Balloon Fiesta Inspiration

Balloon Fiesta

As the sun rises over Sandia Peak, the balloons lift off into the cool Albuquerque air.

When we planned our October trip to New Mexico, the annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta had no bearing on the trip. In fact, I didn’t even remember it existed when finalizing our plans. Our dates were set because of our son’s fall break. So to say we were fortunate our week came during the 42nd annual fiesta is an understatement. Turns out this New Mexico afterthought was one of the highlights of our trip.

Balloon Fiesta

This won’t be a “how to” post. I’m not sure I know how to properly visit the Balloon Fiesta, even after spending parts of two days there. But I do have enough experience to say with certainty not to underestimate the potential heartache that can come on Interstate 25. But more on that in a moment.

We visited on the last weekend of the nine-day event. Our Balloon Fiesta experience included the Friday night Special Shape Glowdeo …

Balloon Fiesta

followed by a fireworks show …

Balloon Fiesta

and culminated with the Saturday morning Mass Ascension.

Balloon Fiesta

When planning a trip to Albuquerque for the Balloon Fiesta, prepare far in advance or be prepared to spend more time searching for lodging, not to mention paying extra for rental cars.

The Friday night glow event was really cool. There are a couple of these every year. The first sees the regular balloons fire up, while the second one includes all the special characters, ranging from Big Red of Angry Birds fame to Uncle Sam.

Balloon Fiesta

Balloon Fiesta

Balloon Fiesta

The balloons all begin making their way from being packed into the bed of pickup trucks to glowing.

Balloon Fiesta

Being rolled out

Balloon Fiesta

Ready to inflate

Balloon Fiesta

On its way upright

Balloon Fiesta

Upright and ready to rock

Renting a car to get to Balloon Fiesta Park — about 10 miles north of downtown — isn’t necessary; from our experience, Albuquerque has a great public transportation system. But the bus line doesn’t run to Balloon Fiesta Park on the weekend. So if you don’t have a car, the only other option is to find your way to a park-and-ride shuttle. Our hotel, Hotel Cascada, provided a shuttle to a park-and-ride lot, and I hear many hotels do the same. But we had a rental car and already had a parking pass, so I took my chances driving.

Balloon Fiesta

Exiting I-25

On Friday night, that wasn’t really a problem. It took almost an hour to drive the nearly 10 miles to Balloon Fiesta Park, but we left with enough time to make it to the Glow event before the balloons started inflating. Saturday, though, well, Saturday was an adventure.

We were told that if we left our hotel by 5:15 a.m. we’d have enough time to get to the park before the start of the Mass Ascension at 7 a.m. Everything was fine until we were about half a mile from our exit on I-25. Then we sat in traffic. And continued sitting. And an hour later, after finally making it to the verge of exiting, we still had about a mile and a half to go and 30 minutes to do it. And I began seeing a few people here and there walking down the interstate exit, making their way to Balloon Fiesta while leaving a partner behind in the car. So I made the same move, having my wife move into the driver’s seat while I put our son on my shoulders and began running to the park.

Yes, I ran with a 6-year-old boy on my shoulders. My shins are still sore days later. But I didn’t come this far and promise my son that he’d see balloons fly and have him watch it all from the car. So as the first balloon launched, I limped into the park with a happy kid on my shoulders. Luckily, Stacey made it in about 20 minutes later, only missing the first handful of balloons lifting off.

Balloon Fiesta

Our walk in from one of the many parking lots on the north side of the park brought us right into the action.

So my advice? Leave early. You can sleep tomorrow, but you’ll regret those extra 30 minutes of sleep if you miss the start of the ascension, especially if you travel a long ways to get there like we did.

My only other advice is be amazed. Be amazed at the crowds of observers around each balloon as the crews work their magic to get them inflated, gondolas tipped upright and crew of sometimes a dozen passengers on board before the field referees give the signal for liftoff.

Balloon Fiesta

Balloon officials

Be amazed at the warmth that comes off the balloons as the sun rises over Sandia Peak to the east.

Balloon Fiesta

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

And be amazed at the sky as it fills with balloons as far as the eye can see.

Balloon Fiesta

 

Balloon Fiesta

 

And after all the fun, be sure to head over to Old Town where the city welcomes balloonists and visitors to the historic Plaza.

Old Town Albuquerque

 

The most important thing about the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta? Take lots of pictures and be prepared to have a lot of fun.

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

19 thoughts on “Balloon Fiesta Inspiration

  1. Raul, it was low 40s but quickly warmed as the sun came up. But for us, being from Memphis where it was pushing 90 when we left home, low 40s in early October is definitely cold.

  2. That is awesome that you ran into the festival with your son on your shoulders. Those marathons paid off. Beautiful pictures from the event. I love that when coincidence falls in your favor when traveling. I arrived in Japan the day the cherry blossoms bloomed and left the day they fell. I had no idea about this amazing phenomenon until I got there.
    Traveling Ted recently posted…A Chicago Marathon morning and take offMy Profile

  3. Megan, it really was beautiful. Unfortunately we never got to see the full force of balloons as it was determined to be too windy at one point in the morning so not all balloons were able to lift.

  4. Before we bought our B&B in Oregon, we made an offer on an inn just outside of Albuquerque and the balloon festival was definitely something we were looking forward to – while we were visiting the area we drove out to the place where the balloons launch – absolutely no cars. ;o) We changed our minds and didn’t buy the inn (obviously) but my only regret was that we haven’t yet seen the festival!
    Patti recently posted…500 Miles in Flip Flops ~My Profile

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