If you happen to be traveling through the Southwest during the fall (October) or New Mexico is a state you’ve been looking to visit, you definitely have to add checking out the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta to your bucket list. The largest hot air balloon fiesta in the world, with more than 500 balloons annually, has been an annual event in Albuquerque, NM since 1972. Whether you are a first timer or a fiesta veteran, this festival is always spectacular and never gets old. The festival takes place over 9 days, usually the first weeks of October. Mass Ascension takes place each morning, weather permitting, with the sunrise. Many festival goers begin arriving at the Balloon Fiesta Park as early as 4:30-5 am. Thankfully, the park vendors are awake right along with you and offer a variety of breakfast foods, coffee, drinks, fair food and souvenirs for you to enjoy as the hot air balloons prepare for lift off. Parking is available for festival goers, prince and distance will depend on the time you arrive at the park. Walking will be required to enter the park and to walk around as the hot air balloons lift off. The City of Albuquerque also provide several Park and Ride locations across town to help festival goers forgo the parking lines and festival traffic. A list of locations and departure times for park and ride locations can be found on the official Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta website.
With the festival taking place during the fall season in New Mexico, it is important to dress warm for the event. Jackets, sweaters, hats, gloves, scarves, closed toed/walking shoes are all welcomed festival attire and will ensure you enjoy the festival to the fullest. The weather is also one of the most important factors in festival activities being canceled for the day. Each morning the Mass Ascension takes place and is based on a weather/wind report. Conditions must be mild in order for the hot air balloons to take flight. I would suggest having at least 2 days you are available to attend the festival in case any weather prevents flight for day. Most every season, at least one morning or evening event is cancelled due weather. Mentioning other festival events, another event to catch is the nightly Balloon Glow. Most every night of the 9 day festival is accompanied by a balloons lighting up the night sky. This event is also beautiful and enjoyable for all festival goers as you get to chat with balloon pilots and enjoy seeing the balloons light up. Unlike the morning Mass Ascension, the Balloon glow offers you a chance to see hot air balloons light up, without lifting off the ground, creating a spectacular sight against the dark sky.