Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta 101

The Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta started back in 1972 at a parking lot of Coronado Center Shopping Mall. 13 balloons were up in the air for the 50th celebration of 770 KOB Radio (they sure know how to throw a party!)

With the cool October morning temperature and the predictable wind patterns, Albuquerque is the perfect place to host the largest balloon convention in the world! Albuquerque hosted the first World Hot Air Balloon Championships. Soon after, the balloons became a signature event for New Mexico.
The number of balloons has grown from 13 to over 700.

This 9 days event offers a rare opportunity for spectators and visitors to view the whole process from balloon inflation to take off. If you are a shutterbug, pack your equipment and lets get snapping!

I want to also share with you all the logistics on planning this magical fiesta trip. So whether you are just watching the balloons lifting off, or getting a ride with Rainbow Ryders (my experience with Rainbow Ryders), or both; here are some great tips to help you get start it!

1. Flights
Booking 3 weeks before the arrival date
Set price alter on Kayak and Hopper to get the lowest fare

2. Location transportation:
Rideshare services:
Uber and Lyft are available in the state of New Mexico (hurrah!)
Uber is the official rideshare service for the fiesta; therefore it has a designated pick up location. You can still use Lyft to get to the park, but you will have to use Uber to get out of the park (the wait time for Lyft is 40min and Uber is 2min)
Renting a car:
You will need a car pass (can be purchased on the website)
An eco-friendly option. You will need a bike pass to park at the garage.
*Note: Throughout the event day, there will be free golf carts to take you from the park to garages, shuttle buses, balloon museums, or Uber pick up station.

1. Traveling in groups or don’t want to rent a car –> hotel.

It is recommended to book your accommodation early if you want to stay close to the balloon park; we are talking 3 months ahead of time. There are many nearby hotels you can search from Expedia, Trip Advisor, Kayak… The price range is from $50 to $110. The nearest hotel is Holiday Inn Express, about around $100 per night.

2. Solo traveling, which is what I did –> Airbnb.

I searched my eyes out for the cheapest place on Airbnb; the price range is below $50. To me, that is still too expensive. The one I picked was quite unique. It is not the most comfortable version, but I booked it for pure experience.

I camped at my host’s backyard, and surrounded myself with chickens and garden plants.
I brought my own camping tent with me; you can rent a tent from the host for $10.

Food Time:
1. At the Balloon Park:
There are rows of concession stands for your 3 meals per day (4 if you want a late night snack). This is a great opportunity to try some local cuisine. Also never hurt to have powder/sugary/fried for breakfast. Fry Bread. It is semi-authentic Native American cuisine.

2. Around the Balloon Park:
Farm & Table: Dinner or brunch Find food pictures
El Pinto Restaurant:
Casa de Benavidez:

What to bring:
A heavy sweater or hoodie is recommended for early morning, but make sure you have separate clothes after 9 because it will get burning hot.
If you do get to ride a balloon, make sure to wear a hat or hoodie. The fire is hot, it wouldn’t burn you but it can make the trip experience less comfortable.
7. you will see drips from the firing thingy (need to know the name), it is not oil leak. it is actually water evaporating
New Mexico’s October is quite refreshing; the nighttime can be a bit chilly. Bring you can bring warm socks and blankets.
Mirror selfie
talk about logistics of the ride (wait time and everything. How I carreid a crap load of shit, and the chase car can help carry all your crap)
Fiesta Programs You NEED to Attend The ticket is $10 per person per day. Here is more details about the cost of this event.

Dawn Patrol
This is the kickoff event. It starts at 6AM sharp. This is not only a great opportunity to get some killer picture of the balloons with
Dawn Patrol pilots take off before sunrise and fly until it is light enough to see landing sites. Fellow balloonists appreciate the Dawn Patrol because they can watch the balloons and get an early idea of wind speeds and directions at different altitudes.
Mass Ascensions
All the balloons will be launching in two waves. The launch directors, AKA the traffic cops, will be coordinating the balloons to make sure they safely leave the field. You have about 20 minutes to get as much pictures as you can before all the balloons fly away.
Special Shape Rodeo
As you walk among the balloons, you get to see all the uniquely shaped balloons. These balloons are specially made in Brazil. (list of the balloons, kissing penguins, bee)
Balloon Glows
There are 2 glow sessions, one around 6:30AM, and the other one is around 6PM. Large numbers of balloons are illuminated at night by their propane burners. From personal experience, photos were a bit hard to capture the experience. I would recommend video settings for these 2 events.
AfterGlow Fireworks and Laser Light Show:

Balloon Competition:

*Note(not all events will happen every day, make sure to check the event schedule) If you can, I would recommend at least participate 3 days of the event to get the full experience.

If you would like to know more about these balloons, The Balloon Museum is a great place to visit after the fiesta. It is located right next to the Balloon Park.

The balloon ride experience is once in a lifetime opportunity. People should take it. I know Albuquerque is not the only place that offers hot air balloon ride. But hey it is close to us.

Just Keep Flying