Intel: Before you go, listen to ‘Buena Vista Social Club,’ the award-winning CD produced by guitarist/composer Ry Cooder, after he was swept away by the power of Cuban music. I got turned on to this genre after becoming a fan of former Havana resident (and world-class musician) Arturo Sandoval.
Albuquerque, New Mexico, during Balloon Fiesta
Visitors and locals gather in the pre-dawn hours to watch the tightly choreographed inflation and timed ascent of up to seven hundred hot air balloons. Everyone is a big kid at this smile-inducing event, which takes place in a designated park the size of 10 football fields. In addition to the traditional balloon shapes shown here, the festival draws dozens of “special shapes,” and it’s a surreal experience to see the sky filled with things like giant soda cans, storks, stage coaches, fruit and champagne buckets.
Intel: Take advantage of buses which depart from major locations across the city and drop you near the fiesta entrance. Dress for winter, but wear many layers, and take a backpack to stick it all in, as you peel off mid-morning. Arrive pre-dawn and buy a breakfast burrito once you’re in the park.