Friday, October 11, 2013

Fun Things to do and see in New Mexico & Chicago

I was contacted by Kendra Thornton (of Chicago) to collaborate with her by writing about what there is to do in my town. So I started thinking about all the fun places to go to in and around Albuquerque, New Mexico. Well there is certainly a lot more to do than just what I compiled here, but these are just some of the things that I enjoy. Some things you can visit anytime and other events are annual. Here are a few things to do in the beautiful Land of Enchantment~
Hot air balloon quilt that I made.
Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, mass ascension. Photo from their site.
Starting this month in October is the International Balloon Fiesta. This annual event is held at Balloon Fiesta Park and runs for 9 days starting the first Saturday of the month. There are almost daily balloon ascensions or gas balloon races (weather permitting) and some night time balloon glows. There are hundreds of hot air balloons to see, including lots of special shapes balloons. People the world over come to this balloon event to see the balloons, take a balloon ride or to fly their own hot air balloon. It’s a fun and unique experience to get right up close to the balloons and see them spread out on the grass and then watch as they get inflated and then finally take off into the blue Albuquerque skies. It’s a great photo opportunity, so bring a camera and make sure you have extra memory cards. You will want to check out the Anderson Abruzzo International Balloon Museum as well, which is also at Balloon Fiesta Park. It’s a great place to visit and see after the balloon ascensions or in between the ballooning festivities.
Anderson Abruzzo International Balloon Museum. Photo from their site.
If you like to knit, weave, crochet or felt the annual Taos Wool Festival  is held the first Saturday and Sunday in October in Kit Carson Park in Taos. This is the same weekend as the Balloon Fiesta, but the wool festival is only a 2-day event. There are animals such as sheep, llama, alpaca, etc. there to see and several demonstrations throughout the 2 days, such as sheep shearing. It’s fun for the kids or grand kids to see. There are lots of vendors selling beautiful yarn and equipment for each type of craft. It’s fun to sit down and people watch too. I love seeing how people are dressed in their knitwear, or woven or crocheted clothing. It starts to get cold in Taos right about the time this fun festival is happening.

Kit Carson Park is just a short stroll to the Taos Plaza where there are lots of shops and restaurants. Taos is about a 2 hour drive from Albuquerque, so you may need to plan in advance if you want to attend this festival in the future.

April is the month for the annual Quilt Show in Rio Rancho, NM (just up the hill from Albuquerque’s Westside). This is an outdoor quilt show located on Pinetree Road just off Southern Blvd. at the Veteran’s Memorial Park located between the Post Office and the Esther Bone Memorial Library. This quilt show is the work of the Thimbleweed Quilters.
Photo from Quilt Show in Rio Rancho. I took this photo for my other blog (Daryl's Fiber Arts Blog)
In May (Memorial Day weekend) is the Albuquerque WineFestival. Plus there are several wineries in the Albuquerque and Corrales area that you can visit nearly anytime. 

Each odd year in May is the Fiber Arts Fiesta held at the state fairgrounds in Albuquerque. Every fiber art is represented in this show from quilts to weaving, knitting, crochet, felting, tatting, mixed media and so much more! Lots of vendors as well.

Los Poblanos is an historic inn and organic farm. They have special events such as the Lavender Festival in July. It’s a beautiful place to just wander around on the grounds or you book a stay there too.

Starting in August, you’ll see chile roasters set up all around the state at Grower’s Markets and Farmer’s Markets as well as grocery stores. While the chile is grown south of us, mostly in Hatch, New Mexico, you can smell the scent of New Mexico all over the state when the green chile is roasting. If you are visiting and can’t buy a 30-pound bag of roasted chile, you can still taste green chile in the various Mexican and New Mexican restaurants across the state. If you are a light weight, be sure to order your green chile mild and on the side. Even the mild sometimes can pack a wallop. You might prefer red chile. If in doubt just ask for Christmas and you’ll get both red and green. In fact here in New Mexico we have a state question, “Red or green”? If you go to a restaurant that serves chile, be prepared to answer that question.
Photo of Hatch green Chile from New Mexico Catalog.
In September in Corrales, New Mexico (which is a small quaint village located next to the west side of Albuquerque), is the annual Harvest Festival.

