Attending Albuquerque’s International Balloon Fiesta has been on my bucket list for a long time. Since moving into an RV fulltime, it somehow seems a little bit easier to accomplish some bucket list items. Well, this year attending balloon fiesta is no longer a dream.
It’s a reality!
First off, what is the International Balloon Fiesta?
For nine days in October the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta creates an enchanted world of special shape balloon rodeos, twilight balloon glows, and vibrant balloon filled skies. Brisk autumn mornings in the Rio Grande Valley create an otherworldly backdrop for the breathtaking majesty of the most popular event, Mass Ascension of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. The experience of watching hundreds of gentle airy giants take flight is at once humbling and inspiring. It’s the allure of these magical moments and more that continue to bring ballooning fans worldwide together for over 45 years.
Why should it be on your bucket list?
1. It’s amazingly beautiful and fun!
There’s activities going on all week long from glows to fireworks to mass ascensions. Don’t worry there’s time during the day to relax, work or enjoy some of the city sites.
2. Every morning balloons ascend
The best part – you never know which ones will take off that morning. More importantly there might be some that land right next to your RV!
Yes. This really is part of the charm. Most balloons take off from the fiesta park. However, when Yoda lands right near you in the RV parking area, it’s super exciting!
3. You’ll meet incredible people
This is, of course, totally up to you and what you choose to get out of the experience.
We met full-time families. Vacationers here to fullfill that bucket list item. People we laughed, oohed and ahhed with over the many balloons. It’s definitely a shared experience with people from all over the world attending.
We also enjoyed talking to the pilots on the field. They were friendly and happy to answer questions about ballooning.
Plus, there are rallies of all sorts that attend and it can be a party atmosphere.
4. Albuquerque is an amazing city filled with tons of activities
There’s everything from bike trails to museums to art galleries to casinos to breweries to golf to history and more!
Really there’s something for everyone and I highly recommend you take the time before or after balloon fiesta to explore this beautiful area.
5.Experience of a lifetime
Did I mention it’s like being a kid in a candy store?
It’s magical and captivating. You don’t know where to look. Balloons are all around you.
Never have I seen so many hot air balloons in one place! The sky is filled with them, as many as 550! They are all shapes, colors and sizes. There are special shapes like penguins, Yoda, Darth Vader, a rocket ship, an octopus, lions and more. Every one that inflates and heads for the sky is unique and fun.
We enjoyed being at the park for lift off, glows and fireworks. But don’t forget about simply staying by your RV. Typically the wind patterns move the hot air balloons right over head and many will land in the parking area. Many RVers help with the landing. It’s really a hands on experience like no other.
From what I understand every year is different, so what are you waiting for?!?!?
6. There’s fair food
You can get anything from coffee to fried dough to New Mexico breakfast burritos. Go hungry and enjoy a bite to eat during the festivities.
7. Photography is amazing
From what I understand this is the largest international balloon festival in the world! It’s simply magical. It is also the most photographed ballooning event in the world.
That’s right the most photographing balloon event in the world.
Get out your camera – phone, point or shoot or fancy DSLR and be ready to take a lot of photos!
Bring extra batteries, memory cards and your creative side. Get the lift off. Get the landings. Get the crew working. Get the crowd. Enjoy the details and the flames. Attend a glow and see the flicker. It’s all amazing and so much fun to capture on film and video.
For more photography tips visit Diamond Photography.
Tips for attending
Standard RV parking is boondocking. You should either have a generator or solar for your needs. In 2017 the cost per night is $35. We thought it was well worth staying on premises. It allowed us to take in the whole experience.
There are premium sites available at a higher cost which includes the use of electric and water.
They do provide trash bins and porta potties which was nice. They also run free shuttle buses from the RV area to the fiesta park grounds. We enjoyed biking over and used the free bike valet provided by fiesta. Keep in mind it’s about 1/3 of a mile to the grounds. Once at the grounds you will walk and walk. Afterall, Balloon Fiesta Park is over 360 acres!
There is also a pay for water delivery and sewage pump truck. You have to sign up for those services. We didn’t need them during our stay, so I can’t speak of the cost.
Be aware of noise levels
Each morning for ascension news helicopters circle the area. The shuttle buses start running early and aren’t quiet. RV’s are packed in, so chances are you’ll hear children, dogs, people talking, traffic, etc. Be aware of it, but don’t let it stop you from enjoying your time at the festival.
To get into the Balloon Fiesta Park there is a $10/person cost. However, you can buy a 4 pack at Costco for $27.99 or buy 4 tickets and the 5 is half off. You decide what is worth or how much you want to spend.
While it’s not the capital of New Mexico, it is the largest city. It is situated at 5,000 feet (1,539 meters) above sea level and a prime location for hot air ballooning because of the “Albuquerque Box.” Albuquerque is home to over 850,000 residents, and its vibrant culturally diversity can be seen in the many aspects of daily life. The area has a unique and varying landscape, including majestic Rocky Mountains, red rock mesas, high desert vegetation and the picturesque Rio Grande river valley. The area is also one of the nation’s most dynamic art communities.
Albuquerque Box Explained
You might hear the term “Albuquerque Box” in reference to the hot air balloons. What does this mean? Well, the cool Albuquerque morning temperatures in October create a set of very predictable wind patterns that can be used to navigate the balloons — at low elevations the winds tend to be southerly, but at higher elevations they tend to be northerly. Balloonists use these winds to navigate in a vertical box — this is beneficial to ballooning because then the balloon can take off and land in almost exactly the same spot. Balloon pilots do not have a way to steer their hot air balloons. While they can control where the balloon flies vertically (by heating the air in the balloon to go higher), they rely on the wind to determine their direction. Pretty neat, right?!?!