Discovering Albuquerque’s Vibrant Tradition
Every fall, something magical happens in the skies of Albuquerque. As leaves change colors on trees, the skies of this New Mexico city become a vibrant tapestry of colors, thanks to the majestic hot air balloons. Now, imagine this: sipping on your morning coffee and looking up to see a spectrum of balloons painting the dawn. If you’re nestled in Sierra County, such enchanting moments are a mere 2-hour drive away!
Event Dates and Venue
From the cool, crisp morning of Sat, Oct 7 to the breezy evening of Sun, Oct 15, 2023, the Albuquerque skies will narrate tales of adventure, romance, and magic. The largest hot air ballooning event in the world, Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta draws well over 800,000 visitors from across the country and around the world each year – nearly twelve times the attendees at, for example, Burning Man and Super Bowl! And what a magical event it is, with Albuquerque’s turquoise skies filled with hundreds of colorful hot air balloons. Plus, Balloon Fiesta’s schedule includes a variety of amazing activities and events that run nonstop during this spectacular nine-day festival, so let’s take a closer look.
A Bit of History
Currently attracting more than 700 pilots from all over the world who bring more than 600 balloons to the event, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta has grown exponentially from its humble beginnings in 1972. That first launch, which featured 13 hot air balloons, was witnessed by roughly 10,000 spectators. As the event grew over the years, it moved from location to location until it settled permanently at what is now Fiesta Park on the north end of Albuquerque. The park’s 360 acres include an 80-acre launch field, huge parking areas, and a main street with plenty of room for concession tents, stages, and picnic areas. The grounds are also home to the Balloon Fiesta headquarters and gift store and the Anderson Abruzzo International Balloon Museum, both of which are open year-round
Diving Deep into the Festive Vibes
An Interactive Experience
Unlike most major events, which are viewed from the sidelines, Balloon Fiesta offers a one-of-a-kind, interactive experience, allowing you to walk anywhere on the launch field as the balloons inflate and take fight, giving you the opportunity to mingle with pilots, crews, passengers, and other spectators as you go. With tens of thousands of visitors meandering across the launch site while hundreds of balloons are preparing to launch, the word “chaos” might come to mind. But launches are anything but that. Balloon launches are carefully monitored and orchestrated by “Zebras”, the easily-identified launch directors who wear black pants and black-and-white striped shirts. These well-trained assistants ensure that spectators are clear of launch paths and balloons are clear to take off, allowing you and all guests to be fully integrated in the action.
Experiencing a Mass Ascension is a Must!
Nothing compares to morning mass ascensions – a sight you won’t forget as long as you live. To fully enjoy the mass ascension experience, which takes place daily, you’ll need to get an early start. The morning begins with the Dawn Patrol – a small number of balloons launching about 6:00am to help determine wind speeds, wind direction, and ultimately, determine if the balloons can safely launch when the sun begins to rise. If pilots see a green flag raised, they know they can spread out their balloon envelopes and start the inflation process. Once that happens, guests rush onto the field to witness the spectacle as balloon after balloon is inflated, slowly filling and lifting as pilots prepare for launch and for passengers to climb in. One by one, pilots receive the go-ahead and soon the sky is dotted with hundreds of multi-colored, multi-patterned balloons. To see this on television is one thing, but to see it unfold in person is quite another. Looking up into the sky with hundreds of balloons overhead is something you’ll remember for a lifetime. Needless to say, you’ll be taking and sharing a lot of photos and videos!
Take in a Special-Shapes Launch – Fiesta’s Most Popular Event!
The Special Shape RodeoTM is Balloon Fiesta’s most popular event, with special-shape balloons inflating and launching at sunrise prior to other balloons on two Fiesta mornings. The colors and shapes of these delightful balloons are captivating, to say the least. The sky quickly fills with shapes that include a unicorn, Noah’s ark, a smiling sun, a hatching T-Rex and other dinosaurs, a stork, Darth Vader and Yoda, a zebra, a cactus, kissing bees, and so many other shapes and themes, with over a hundred special-shape balloons in all! And to give you an idea of how large these special-shape balloons can be, Airabelle, the Creamland™ Dairy’s mascot, which first launched in 1989, stretches 120 feet long by 80 feet high and weighs 910 pounds!
