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Southwest Road Trip

One day, we got a text from our Aunt Kathleen and Uncle Rich asking if we’d be interested in touring the Southwest for a week. After our cousin, Maria, told us she and her fiancé, Gabriel, would be getting married in his home town of Nogales, Mexico, our Aunt and Uncle went to work creating a pre-wedding adventure!

It all started with the map…

If we were going to drive from Albuquerque to Nogales, we weren’t gonna miss a thing!

Some of the stops included the Petrified Forest, Antelope Canyon, The Hot Air Balloon Fiesta, Grand Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, and Silverton/ Durango. Of course, Kathleen and I were more concerned about the food stops along the way!

After consulting Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, every “must-see” online list, and friends, we sat around Kathleen and Rich's kitchen table and came up with a dream itinerary! Check out the itinerary, our day-by-day activities, and photos of everything!


Day 1 l Hot Air Balloon Fiesta

Day 2 l Hot Air Balloon Fiesta + Three States

Day 3 l Narrow Gauge Train

Day 4 l Mesa Verde, Four Corners, Horseshoe Bend, and Texas BBQ

Day 5 l Antelope Canyon + The Grand Canyon

Day 6 l Devil's Bridge, Prickly Pear Cactus Margarita + Chapel of the Holy Cross

Day 7 l Tucson

Day 8 l Wedding Day!

Day 1 l Hot Air Balloon Fiesta

Day 1 l Hot Air Balloon Fiesta

  • Fly into in Albuquerque

  • Hot Air Balloon Fiesta Sunset

  • Shop for road trip goodies!

Rich and Kathleen arrived in Albuquerque two hours before Samantha, my mom, and I so they went to Sam's Club to pick up road-trip necessities. We landed without a hitch... until I went to pull my bag off the conveyor belt. The second I pulled on the handle, the zipper snapped! Socks were being thrown at me from kind strangers down the belt and three people helped me grab the bag. Eventually we figured it out - who knew American Airlines has a "Baggage Hospital"

Six days of our 8-day trip was spent living out of the trash bag Samantha is holding in the photo since our bag was in Texas being fixed hahahha

We quickly dropped our bags at the hotel and went to the Sunset Session of the Hot Air Balloon Fiesta! Even though we didn't get to see the balloons fly on the first evening, it was so cool to watch the balloons light up and dance in the night!

*I took this video! Samantha would have been much more steady :)

Day 2 l Hot Air Balloon Fiesta + Three States

​ Day 2 l Hot Air Balloon Fiesta + Three States

  • New Mexico: Hot Air Balloon Fiesta Sunrise

  • Arizona: Petrified Forest

  • Colorado: Night in Durango, CO

When the alarms went off at 4am I was thankful my body was still on East Coast time! We headed to the final day of the Hot Air Balloon Fiesta for the Final Sendoff! Hundreds of balloons went up at the same time! I've never seen anything like it!

We left Albuquerque and drove three and a half hours west to the Petrified Forest in Arizona! We heard mixed reviews about the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest. Some people said it was cool but not worth a trip, other people said it's a must-do. Here's my review! I LOVED it! As much as I think Pennsylvania wins the fall with our mountains and changing leaves, I had my head out the window like a dog looking at the pinks, greens, and dark purples that painted the mountains of Arizona!

After checking out Arizona, we hopped in the car and drove four hours up to Durango, Colorado for the night!

Day 3 l Narrow Gauge Train

Day 3 l Narrow Gauge Train

The Narrow Gauge Train is known for the views and they did not disappoint! We took the train up to Silverton, spent a few hours in the town, then took a bus back down.

Tips for a day on the Durango - Silverton Narrow Gauge Train:

  1. Check ahead to see if they are in season! If you go during off season or close to the end of the season (like we did) many of the attractions in Silverton are closed.

  2. Thee Pitts Again - Do not miss this food stop! Featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives and I miss it already!

Day 4 l Mesa Verde, Four Corners, Horseshoe Bend, and Texas BBQ

Day 4 l Mesa Verde, Four Corners, Horseshoe Bend, and Texas BBQ in Arizona