For over 45 years, people have made their way to Albuquerque, New Mexico during the first week of October to witness hundreds of hot air balloons paint the sky with color. In that time, the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta has grown into the largest annual international event in the United States and the most photographed event in the world, drawing hundreds of thousands of spectators each year.
Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta Entertainment
The event expanded from just 13 balloons launching from a parking lot in 1972 to over 500 vibrant globes lifting into the blue New Mexico sky in the largest mass ascension of hot air balloons on earth. Obviously, the event outgrew any parking lot. Now there is a 365-acre Balloon Fiesta Park with a launch field the size of 54 football fields! There are no viewing stands and guests can walk among the balloons and talk to the pilots. Travel Maestro tip: Wear good walking shoes! You’ll cover some territory.
The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta runs for nine days with 14 scheduled sessions – nine mornings and five evenings. Each day, Dawn Patrol balloons inflate and take off before sunrise in a choreographed ballet set to music and fly with lighting systems until there is enough daylight to see the landing sites. Other balloonists use the Dawn Patrol to observe the wind speeds and directions before they launch their own crafts. Dramatic mass ascensions are scheduled during the week, as well as beautiful morning and twilight balloon glows, special shape rodeos, and balloon flying competitions.
Each morning session opens with the National Anthem performed by talented New Mexican musicians of many different styles and musical genres. When the balloons leave the field, entertainment on the ground continues with chart-topping and Grammy-nominated artists on stages and strolling musicians on Main Street. And you won’t want to miss the chainsaw carving exhibitions with live auctions of the amazing carvings created. Before and after evening balloon sessions, you can still look to the sky for sky diving feats and fireworks shows.
If You Go
Because the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta has become such a huge international event, the crowds of spectators can be quite large – more than 80,000 people for some events. Travel Maestro tip: If you go on a weekend morning, you should plan to arrive by 4:00-4: 30 am. For evening events, gates open at 3:00 pm.
There is absolutely no smoking allowed in the entire park. One spark could be disastrous. There are plenty of concession food stands with a variety of food and drink, including alcohol for purchase. You can bring backpacks or coolers, but no glass or alcohol is allowed, and all bags will be checked. Travel Maestro tip: There are some benches and picnic tables available or you can bring your own camp chairs or picnic blanket.
Remember that Albuquerque is at high altitude. Morning temperatures will be cold (20° – 40°F), warming to comfortable in the afternoon (50° – 70°). Dressing in layers is a good idea.
2019 General admission tickets are $10 per person (13 and older) per session. Paid parking lots are available at the Balloon Fiesta Park (cash only) or you can purchase park & ride tickets at remote lots for weekend visits. Travel Maestro tip: You must purchase park & ride tickets in advance – no same-day sales. Buses run on a limited schedule.
For an exclusive Balloon Fiesta experience, purchase the Gondola Club tickets ($110 p/adult, $55 p/4-12 per session). The Gondola Club ticket includes admission to the park with private parking and a shuttle to Main Street. Gourmet buffet meal, open bar, prime viewing location for balloon launch, dedicated bathrooms, and more.
There’s a certain magic about the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. Hundreds of sleeping giants, waking slowly as they gradually lumber to full height, and then stretch for the sky. Whimsical shapes glowing like over-sized toys create an enchanting nighttime scene. Regardless of your age, you just can’t help but be captivated and feel the hum of some long-forgotten childhood joy course through your heart. To experience this wonder for yourself, talk to your Covington vacation advisor to plan your trip.