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The Albuquerque Guide To Avoiding Balloon Fiesta Tourists

Ah...the Balloon Fiesta.  It's one of Albuquerque's most famous and attended events of the year. And we love it. Or do we? 

I guess the average Albuquerque resident--who's not making money off the thousands of extra people in town for two weeks--might ask, "What's in it for me?" Well, you've got a lot of time to sit and think in bumper-to-bumper traffic. You either have to avoid your favorite restaurants and pubs or make up your mind to wait in long lines to get in. 

So this is what leads leads us to the Balloon Fiesta Getaway Guide for us natives.

1. Take a few days off at the beginning and the end of the Fiesta

Want to avoid the above mess of tourist traffic during Balloon Fiesta week?  Got a few days of vacation saved up?  Use it to get away from here. At the very least, get away for the two weekends when the tourists will be at heir annoyingly best. This year, the most annoying time will be Columbus Day weekend, Friday, October 10th to Sunday, October 13th.  At the very worst, just stay indoors and have a vacation at home. Or maybe you can even convince your boss to let you work from home. Anything to avoid the hypertension scene above.

2. Stock up for Balloon-Week avoidance

Just in case you do decide to stay off the roads during the Balloon Fiesta, you might want to invest in a few things you might need--food, water, toilet paper, canned goods, pet food, essential medicine and first aid.  Notice that you don't need to stock up on any balloons.

3. Plan another route if you're going to have a baby

You don't want to end up giving birth like this because of Balloon Fiesta traffic, do you? So if you're near your due date and it coincides with the Fiesta, plan another route to your hospital or decide on another hospital as an alternative. Even better, plan on having your baby in the South Valley, far away from all the traffic and tourists. Since babies are often born in the wee hours, don't plan on rushing to the hospital between 3 and 8 am on I-25 North; hire a helicopter just in case. 

5. Take the Rail Runner Express to Santa Fe? NO.

Are you out of your mind?  You want to avoid rude tourists and you're thinking of taking the train to Santa Fe?  You might as well take one of the balloons and get dropped off there.  Most tourists think that Santa Fe is the MUST place to see before or after the Balloon Fiesta.

4.  Avoid Old Town, too

If you can't get to Santa Fe, go to Old Town. That's the mantra of Balloon Fiesta tourists. Listen, you can go to Old Town anytime. Just avoid it Balloon Fiesta week where there will be killer waits for every single restaurant.

6. DON'T visit the Gruet Wineries

Yelp recommends Gruet Winery as a place for tourists to visit during the Balloon Fiesta. So that means...you stay away. As if it wouldn't be crowded enough, it's the winery's 25th anniversary which will draw even more tourists. The winery is located at: 8400 Pan American Fwy, NE  in Albuquerque. So steer clear of this area.

7. Break away from Breaking-Bad sites

The series may be over but the tours, even self-directed ones, are still all the rage for tourists when they're not up in the air. Do yourself a favor and avoid these spots that will draw tourists like flies.

8. Flee from the Sandia Peak Tramway

This is another one of Yelp's must-do suggestions for Balloon Fiesta tourists. The moral of the story? Don't do it. This time head for some molehill instead of the mountains because you'll wait for hours to first get on the tram--and the same to come back down.

9. Hide out in Nob Hill

See how peaceful Nob Hill looks? And there's a lot going on: great restaurants, quirky shops. True, there will be some Balloon Fiesta tourists lured out here. But I live here and I haven't seen any significant crowding or waiting on line for anything because of the Balloon Fiesta.  

10. What the Hell, If you can't beat them...


Take a day off and just go to it. Yes, you'll have to wake up at 3 am, face the traffic, freeze your tail off, spar off with rude tourists, maybe the whole thing will be cancelled...but at least you were part of it one more time. And afterall, it is a fantastic Albuquerque view.