has come for the BIG event! We make our way back to Albuquerque via Route 66. The first highlight on our way is the Singing Road.

If you are planning to visit on your road trip, make a note that it is difficult to find. You’d hardly notice it if you weren’t specifically looking for the singing road. If you are in the area or driving Route 66, it’s worth the turnaround!

Click HERE for location via Google Maps

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

We arrive in the city a few days before the International Balloon Fiesta so we could spend time with family. I can’t help being anxious for the event, it has been on my bucket list for years and I am way too excited.

The Balloon Fiesta, which takes place every October, began as a small affair in 1972 and has become the world’s largest ballooning event and the largest annual international event held in the United States. People come from all over the world to attend.

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

The events of the day at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta are broken up into two sessions: morning and evening. You buy tickets per session and pay for parking for each. We were told by family, we had to experience at least a Mass Ascension and a Balloon Glow so we attended Saturday morning and Sunday evening of the first weekend.

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

New Mexico Route 66

Saturday morning, we wake up at 4:30 AM before the sun rises to get to the park for the Mass Ascension. The 78-acre Balloon Fiesta Park is a large open field and visitors walk among the balloons as pilots get ready to launch. It is day one of the Fiesta and we wait about 45 minutes to park, but once we are at the gates it goes smooth.

The Mass Ascension of hundreds of balloons happens at dawn and is an unforgettable sight. The balloons blast the sky with bursts of bright colors of all different shapes and sizes. It is everything I imagined it would be and more.

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

The Balloon Glow is another magical event; the balloons stay on the ground and once nightfall arrives they light ’em up in spectacular displays. The announcer countdowns from ten and either yells, “all burn” or “flicker.” The roar of the burners, the heat from the flame, and the excitement of the viewers take over the field. It is an experience like none other.

Albuquerque Balloon FiestaAlbuquerque Balloon FiestaOur final night at the Balloon Fiesta ended with a laser light show and fireworks display.Albuquerque Balloon FiestaWe weren’t done with Albuquerque yet! We read that one of the must-do activities in the city is the Sandia Peak Tramway.

“The tram stretches from the northeast edge of the city to the crestline of the Sandia Mountains and has the world’s third longest single span. It is the longest aerial tram in the United States.”

Since the Balloon Fiesta was going on we figured the lines would be long so we debated going. Then we found out you can drive up to Sandia Crest! We saved the money from the tram, avoided long lines, took a gorgeous scenic drive, and hiked a little once we arrived at the top.


The crest is one mile above Albuquerque and two miles above sea level so the views are marvelous. The tram is south of the area, behind the Visitor Center is a short hike that takes you to a viewpoint where you can see the line. Here you can choose to hike all the way down to it or turn around. The Scenic Byway was a fantastic way to see the views but not have to spend the money on the tram.

New Mexico Route 66


Sadly our time in Albuquerque is over, it’s time to say goodbye to our family and get back on the road. Wait until you see what we have planned for in Arizona though. It’s a doozy!

New Mexico Route 66

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Find out all the must-stops on a New Mexico Route 66 trip! It's the 'Land of Enchantment' so let's get enchanted on your visit!

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Angela E. is a travel writer from the Chicagoland area who has visited all 50 states in the US and has traveled extensively around the world. She is passionate about exploring the great outdoors and hiking in particular. Her love for nature has taken her to some of the most beautiful locations on the planet. She has written extensively about her travels on her own website, Dang Travelers, and has been published in collaboration with other travel websites and multiple visitor bureaus around the country.

9 Responses

  1. Cheryl Garcia

    Hey, so glad to see your post about Route 66 and New Mexico! My hubby and I have been happily living in the Land of Enchantment’s biggest city, Albuquerque for 38 years. We enjoyed being part of a balloon crew for over 25 years and yes, that is a truly spectacular event. I’ve taken visitors on the singing road and they’ve gotten a kick out of it too. You did hit the highlights and your photos are great; nice blog post overall.

    • Dang Travelers

      Thanks Cheryl! Wow, 38 years is a long time. Our family has been in the area for over 25 years and they say for year-round entertainment (aka golf) it’s the best 😊

  2. Chris Travels

    Your photos of the Balloon Fest are amazing! New Mexico is one of the few states I have not had opportunity to explore and Dang is giving me incentive to put NM on the front burner…cuz I’m not getting any younger!

  3. Cheryl Archambault

    What a great adventure. We went there about 6 years ago and to Sante Fe and Lower Colorado—loves it! The fiesta and dancing around Albuquerque is wonderful. The La FONDA hotel and town square and church in Sante, as well as the music and art, incredible. Great mineral day spa North and East of Sante Fe and great day tripping train ride through the mountains of CO and NM.

  4. Jason

    Your Rte 66 trip looks awesome! There are so many things to see and do. I would love to take my RV starting here in Ohio and make the trip. Timing it to see the Balloon Fiesta was a great idea, unfortunately with 2 kids in school I would have to make the trip during the summer and wouldn’t be able to do that. Thanks for sharing your journey.

    • Dang Travelers

      Thanks for following! I still have to get to my write-ups for the rest of the trip. It’s been an unforgettable trip with many bucket list items being crossed off! We met a family in Illinois that had done 66 a few years back and the kids said they loved it!

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