I'm apparently living under a rock. I feel like I'm the only one who has never heard of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. I thought of myself as worldly, travelled, a real adventurer. Then one day, while my cousin, Meggan and I were sipping Rose, she told me she was taking a road trip in her RV out to Albuquerque for the balloon festival. This was something that has been on her bucket list for years. "What on earth is in Albuquerque?" I asked. She rolled her eyes at me and said "seriously? With you being the world traveller that you say you are, I'd assumed you have heard of one of the most photographed events in the world".
The rock I live under has kept this wonderous event from me. But not any more!
I met Meggan in Albuquerque. She and a caravan of my other family members
picked me up and drove us to a massive dirt parking lot (RV parking lot for the event) near the balloon fields. There were already hundreds upon hundreds of other RVs there. This is where we officially started our 3 days of the most brilliantly colored, glowy, cold as Iceland, family adventure.
This was the highlight trip of the year for me. I had no idea how spectacular and beautiful this trip would be. Meggan was right about the bucket list thing, it should be on everyone's list. It's been months since the trip and I'm still on a balloon high from it.
Here are a few tips for attending the festival. Firstly, HERE is the official website for everything you'll need.
The fiesta is every October in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The fiesta last 9 days but give yourself at least 3. There are so many different events to see and if the weather is bad, the balloons don't launch.
We were here for 3 days. I feel like this was the perfect amount of time spent here. Even though this was my first time there and I have nothing else to base my opinion on, I feel like it was the perfect amount of days and we were able to see all the highlights. These were the events were able to view and the ones I think everyone should check out.
There are a number of events that typically take places at each Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. Some events take place on multiple days and some may take place only once. Here are the events that you should not miss.
Dawn Patrol Show
This is where several ballons will take off before sunrise and fly to check on weather conditions and visibility of landing conditions. It is both practical as well as a tradition. Generally takes place around 6:00 am and balloons normally launch to music.
This is where hundreds of balloons will line up and use their propane burners to light up in the morning before sunrise while still tethered to the ground. The pilots will do synchronized burns and such. These balloons will later launch with the rest of the balloons after sunrise.
This is where hundreds of balloons all launch in the same morning, generally over a 1.5 to 2 hour period. They will launch in two waves so that for almost 2 hours there will be balloons being set up, inflated, and launched from the field. Visitors can walk around the launch field to see the balloon preparations and get different views as the balloons launch.
For many people, this is a highlight of the Balloon Fiesta. If the weather is good, the first balloons generally start launching a little after 7:00 am following the Dawn Patrol, Morning Glow, and singing of the National Anthem.
Evening Balloon Glows
Taking place just before dusk, pilots inflate their hot air balloons and keep them tethered to the ground. Then once dark, the pilots will periodically ignite their propane burners so that the balloons light up and glow. They will do synchronized burns called “all burns” where all the balloons will light up at once.
The evening balloon glows (also called twinkle glows, and night magic glows, etc. but all the same thing) are generally followed by fireworks and laser light shows. The fireworks are very good and worth staying to watch.
Special Shape Balloon Events or The Glowdeo
In addition to the traditional and most common inverted teardrop-shaped balloons, there are numerous special shaped balloons. These balloons can be shaped like cartoon characters, beer mugs, carousels, Star Wars characters, animals, hearts, people, etc.
Special shape balloons are included in most of the other events but there is usually a day where only the Special shape balloons take off in the morning and do the evening glow. These are popular events for visitors and locals alike as it is fun to see all the shapes at one time. Each year people come to check out the new shapes and see the old favorites!
If you plan on coming out to any of the morning events, plan to dress warmly. I'm from California and have no idea what it's like to be cold. Temperatures were in the 30s and some of my family members had to go back to the RV to get feeling back into their toes and fingers. I certainly didn't blame them. I painfully stayed, telling myself "You're not leaving! You came too far to miss this!". I said this all while I was struggling just to push the button on my camera with my frozen numb finger.