Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta – Canvas of Color Made of 750 Gas and Hot-Air Balloons!
This fall festival is one for the books! With the cool mountain air, the beauty of the helium gas and hot-air balloons, and the warmth of spending time with family and friends, there’s no place quite like the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.
The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is a nine-day autumn festival that’s all about blue skies, bright sunshine, and 750 beautiful hot-air balloons. The fiesta takes place in Sangre de Cristo Mountains, just overlooking the Rio Grande Valley. The festival is all about balloons—beginning in the morning with Dawn Patrol and ending with the “Glowdeo” parade and other amazing balloon activities.
How Hot Air and Gas Balloons Got Their Own Fiesta
It all began in 1972, with the Fiesta starting out as a modest, 13 hot-air balloon race at the Albuquerque Coronado Shopping Mall. Three years later, the Fiesta and the World Hot Air Balloon Championships joined forces together in order to make an even greater event. By 2000, the Fiesta had evolved into over 1,000 balloon racers applying for entrance into the festival. Officials had to limit the hot air balloons to 750, but with each year the Fiesta gets bigger and better.
Albuquerque has now become synonymous with ornate and elaborately designed balloons as every balloon entrant tries to make their balloon design the best. Children will be happy to see some of their favorite characters as balloons, while adults take in the majesty of the creative and colorful balloons.
Those that are from the area already know what to expect in Albuquerque for October. However, newcomers need to take note that morning temperatures at the festival typically start at around 45 degrees and by noon heat up to 70 degrees.
Long days at the Albuquerque Fiesta might make dressing a challenge. When considering outfit alternatives, think about bringing layers, a blanket, jackets. When thinking about footwear, keep in mind you will be walking a lit so dress comfortably. Don’t skimp on the sunscreen, the park’s high altitude makes you a great target for sunburn. When accessorizing think about sunglasses, visors, scarves, gloves, and warm headwear.
Riding in RVs
Those that want to experience the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in a whole new way should think about hopping in an RV and heading to the festival. The Balloon Fiesta Park, where the festival takes place, offers many different options for RV parking. In an RV, you can see the festival from a whole different perspective. RV fees start at $35 for a night and can go up $175 for exclusive RV parking. Parking for RVs is always first come first serve, so if you plan to travel this way come prepared and come early.
Hot-Air and Hot Food
The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta has great choices for food and drink. 30% of the field is covered in concession stands and refreshment areas. Take your pick and enjoy but remember to consume safely—high altitude levels can cause nausea and quickly increase your body’s ability to absorb alcohol.
Outside of the Festival and Into the City
If you’re in Albuquerque just for the festival, be sure to check out all this amazing city has to offer. If you want to continue with outdoor activities, take a look at the hiking trails along the city’s volcanoes, biking trails around the Sandia Mountains, horse back riding by the river or golfing at any of the city’s several golf courses.
Albuquerque has a great offering of artistic and cultural activities as well. Don’t miss a chance to visit the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center or taking a trip to he National Hispanic Cultural Center, as well as stopping by any of the city’s many museums.
Tickets and Pricing
The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta offers several different methods for purchasing tickets. When choosing ticketing and membership options you will need to decide how you want to experience the festival and what sessions you would like to go to. Tickets are sold per session for each of the Fiesta’s 14 sessions. Each day has a morning session, and throughout the week there are five evening sessions.
General admission tickets for the Albuquerque Fiesta are $8 when purchased at the park, the day of the event. When purchasing tickets in advance, tickets must be bought as a pack of five or purchased as a Five-Session Ticket for $35.
The Gondola Club and The Chasers’ Club
In addition to general admission tickets, the Fiesta offers the Gondola Club, which is a limited, exclusive club that allows ticket holders to view the festival from a secluded location. Membership to the club offers indoor seating, great food live entertainment, complimentary amenities, and travel shuttles to and from the event. The Gondola Club is the way to see the festival in luxury. If you’ve been to the Fiesta but are looking to take your experience to the next level, check out tickets to the club, starting at $100 for adults, and $50 for kids per session.
The Chasers’ Club gives attendees entrance to the Chase Lounge, right next to the Launch Field, provides food and drinks in a private, outdoor location. Chaser’s Club tickets are $45 per session.
Perfect balloon riding weather waits for no man! Join balloon enthusiasts at 5:45 am for the Fiesta’s Dawn Patrol morning session. Watching the hot-air balloons illuminate the dark morning sky right before sunrise is an experience unlike any other. Many Fiesta goers enjoy this part of the festival the most.
The part of the Fiesta known as Mass Ascension begins each morning at 7:15 am. This session marks the launching of every hot-air and helium gas balloon into the sky, in a period of two waves. The Mass Ascension is truly a site to see as onlookers witness the brightly colored balloons begin to dot the morning sky. Following the launching, a balloon flies the American flag as the American national anthem echoes through the valley. The beauty of the moment is the best souvenir anyone could ask for.
Evening Sessions and the Balloon Glow
The evening sessions feature fireworks in the Afterglow events, starting with the Balloon Glow at 5:45pm. The Balloon Glow happens when all hot-air balloons fire their lights at the same time. This is incredible to see in person and is followed by an amazing display of fireworks.
Special Shape Rodeo
Visitors to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta may be excited to see balloons shaped as their favorite pop culture references. This is what the Special Shape Rodeo is all about. This rodeo is a parade of all the bright, oblong, cartoony favorites that parents and children will get a kick out of seeing.
Getting Close and Rainbow Ryders
Many spectators may feel that going to a festival to see balloons from a distance is rather impersonal. However, at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, attendees can get within arms reach of the balloons! Before balloons take off, visitors can literally touch the balloons and watch them ascend right before your eyes.
Additionally, attendees to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta are welcome to take part in the Fiesta’s Rainbow Ryders Balloon Riding services. Book reservations today to make sure you have a hands-on festival experience!
Avoid Traffic with Park & Ride Services
When traveling to the Albuquerque Fiesta, it is important to note that parking might be a problem. General parking starts at $10, but parking spaces fill up very quickly. With the Fiesta’s Park & Ride Services, attendees can park their vehicles remotely and use the Balloon Fiesta Express Park & Ride bus to get to the park. When purchased in advance, tickets are $15 for adults and when purchased at the bus, adult tickets are $22.
Insider Travel Tips
For those that will be flying in to the Albuquerque Fiesta, it is important to think smart!
When booking flights, keep in mind that morning sessions start early and you will need sufficient time to rest after your flight.
When booking hotels, visit the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta website to check for deals with the Fiesta’s sponsors. When looking for transportation, don’t overlook Uber and Lyft as rental car prices run high during festival season. When renting cars, take notice of what time the rentals close to avoid being left without transportation. When entering the park, festival veterans swear by arriving to the Balloon Fiesta Park by the west to avoid the traffic of attendees coming in through the south end.
For traveling families that are taking a car or rental vehicle, be sure to travel with supplies! Pack extra water, clothing, sheets, blankets, snacks, first aid equipment, and extra pairs of comfortable shoes in order to help prepare you for the long day ahead. Though the park closes between sessions and you may travel elsewhere, it is very likely that you may not make it back home or to your hotel before the day is over with.
So whether it is your first or fifteenth visit to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, don’t let Autumn go by without a trip to Albuquerque. With just one trip to the Balloon Fiesta, you’ll be floating on air!
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