For the longest time I’ve been dreaming of going to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. Last year I just decided to knock this item off my “Travel List” (you know, the list of places and things that inspire you to get up and go). I put the balloon fiesta on my list for a reason, so why not go? There’s a point in time when you get tired of dreaming of something and want to see it in real life, up close and personal.
Since the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta is coming up again, I’ve decided to share my vibrant experience! Make sure to check out the video on Youtube. It brings to life all of the colorful beauty that is the fiesta!
I bought a ticket online before leaving, they were $10 each (but there are various packages and offers on the website). Honestly, it’s more expensive to catch a ride the balloon park than to get tickets.
Seriously, transportation to the park was THE WORST part. If I wanted to catch a ride on the coach buses near my hotel it would have been $45 round trip…um, no thanks. The International Balloon Fiesta is a very big event in Albuquerque and luckily my hotel also offered a transportation deal. Leaving from my hotel I paid $10 each way, so the total was $20 round trip. This was such a great saving, I would suggest that you make sure you know what your hotel is offering before putting down money for a taxi, Uber, or coach bus.
I arrived at the Balloon Park around 5 am. It was still pitch dark and freezing. There were shuttles transporting people from the parking lots, camp ground, and museum to the launch field and vendor stalls. The day I went was “Canon Day”, which meant that the day was sponsored mainly by Canon. In the Canon tent I got to borrow one of their many great cameras for free, and the bet part was that I got to keep the memory card! I picked an easy point and shoot HD camera, which was great for all of the pre-dawn photos and capturing the laser light show – which I my other camera couldn’t pick up.
There are two sessions per day; the morning session and the night session. I went to the morning session. Around 7 am Dawn Patrol starts, which is a few balloons standing ready to take off and illuminate the dark. The sun starts to rise and other balloons start to get laid out and ready to go up in the air. Loading up on hot chocolate, I was ready for the show!
Once the sun starts rising all of the other balloons begin to take to the air. Some of them are competition balloons and some are paid rides. I didn’t get in a gondola for a ride, but a couple did tell me that their ride was $400 – pretty steep for me! I was happy enough to watch them repeatedly take off and land around the launch field.
No matter where I went I was surround by these giant colorful balloons and I didn’t really get an idea of exactly how many there were until I saw them all in the sky.
There wasn’t any wind when I was there, so the balloons were able to just hang above us and not drift too far until the maneuvered away from the launch field. The morning session ends around 11 am and the balloons spend the morning floating all over Albuquerque, the next day I could see them all over downtown and Old Town.
Once the launch field was cleared and most of the balloon drifted away I went over to the International Balloon Museum, just up the hill from the field. The outside roof of the building was shaped to look like a balloon.
Inside is the history of weather balloons, hot air balloons, a bit of space exploration, and a gift shop. It was nice to look around, but that wasn’t why I was in Albuquerque. The hot air balloons were the high point of my trip to New Mexico and, although I almost froze out there in the pre-dawn temps, I don’t regret a second of this trip. I think it will always be one of my favorite solo adventures and I wouldn’t hesitate to go again.