The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta has been on my radar for quite some time. I have seen countless photos of the beautiful balloons floating in the sky. Taking a hot air balloon ride has always been on my list of things I want to do. When I got the opportunity to attend the festival, I had to take it!
I knew from reading the Balloon Fiesta site that arriving early was in my best interest. I chose to stay as close to the festival as possible. Driving wise it took about 5 minutes to get to the Balloon Fiesta Park from the hotel. The earlier the better, once traffic ensues what was once 5 or 10 minutes can end up taking much longer.
Dawn Patrol was going to start around 5:45 am. Dawn Patrol is when about a dozen balloons inflate and launch while it is still dark out. By going up before the Mass Accession (hundreds of balloons inflate and launch) they are able to test the wind speeds in the infamous Albuquerque Box Effect. My friend and I awoke at 3:30am and were in the car and headed to the park by 4:09am.
There were already tons of people out, but we were able to quickly park. Parking is $10 a session (there are day and night sessions.) We hopped out the car and began to take a pretty decent walk to the entrance of the park. Once inside we beelined to the tent and were able to get some food and more importantly put our names on a list in hopes of getting a ride in a hot air balloon.
While we waited for the events to start we were very happy to be bundled up. I had a scarf, hoodie, and fleece on. I wish I had brought my gloves. While I was hanging out I started talking to some of the people around me and found out that Canon, who is the main sponsor, was allowing people to borrow cameras and lenses for free! All you had to do was hand over your driver’s license.
I quickly power walked to the Canon tent to see all that they were offering. I didn’t get much time to explore as I had to get back quickly because I was waiting to find out if I was going to get a balloon ride or not. Not only was Canon lending out cameras, but they were also giving an 8GB SD card to use and keep. They even allowed you to print out photos if you wanted to.
After my friend and I got cameras, I headed back while she talked with the staff on certain features she could use. I still had to wait when I got back to find out so I headed to the bathroom. The park has a bunch of portapotties everywhere. There are no lights in there so thankfully I had light from my phone.
We stood around talking and watching as the park became extremely crowded. Thousands of people everywhere. It began to get lighter outside and I soon found out I was going to get a balloon ride on Humpty Dumpty. I freaked out for a second because we all know what happens to Humpty and I had to sign a waiver so it made me a bit nervous. We stood out on the field watching crews inflate balloons. I began to see so many come to life including Darth Vadar, Yoda, a frog, and so many more.
After a lot of waiting I finally got into the balloon. My friend was waiting for a phone call to see if she too would get one. I was a little nervous, but extremely excited as I hopped into the gondola with the pilot and one other lady. As we began to lift off I waved goodbye to my friend. We were headed up and it was an exhilarating experience. So much so that you will have to wait for me to write all about it!
While I was in the air my friend walked around hitting up some of the food stands set up. There are tons with all types of food. She also checked out the activities, live music performances, and so much more that was going on. They really make sure you are entertained while there. It is even more than just the balloons.
Once I was back to the park I found her and we watched the Parabatix guys taking off and fly through the air before we had to return the cameras back to the Canon tent. We walked around a bit more before my friend took a whirl on a mechanical bull. Afterwards we headed over to the Balloon Museum before hopping in the car to explore a bit of Albuquerque.
By this time I was completely exhausted and hungry. So after falling asleep several times in the car we got some food, headed back to the hotel, and crashed before getting ready for the night session. The night session was going to be all about the Balloon Glow. Heading back out to the park it was warm, but that changed pretty quickly as it began to get cold. We headed straight to the Canon tent to use some cameras again.
As we were walking around the thousands of people again we found my Humpty Dumpty crew. We decided to hang out with them. Each balloon has cards they hand out to the kids with a picture of the balloon. My friend decided to hand them out to the kids, in exchange they had to tell us a joke, sing, or dance. We had a lot of fun. Unfortunately the skies looked very unsettling and the winds were a bit strong so the Balloon Glow was cancelled. So we helped them fold the balloon back up, which I had experience in doing from earlier in the day.
Although it was disappointing that the Balloon Glow wasn’t going to happen the fireworks display was pretty awesome! We enjoyed the fireworks going off in two different directions. We decided to leave the launch field and head over to the activities and food area. We had to use the lights from our phones to get there as the launch field is extremely dark and there are people all over sitting on the grass.
We played games and won some great prizes. We danced and sat down on some swinging chairs to rest our feet. It was a lot of fun walking around and checking everything out. There were a lot of places to purchase food and items. We were really tired, and my friend wanted to head back to Old Town so we left the Fiesta.
The Balloon Fiesta was everything I expected and more. I truly understand why people make it a tradition to go every year. It is so much fun and I wish I had more days there to experience it all. I hope to go back next year. The Balloon Fiesta happens every October over a period of 2 weeks.
Have you ever been to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta?
Disclaimer: Thank you to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta for having me. All opinions and thoughts are my own.