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Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

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The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is the largest balloon event in the world with over 500 balloons each year!! Here is everything you need to know to make the most of your family vacation to New Mexico.

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta takes place in a big open field and you can watch every step in the process of ballooning from set up to launch.

With so much to see and do over several days, it can be overwhelming for a first-timer attending the Fiesta. I wanted to share with you some tips we learned during our visit.

Tips for Visiting the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

Mass Ascension of hot air balloons in Albuquerque New Mexico

How to get there

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is a 9-day event. It takes place every October in New Mexico.

You can reach it by car, but if you want to avoid long lines and crowded parking, I recommend that you use their Park and Ride locations and take the shuttle to the park.

The shuttle runs pretty frequently and saves you a lot of time, especially during busy times. Shuttles also run from some hotels so check with the front desk for details.

The best events happen in the early morning or later in the day and the shuttle is an added convenience.

If you RV and camp at the event, shuttles are available at the campground and are free. They pick you up and drop you close to your RV and drop you off at the door of the event.

Where to stay

There are many hotels servicing the Albuquerque area, but since this is a major international event that often sells out, you will want to book in advance. We took our travel trailer and camped at the park, which was a great option. We were able to see balloons take off and land right outside our RV.

To book a campground spot, just head over to the event’s website and you can book online. I highly suggest that you book a box spot, where you can camp around a big field and watch the balloons land and take off from the comfort of your spot without having to deal with the crowds or the trip to the main event park.

Don’t have an RV, but want a unique experience? How about glamping. The event offers tent options with all the comforts of a hotel without the hassle of driving to the event. Booking is available at the event’s website.

Camping/RVing Tips

Hot air balloons over campground at Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

If you are RVing or Camping at the event, here are some things you need to know.

|1 | Sites are available with or without hookups (water and electricity only).

We camped dry (without hookups) and in a “box spot” which cost $10 more per day. The advantage of being in the “Box” is that you can see the balloons take off and land from the comfort of our RV. It also was less crowded than the other sections.

| 2 | Arrive before the cutoff time

One important tip is to note that the campground has a cut off time for arrivals. It is 6:45 pm and they strictly enforce it.

RV spots are assigned on a first come, first served basis, so it is beneficial to arrive early.

| 3 | Be prepared for parties

There is an atmosphere of party in the campground. Some people have attended these events for many years and several people travel with their families to the event and park next to each other.

If you are social, the campground can provide you entertainment during the event’s “off” hours – in between events.

If you are bothered by noise, you might want to ask for a secluded spot when arriving at the campground or book a box spot.

| 4 | Other Amenities

Arrive with empty grey/black tanks and with a few gallons of fresh water.

Water supply and pumping services are available through a third-party for an additional cost.

There are many RVs on site and you may need to wait a while for these services.  

There are no other amenities on site since this is a temporary campground set up just for the event.

How many days to attend

Helium hot air balloons taking off

We attended the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta for 2 days and we could have attended for at least another day. If you have the time, staying longer than 2 days, allows you to explore Albuquerque as well and to space the events you attend over the days versus doing it all in a couple of days.

We attended the festival for two early mornings and one late afternoon session and took a nap in between. Even then, we were a little tired after two days.

Things to Do at The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

Which events should I choose?

There are different events over 9 days, which dictate when to attend the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. If this is your first time and you just want to see some balloons, then don’t miss a sunrise mass ascension (get to the park before 5:45 am) and a Balloon Glow at 6 pm (balloons light up, but do not take off). Stay for the fireworks at 8pm afterwards.

Sunrise Mass Ascension of Hot air balloons at Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta
Night Glow session at Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

There are non-balloon events as well such as chainsaw carving competition, car show and live music.

For the kids, plan to attend the designated day in which a Special Shape Rodeo is held. Balloons of every shape representing cartoon and movie characters ascend in mass (7am).

Darth Vader and Yoda Hot air balloons

What to bring to the event

  1. Bring a jacket or wear layers : events happen earlier or later in the day so temperatures can be chilly.
  2. Wear comfortable shoes and clothes : you will be walking quite a bit on grass or gravel so comfort is key.
  3. Pack a picnic blanket or some chairs : there are minimal seating available at the park.
  4. Stock up on snacks and drinks : food and drinks are available for purchase at the event (think carnival food), but the lines can be sizable. If you have kids or are trying to stay on budget, packing a small cooler can help.

Sunscreen, hat and sunglasses are also a must if you plan for a full day at the park.

Photography Tips

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is a dream for photographers.

Two extra bonuses of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta are the Canon Tent and the competition held by the organizers.

At the Canon Tent you can rent their equipment and score discounts during the event on new gear.

Details on the photography competition are available on the event’s website.

For Kids and Families

Each balloon offers trading cards that kids love to collect as souvenirs, just ask the balloon crew for one.

You can take a Balloon ride during the event and see it from the top.

My husband proposed to me on a Hot Air Balloon and I still think it was the most romantic thing he ever did.

You can book a balloon ride with Rainbow Riders by calling 1-800-725-2477.

Rainbow Ryders balloons at Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta in New Mexico

Things to do in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Travel+Leisure included Albuquerque as one of 50 Best Places to Travel in 2018.

National Geographic Traveler named it one of the Best Small Cities in the US.

Albuquerque has a lot to offer and a delightful food scene. If you have extra time, you should definitely sightsee.

If you are short on time, I recommend eating at Los Poblanos, a short trip from the campground. We had a wonderful breakfast and enjoyed visiting this Historic Inn/Lavender Farm and its shops.

Los Poblanos Restaurant Bar and Entrance Area in Albuquerque New Mexico
Breakfast Plate at Los Poblanos New Mexico

For more information on the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta Festival, check out their website.

Watch my videos of this trip below:

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  1. September 18, 2018 / 9:42 am

    How cool! Thanks for sharing the pictures and tips. The only time I rode a balloon and saw many at once was in Cappacodia, Turkey, which was beautiful. This sounds like a fun event in the U.S. though, so I’ll have to add it to my list. 🙂

    • Jana
      September 18, 2018 / 7:03 pm

      That is not bad either! But you should give this one a try. It’s breathtaking!

  2. September 19, 2018 / 11:27 am

    I’ve always wanted to go! I hope I can go next year. It looks even more incredible than I thought originally.

    • Jana
      September 19, 2018 / 1:51 pm

      It’s super cool. You will love it.

  3. September 19, 2018 / 7:45 pm

    Pooh I’ve ALWAYS wanted to ride a hot air balloon.

  4. September 21, 2018 / 9:30 am

    Oh love this! The balloon festival looks fantastic fun. Those Star wars balloons are amazing!

    • Jana
      September 21, 2018 / 12:05 pm

      They are pretty popular!

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