The first weekend of December brings color and excitement to the red sandstone bluffs and canyons of Gallup, New Mexico as 200 balloons from around the world descend upon this spectacular setting. Spectators of all ages will enjoy the incredible sights and soon understand why this is a balloonist’s paradise.
The Red Rock Balloon Rally, New Mexico’s premier ballooning event, has been held annually, the first full weekend in December since 1981. It is the second largest balloon event in the United States. Spectators can get up close to the balloons and even volunteer to crew. Click here to view a rally video.
This ballooning event is unlike others. It is warm and friendly and takes on the feeling of a small town festival. During the day Native American vendors will be providing an excellent opportunity to buy high quality Native American arts and crafts direct from the artisans. What makes this event unusual, is the beauty of the ancient red rocks and the location, right in the heart of the Southwest’s “Indian Country.” You’ll want to have your camera ready as these rainbow colored giants come to life.
The Red Rocks are the cemented sands of a fossilized beach, colored by dissolved iron seeping down from more recent volcanic activity, and then worn smooth by Anasazi residents who carved hand and toe holds into the walls to reach the mesa tops. Now, adventure-seeking balloonists soar above the magnificent canyons where movie producers still film Western epics. This is the only ballooning event where spectators are encouraged to become active participants by joining balloon chase crews.
Gallup is both crossroads and border town. While most of today’s visitors come through (and quickly) on Interstate 40, Gallup has been a major railroad town since the 1880’s and a long-time stop for drivers on Route 66. That historic highway’s motels make Gallup a living museum of vintage neon (none better than the Blue Spruce Lodge’s sign touting steam heat). And El Rancho Hotel, with its incongruous combination of a plantation-style façade and a rustic, lodge like lobby featuring split logs and Navajo rugs, is one of the finest surviving roadside attractions anywhere in the Southwest. The town also serves as a bridge between Anglo and Native American worlds. The Zuni Reservation lies just to the south, with several other traditional pueblos to the east. And the Navajo Nation wraps around Gallup on the north and west. This makes Gallup a trading hub for the Southwest’s Indian Country, and if it lacks the adobe romance of a Taos or Santa Fe, it offers high-quality Native American jewelry, textiles, and pottery—at better prices too.
Day 1: Travel to Flagstaff for an overnight stay. Along the way enjoy scenic routing through Oak Creek Canyon and a stop in Sedona.
Sedona, strategically situated at the mouth of spectacular Oak Creek Canyon, is universally known as a unique place. Characterized by massive red-rock formations, as well as the contrasting riparian areas of Oak Creek Canyon, the area surrounding this beloved community is considered at least as beautiful as many national parks. Take a tour to fully appreciate what the area has to offer. The narrated 85-minute Red Rock Magic Trolley Tour or a Pink Jeep Tour can be reserved upon arrival or by your escort when you are en route.
Day 2: Arrive in Gallup by early afternoon. Along the way, stop at Painted Desert Visitor Center. A spectacle of hues ranging from lavenders to shades of gray with vibrant colors of red, orange and pink color this incredible landscape. The visitor center offers hands-on exhibits and a 20-minute video.
Gallup was founded in 1891 as a rail head for the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad. It is situated in the heart of Native American lands. Its historic El Rancho Hotel has hosted a large array of famous people. Long a forerunner in racial diversity and civil rights issues, it is also home to more millionaires per capita than any town in the U.S. Gallup offers numerous museums and exhibits, to highlight the unique culture and history of the area. Lunch on green chile stew at Earl’s for a true Gallup experience. After your no-host lunch, visit the Code Talker Museum (recognizes the role Navajo Indians played in WWII using their native language to encipher and decipher military information for radio transmission), Rex Museum for a sense of Gallup’s rich and colorful heritage, and El Rancho Hotel.
This evening, attend Glow in the Rocks and see Native American Dancers at Red Rock Park.
Day 3: Following a complimentary hotel breakfast, head to Red Rock Park for a mass balloon ascension. Up to 200 balloons of all shapes and colors drift through beautiful canyons and over formations carved by wind and rain thousands of years ago. Spectators are welcome to get up close to the balloons and their pilots. A balloon may even land near the place where you sit or stand to say “Hi”. This is a photographer’s paradise!
As the day progresses, explore the sights and sounds of Gallup. There will be opportunities to visit the Saturday Flea Market (an authentic example of Gallup’s people, arts and food), The Cultural Center and Gallup’s outdoor public murals. A large percentage of the world’s Native art is made in or near Gallup — shop the many trading companies for jewelry, rugs, baskets and museum-quality pieces.
Set up a lawn chair to view the Gallup Christmas Parade this afternoon.
This evening, experience Balloominaria, a glow event. Get up close to all the cool balloons involved in the Rally.
Day 4: Following your complimentary hotel breakfast, head back to Red Rock Park for a second magnificent mass balloon ascension. Bid a fond farewell to friendly Gallup. The homeward bound route takes us through Tonto National Forest to Payson, where we stop for lunch at Mazatzal Casino. Anticipated arrival in Mesa is 3:30 pm. Yuma drop-offs anticipated 7:30 – 8:00 pm.
High Activity Level tour. Considerable walking involved, possibly on uneven surfaces. Elevators may not be present at all destinations. Tour involves activities at higher elevations. This tour is considered inappropriate for persons with mobility limitations.Depart Mesa approx. 10:30 am
Don’t forget your camera, lawn chair and a flashlight. Events are outside, so pack warm clothing and dress in layers. Events subject to change based on the wind and weather.
$409 pp/do …Escorted tour includes 3 nights accommodations at quality hotels with complimentary breakfast where available, balloon rally events as described, sightseeing and museums as described and deluxe motorcoach transportation. $599 single
November 30 – December 3
Thursday – Sunday
TO RESERVE CALL 928-783-8888 or 1-800-706-8687
For a description of tour policies, including cancellation penalties, click “Policies and Procedures” at the very bottom of this page.