The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, held in the second week of October, is the world's largest hot air balloon convention and, undisputedly, the most photographed event on earth. The Balloon Fiesta had its modest beginnings in 1972 when 13 balloons launched from a shopping mall parking lot to celebrate the 50th anniversary of local radio station KOB. In three decades the event has grown into a nine-day extravaganza.
Last year over 800,000 US and international visitors descended on Albuquerque to watch the desert sky fill with over 700 multicolored and diversely shaped balloons during the event's opening weekend alone. Guests can walk amongst these hot air giants, talk with the pilots and crew, satisfy shutter-happy fingers by snapping the perfect photograph, or just gaze in amazement from below.
The convention has also become a major showcase of New Mexico's culture, heritage and history and features numerous exhibitions.
When to Go
This year, the nine-day event runs October 6-14.
How to Get There
GPS: Latitude: 35.198908 / Longitude: -106.586355
Balloon Fiesta Park is located at 5000 Balloon Fiesta Parkway NE, Albuquerque, NM 87113.
Northern Entrance (I25 Exit 234, Roy/Tramway south to Balloon Fiesta Parkway)
Southern Entrance (I25 Exit 233 Alameda Rd. west to Balloon Museum Drive)
The nearest major airport is Albuquerque Sunport, New Mexico (13 miles).
Getting to Albuquerque: Two interstate highways pass through Albuquerque. The I-40 goes east-west; the I-25 goes north-south.
What to See and Do
See 2012 Balloon Schedule for this year's complete schedule. Our suggestion, if you don't mind the crowds, would be to visit during the first weekend as there is more to see and do!
For a one day visit we would recommend going on Saturday, October 6, Friday, October 12, or Saturday, October 13. Here are the must see events on each day:
- See the Dawn Patrol Show (Saturday October 6, Friday October 12, and Saturday October 13). You must be an early riser for this! Set your alarm clocks and be ready by 5.45 AM to watch a selected group of balloons launch prior to sunrise.
- Opening Ceremonies (Saturday October 6). Be introduced formally to the international convention and familiarize yourself with your favorite balloon. Start time is 6:45 AM
- The Special Shapes Rodeo (Friday October 12) is not to be missed. At 7:00 AM watch lots of weird and wacky shaped balloons launch from the park. There is an evening event too at 5:45 PM.
- Observe Mass Ascension (Saturday October 6, Saturday October 13). At 7:00 AM be ready for a spectacular view of a painted sky when all 700 balloons launch from the park.
- Experience at night Twilight Twinkle Glow (Saturday October 6). At 5:45 PM you must watch the breathtaking balloon glows. A time with magic in the air, when all the balloons on the ground fire their burners and light up the dusk sky. Truly an amazing site!
- AfterGlow Fireworks Show (Saturday October 6, Friday October 12, and Saturday October 13). Once the field clears, to wrap up the evening with a bang, sit back and enjoy the lively fireworks display at 8 PM.
Two-Three Day Visit
Our one-day visit covers the main events of the Balloon Fiesta on the each of the following 3 days - Saturday October 6, Friday October 12, and Saturday October 13. If you are planning to attend for more than one day, you can easily spread out the activities across a couple of days and enjoy the other cultural events and exhibits. Visitors can enjoy live musical performances as you weave your way through the docked balloons, chat with pilots, capture breathtaking photographs and sample traditional fare, such as warm, puffy Navajo fry bread and smoldering tortilla soup.
During one of your mornings, kick start your day with a balloon ride, offered by Rainbow Ryders, then head outside the grounds and visit the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum (which is free on Sunday mornings) for a plethora of information about the art, history and culture of the sport of ballooning.
These include the Dawn Patrol Show, Special Shapes Rodeo, Mass Ascension, the flying competition, photo and painting viewing, bands and children's acts, roving entertainment, interactive education, and the AfterGlow Fireworks Show.
The Balloon Fiesta provides a stunning backdrop for budding photographers, so ensure you pack your camera and get snapping.
Balloon Fiesta Park
Visitor and Information Center
Check out the Albuquerque Convention and Visitors Bureau for more information.
Admission to the 2012 Balloon Fiesta is $8 for persons over the age of 12. Children 12 years old and under are admitted free. Park & Ride tickets are available to adults for $12, senior citizens for $10 and children under 12 for $6. Park & Ride tickets include general admission to the festival, as well as a parking spot in a designated lot, and a bus ride that takes you from the lot directly to the Fiesta. General Parking at the Event is $10 per car. Also available is the All-Event Parking Pass for $50. Advance admission tickets are available in packs of five (5) as a Five-Event Ticket for $35, a $5 discount. Call 1-888-422-7277 extension 303 for ticket information, or purchase them at Balloon Fiesta's Gift Shop at 4401 Alameda Blvd. NE.
Getting Around the Park
Access for special events is typically from the Northern Entrance to the park. The Southern Entrance to the park provides access to the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum.
Balloon Fiesta offers an alternative to driving: Park & Ride are located throughout Albuquerque. Call their corporate office at 505-821-1000 or 888-422-7277 for times and locations.
Public transport like the New Mexico Railrunner and the ABQ Ride are affordable modes that can get to and from the park.
The park is also handicap accessible, with parking close to entrance gates as well as scooters and wheelchairs available for rent.
Pets are not permitted, with the exception of handicap assisting pets.
Make sure you brace yourself for weekend crowds. Waiting lines, parking and traffic can be quite trying on the nerves. For those who have trouble standing for long periods of time, lawn chairs are permitted.
Always check the local weather report in case of any sudden weather changes. Generally, temperatures in the morning are around 40°F, warming up to about 70°F by noon. Bring a jacket and dress in layers, as pre-dawn conditions can be chilly. Remember to wear comfortable walking shoes and bring sunscreen, as you will be at a high altitude and are at risk of sunburn. Don't forget to bring appropriate eye protection - after all you will be looking up! Remember not to smoke near the balloons! A lit cigarette could ignite a balloon's fuel tank and ash can melt the balloon envelope. Also, do not forget to put identification on your kids just in case they get lost.
Campgrounds and RV Parks
At the Event
You can bring your RV to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. There are several areas for parking RV's, with walking distance to the field. Site options include:
Standard - dry camping
Premium - low pressure water and electricity with 20 Amps minimum
VIP - dry camping adjacent to the Launch Field with entry passes included *GOOD VALUE PICK!*
Presidents Compound - premier sites on a bluff overlooking the Launch Field with city water pressure and 30 Amp minimum
Be sure to make your reservations in advance. Check in time is 12:00 PM - 7:00 PM. For further details, click here, or call toll free on +1 888 422 7277
Nearby RV Parks and Campgrounds
There are several RV Parks and Campgrounds within 25 miles of Albuquerque.
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