In September there is Expo New Mexico at the state fairgrounds.  The usual fair stuff: rides, animals, arts and crafts exhibits, etc.

Anytime of the year you can visit Old Town in the heart of Albuquerque. There is a plaza in the center of Old Town that is a park with a gazebo and lots of benches to sit. The park plaza is surrounded by gift shops and restaurants and art museums. It’s a great place to pick up a souvenir. There are more art museums, the Explora Science Center, the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science located just a few blocks from Old Town on Mountain Road.  Plus not too far away is a Rattlesnake Museum, the ABQ Bio Park Zoo and Aquarium and Botanic Garden.

Catch the tram and ride to the top of the Sandia Mountains. The Sandia Peak Tramway is the longest tram in the world! It’s several degrees cooler at the top of the mountain, so be sure and bring a sweater or warmer jacket, depending on the time of year. Gorgeous views at the top, plus hiking and skiing in the winter months on the East side of the mountain. There’s even a restaurant at the top, called High Finance Restaurant.

There's lots of hiking and biking trails in Albuquerque too. About 40 miles southwest of Santa Fe is Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. This is a nice place to hike and see some unusual rock formations that look like little clusters of tents.
Tent Rocks. (photo from site above)
The University of New Mexico (UNM) is located on Central in the university district. UNM houses PopejoyHall, which is the place to go to see musicals, stage plays, concerts. There are other smaller playhouses around the area such at the Albuquerque Little Theater, the Adobe Theater, The Box Performance Space, etc. You can go here to see all the theater playhouses in the area.
New Mexico Rail Runner. (photo by
If you want to take a little jaunt up to Santa Fe you can drive by car. It’s about an hour’s drive from Albuquerque. Or you can catch the Rail Runner. It’s a train that travels back and forth from Belen to Santa Fe, making stops along the way. If you exit at the Rail Yard in Santa Fe, you’ll see restaurants and some art museums. Get there early in the day on Thursday and the Santa Fe Farmer’s Market is there with lots of seasonal produce, good eats, sometimes entertainment and arts and crafts across the street. Of course if depends on the time of year whether the market is open. The Rail Runner doesn't run early enough on Saturdays for the Farmer’s Market though. You can take the local buses for free if you show them your Rail Runner pass.
A collage of photos I took at the International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe.
There is a lot to do and see in Santa Fe. The plaza is similar to Old Town with shops, restaurants and museums surrounding the park plaza. If you are looking for a Native Indian made jewelry or small art piece, every day in front the Palace of the Governors Museum you’ll see Native artists sitting along the museum building selling their creations. The Georgia O’KeefeArt Museum is not far away. Plus there is the Museum Hill area where the Folk Art Museum is located. If you are visiting in July, the International Folk Art Market is going on with artists from around the globe selling their creations and most wearing their native costumes. It’s a fun place to see colorful works of art as well as colorful people too.

The famous Santa Fe Opera House is a beautiful place to see an opera. Check the schedule for what’s playing and when.
Photo of the poster of the opera house from their gift shop.

Other events in Santa Fe is the Indian Market in August, the Spanish Market in July. These outdoor markets fill the streets with colorful works of all kinds of art that surround the plaza in the heart of Santa Fe.

