Getting the flavor of...
New Mexico’s balloon fiesta
Every October, Albuquerque’s azure skies become “a forest of billowing color,” said Steve Larese in NationalGeographic.com. The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, which was launched in 1972 with just 13 hotair balloons, has grown into the world’s largest ballooning event. For this year’s celebration, held Oct. 7–15, nearly 550 balloons convened, including about 100 in nontraditional shapes, from spaceships to scarecrows. Unlike at other balloon festivals, guests can wander the 78-acre launch site—and even sign up to help with takeoffs and landings. A highlight of the event is the America’s Challenge Gas Balloon Race, in which teams from around the world compete to travel the longest distance, often touching down more than 1,000 miles away. New to the fiesta is the Candlestick Burn, in which hundreds of balloons gather before dawn and flare their burners in the darkness before a choreographed mass takeoff.
New Jersey’s rainbow mine
At New Jersey’s Sterling Hill Mining Museum, you’ll find that rocks glow every color of the rainbow, said Jennifer Billock in SmithsonianMag.com. A working zinc mine from 1739 to 1986, Sterling Hill is now home to the world’s largest publicly displayed collection of fluorescent rocks—minerals that emit bright colors under black light. Visitors are introduced to this Technicolor phenomenon at the museum’s entrance, where more than 100 huge fluorescent mineral specimens cover an entire wall flooded with ultraviolet light. The main museum, housed in the mine’s 100-year-old mill building, has touchable displays for kids, but the most dazzling display is underground. On a tour of the old mine, you’ll walk through shimmering tunnels to the entirely fluoresced Rainbow Room. “Much of the route is illuminated by UV light, causing a burst of glowing neon reds and greens from the exposed zinc in the walls.” ■