Need some tips for your first trip to the Albuquerque Balloon festival?

April 22, 2020

Need some tips for your first trip to the Albuquerque Balloon festival?

 

The Balloon Fiesta is easily the most popular event in Albuquerque. It runs for 9 days in early October and is something that every family should try to attend at least once. Each year an estimated 850,000 people attend the Fiesta or just watch the balloons from somewhere in the city. You can attend the Fiesta in the early morning or evening hours and then explore the surrounding area the rest of the time.

 

 

I researched different blog articles and have put together some tips that will help prepare you for your first trip to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

 

  • https://balloonfiesta.com/ has a guest guide available to download.  It is full of useful information that will help you plan your visit.  The Fiesta also has a monthly email newsletter that highlights info about the balloons, sponsors, and events.

  • Tickets are bought for sessions, not days. There are morning and evening sessions. Not every day has an evening session.

  • Tickets can be purchased on the Fiesta website and printed ahead of time, or you can purchase them at the gate. Twelve and under get in free.

  • You will want to check out the food guide available online and plan your meals.  Get an idea which food vendors you want to visit and make note of their stall numbers.  This will save you some time while walking in the crowds. The lines at the food booths are going to be long. Once you get to the booth you want to order from, don’t just get into the first line you see. There are probably multiple lines, and the very last line that is furthest from the field will probably be the shortest.

  • Figure out how you are getting to get to the event and back. There will be lots of traffic. Some options are to drive yourself (there will be a parking fee), park and ride, take a shuttle from your hotel if it is available or use Uber and Lyft. If you are using the park and ride, you need to have a ticket before boarding the bus. Tickets can be purchased online thru the Fiesta website and you will be assigned a check-in time for the park and ride.

  • If you are carrying a bag or a purse, it will be checked at the entrance by security.  The fewer things you take into the event the better.  Express lanes can be used by people without bags or only bringing in a small clear plastic bag. 

  • Allow yourself plenty of time to get there. You must get up early and start your journey to the park even earlier than you anticipate.

  • The morning events start very early, shortly after sunrise, and it could be a little cold. Take a coat and even a hat and gloves.

  • The Balloon Fiesta is very dependent on the weather, and if it’s not good conditions for the balloons to fly, they won’t.  You may want to plan an extra day there just in case the weather doesn’t cooperate.

  • Don’t be surprised if you attend the morning Mass Ascension and when everything is finished people start to leave – possible by 9:00.  Some days do have other events scheduled, but really the highlight of the morning is the Mass Ascension.  Either move on to the next Fiesta activity, or maybe go back to the hotel room for a nap. 

  • The balloons take off one at a time, and the officials are very orderly about it.  The officials (known as zebras) are wearing black and white striped shirts, and they clear the crowds away from each balloon as it is set to launch.  Also, be aware that the balloons don’t rise straight up.  Depending on the winds, the balloons may be launched and not gain elevation immediately.  The officials do a good job of knowing where the balloon is going to go. Just keep your eyes open and be prepared to move.

 

  • You can walk on the field and go right up to the balloons.  You can stand aside as the balloons and basket are laid out and the burner and fans start to fill the balloon with air.  The basket and balloon are still secured to the ground at this point, and you will see the excitement on the faces of the people lucky enough to be going for a ride.  As the balloon is launched, everyone cheers and starts snapping photos.

  • Once the balloon launches, the chase team takes off.  Their trucks are parked in the field and they are anxious to get going.  Make sure everyone is observant and stays clear of the vehicles.

  • Next to the Fiesta field is the Hot Air Balloon Museum.  There are viewing events at the museum that include breakfast or dinner, and prices are reasonable for what is included.  Check out the website for more info.

  • Try to attend an evening Balloon Glow.  The Glows are very popular but don’t seem as crowded because the balloons don’t launch.  Once the balloons are inflated (this starts shortly before dark), the announcer will do multiple countdowns and all the hot air balloon pilots will fire their burners at once. Since it is dark outside, the balloons glow from the flame! Once this is over, it’s very dark on the field and hard to see where you are walking.  Take a small flashlight along or glow sticks to help light the way.  The fireworks will begin after all the balloons are cleared from the field.

 

I hope these tips will help you plan your trip and prepare you for an awesome time at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.  You will have memories and probably lots of pictures that will last you a lifetime.  Happy travels!

 

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