From the Spanish Market you will see things like painted bultos, which are three-dimensional, painted wooden sculptures that represent images of Christian iconography. Photo from Spanish Market site.
This is a photo of a painting from the Indian Market in Santa Fe. Photo from their site.
You can visit art galleries up and down historic Canyon Road in Santa Fe anytime of the year. There are always lots of paintings to see as well as beautiful outdoor bronze sculptures and more.
Photo from Waxlander Gallery
Of course New Mexico has so much more to see than just what I listed above. I tried to list most things to do and see that are within an hour or 2 drive from Albuquerque

Fun Things to Do and See in Chicagoby Kendra Thornton

Chicago offers some of the most unique and beautiful attractions in North America. With world-class museums, hotels, nightclubs, and architecture, it attracts millions of tourists every year. This city is a great place to visit for a weekend of culture, history, and fine cuisine. From award winning restaurants to eclectic street festivals and free concerts, there's something for everyone in Chicago. Just in case you're having trouble deciding, here are a few places to see next time you visit the Windy City:

The Field Museum of Natural History

Described as one of the world's finest natural history museums, The Field Museum boasts a unique collection of dinosaur skeletons, handcrafted artwork, and rare diamonds. This is one of my favorite places to bring my children! Visitors can enjoy guided tours of the most popular exhibitions, learn fascinating things about the Ancient Egypt culture, and discover the amazing diversity of animals and plants. The museum features a huge library with over 275,000 volumes and 250,000 pictures in the areas of botany, anthropology, zoology, and geology. Here you will find the largest, best-preserved Tyrannosaurus Rex ever unearthed! My kids can not get enough of this place.

National Sustainable Seafood Month Is Now!

Founded in 1930, The Shedd Aquarium is one of the most popular cultural attractions in Chicago. This indoor aquarium boasts over 32,500 animals and 1,500 different species, including snakes, birds, fish, insects, sea turtles, and amphibians. A diver hand feeds the fish several times a day, and they are currently working to promote National (Sustainable) Seafood Month this October. While October is National Seafood Month, the Shedd is valiantly promoting eating seafood that can sustain the hungry ways of humans. Also, there are various permanent exhibits such as the Abbott Oceanarium, Wild Reef, and Waters of the World. Tourists can admire rare species of fish and mammals. The aquarium is home to seahorses, blue iguanas, giant octopus, crocodiles, anacondas, and sharks. You can also see Beluga whales, Alaska sea otters, Pacific white-sided dolphins, and California sea lions.

The Peninsula Chicago

When I get a free moment to myself, which isn’t often, The Peninsula Chicago is one of my favorite places to go. This 20-story luxury hotel features a wonderful spa as well as fine dining. The building is located within walking distance to the landmark Water Tower and the Wrigley Building. The bottom floors are occupied by designer stores such as Banana Republic and Ralph Lauren. I first found out about this spa by looking through a list of Chicago hotels on the site gogobot. Guests can have breakfast, lunch, or dinner at the Shanghai Terrace, a famous restaurant that serves Chinese specialties and cocktails. If you something a little lighter, go to Pierror Gourmet. This European-style cafe provides the ideal backdrop for a relaxed dining experience.

Lou Mitchell's Restaurant

Finding a place to eat that all my children like can be downright difficult. One place they can all agree on, though, is Lou Mitchell’s. Lou Mitchell's is the perfect breakfast place, serving great omelets, French toast, pancakes, and ice cream at a good price. It's one of the best diners in town, so make sure you try it out! Established in 1923, this breakfast bar has been host to many presidents, senators, athletes, and celebrities. Their menu includes homemade orange marmalade, Belgian waffles, fresh banana pancakes, turkey bacon, and refreshing salads. There is even a children's menu that includes bacon strips, breakfast cereals, and egg specialties.

With stunning architecture, fine restaurants, and world famous museums, Chicago is a great place to call home, and to visit!


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  1. Sounds like a wonderful place to visit any time of the year. I love your balloon quilt

  2. Thank you for all the information on New Mexico. I would love to see the Balloons Fiesta some day.

  3. WOW! so much to do there and it sure reminds me when I was a child and lived there. I also remember my mom roasting lots of chile and even now that we live here in California my parents still make a trip to visit family and of course bring bags of chile which is the best:) Your quilt is beautiful and with such amazing inspiration around you.

  4. I am so glad you wrote this, I need to jot a few things down and you have to share where you go fabric shopping, I will be in Santa Fe and Albuquerque in the middle of November, getting so super excited.


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