I have never seen a sky more colorful than I did at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta as hundreds of balloons sailed silently through the New Mexico crisp fall air into a virtual rainbow of colors. “Today is a good day,” I whispered to myself as I stood in wonder watching over 500 hot air balloons soar over the city’s skyline — one by one, floating high and higher into the beautiful blue sky.
The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is an annual hot air balloon event that starts the first week of October in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The event is the largest of its kind in the world and perfect for all ages. You see so many unique shapes flying in the sky; my favorite was the Smurf. Take a moment and think about how excited you get when you see one hot air balloon floating in the sky. Now picture hundreds of them floating in the sky as they slowly take off right above your head. Magical!
Before the balloons take flight, you get to experience the pilots and crew in action as they unravel the balloons, inflate with cold air and then heat. The flames shoot from a burner up in the balloons like a rocket into space; it’s something to see, especially at night during the glow session. During these sessions, the balloons stay grounded but “fired up” throughout the session, which is so beautiful against the black night sky. You are allowed to wander around the inflating and rising balloons, which is an excellent experience all in itself. I felt like a kid walking around a maze, anticipating what I would see around the next balloon. When you see the balloons floating in the sky, you don’t grasp just how big they are but standing next to one you do!
No Worries Balloon Team and Volunteers
I got a once in a lifetime opportunity to crew with Pilot Debbie (and her support crew). This is one experience I will never forget!
Antelope Track Dance Team – Hopi Tribe
The admission price is $10 for anyone over the age of 13 and free for 12 and under. The $10 gives you access to one-morning session or one-evening session. You will want to attend both sessions to enjoy the whole experience fully.
Parking is $15, cash only. There are two parking lots south of the launch field that requires a bit of walking. Shuttle services are available, but the lines can be incredibly long. If you decided to walk, make sure you have some good walking shoes on. You’ll need them anyway because the launch field is big and you’ll spend a few hours walking around observing all the balloons and pilots in action.
Morning session starts at 6:00 – 11:00 a.m. You’ll want to arrive by 4:30 or 5:00 a.m., so you have time for security check and purchase your tickets. You do have the option of purchasing your tickets online to save time. The show starts at 6:00 a.m., and you don’t want to be late!
6:00 a.m. – Dawn Patrol
6:30 a.m. – Morning Glow
6:45 a.m. – Opening Ceremonies
7:00 a.m. – Mass Ascension
After the Mass Ascension, I sat around in my lawn chair (you can bring a blanket – grass might be wet) and watched the balloons float and land for over an hour. I then headed over to the concession area for a hot breakfast, live music, and watched the different street performers go by. Around 11:00, security starts moving everyone towards the exit. Use this time to head back to your hotel or RV for a power nap, so you’re refreshed for the evening session.
Evening session starts at 2:00 – 7:00 p.m. The lines are not long if you arrive around 3 p.m., they are around sunset because of the night glow. I arrived at 5:00 p.m. and had to wait in line but nothing compared to the morning session.
2:00 p.m. – Gas Race Balloon Inflation
5:00 p.m. – Team Fastrax Skydiving
6:00 p.m. – Gas Race Balloon Launch
6:00 p.m. – Balloon Glow
7:00 p.m. – Team Fastrax Skydiving
8:00 p.m. – Fireworks Show
The schedule listed here is from 2019. Please check the balloon fiesta website for a current schedule for 2020, and a downloadable guest guide (not every day has an evening session, so make sure you check out the guide book before planning your travels). This year fiesta is October 3 –11, 2020, look for me and the fam. We’ll be there the first weekend so don’t be shy, come on over and say hi!
For those of you that live in my home state, the drive is only 8 hours. It can be done in one day if you only have a weekend to attend the event. I hit the road at 4 a.m., which is the time I depart for all of my road trips and was setting up camp by 2 p.m. I did made several stops along the way to snap photos, refuel my body, and RV. BOOK YOUR HOTEL NOW several have already sold out! Make sure you select a hotel that offers free cancellations and no up-front deposit in case you do have to cancel; you won’t lose any money.
Travel Dates: October 3 – 9, 2019
“It’s the little things that make life big”