Discover the Magic of the Evening Glows!
You’ll feel you’ve been transported to a magical kingdom when you wander through a host of tethered balloons after dark, with pilots waiting for the “all burn” command to simultaneously light up their envelopes. Glows take place on five of the eight Balloon Fiesta evenings, so be sure to check the schedule and plan ahead to experience this enchanting and mesmerizing sight.
Enjoy Balloon Fiesta’s Many Events to the Fullest!
While balloon launches and glows are the main attraction, you’ll want to take in all that Fiesta has to offer, which is far more than you might imagine. Some of the many Balloon Fiesta activities include chain saw carving exhibitions and auctions; skydiving shows; the gas balloon race launch; a car show; kite shows; street performers; Native American dancers; and the Balloon Discovery Center. If you enjoy shopping, you’ll want to visit the shops along Fiesta’s Main Street and the roughly 30 artisan tents filled with jewelry, handmade arts and crafts, and souvenirs. There are also plenty of food stops along Main Street, offering everything from hand-held burritos and green chile cheeseburgers to funnel cakes. And for a dazzling display of light and color against the early morning’s or evening’s dark skies, be sure to check the schedule for the drone light shows and the fireworks displays, both of which are spectacular sights where are sure to leave you in awe
The Electrifying Drone Light Show
In a beautiful fusion of tradition and technology, comes the drone light show, sponsored by none other than the Sandia Resort & Casino. A sight to behold, where drones dance in the night sky, painting stories and stirring emotions. It’s not just a display; it’s a visual sonnet of light and shadows.
Tickets to Wonder
Dreaming of being part of this ethereal journey? It’s just a click away. General Admission Tickets are priced at $15.00 for every beautiful soul above the age of 12. And the choices don’t end there! Dive into options that include Park & Ride Tickets, Gondola Club Tickets, Chasers’ Club Tickets, and many more to customize your experience.
Soaring High with Rainbow Ryders
What if you could be not just a spectator but a part of the skyward waltz? With Rainbow Ryders, the official balloon ride partner, this isn’t a distant dream. As you float amidst a sea of balloons, you’ll feel freedom, wonder, and a pinch of fairy dust. The azure skies, the panoramic views, and the gentle breeze whispering tales – it’s a story you’ll tell for ages. Ready to weave your chapter? Embark on your aerial adventure!
More than Balloons, It’s an Emotion!
A Melody of Music & Balloons
While the skies of Albuquerque shimmer with myriad colors of the balloons, the ground reverberates with harmonious tunes. The fiesta isn’t just about the balloons; it’s also a tribute to the undying spirit of local New Mexican talents. From the soulful strumming of a guitar to melodies that touch your heart, the entertainment lineup at the Fiesta is all set to strike the right chord.
Experience Fiesta Like Never Before: Balloon Fiesta Live!
You don’t need to be physically present at the Balloon Fiesta to feel its pulse. With Balloon Fiesta Live!, you can dive into the heart of the festivity from anywhere. The camaraderie of Glen Moyer, Art Lloyd Jr., and the newest addition, Ruth Lind, isn’t just about professional broadcast; it’s a shared passion, a collective experience of over a century.
Each live stream, available on Facebook or YouTube, is laced with their personal tales, thrilling experiences, and an insider’s perspective. Their commentary isn’t just words; it’s the soul of the Fiesta, pouring out for everyone to feel.
Your Ultimate Fiesta Companion: The Guest Guide
Navigating the vast expanse of the Balloon Fiesta requires a bit of assistance. Fret not; the Guest Guide is your compass, your manual, ensuring that you miss out on nothing. Every page, every tip is a stepping stone to making your experience richer and more profound.
Preparation is Key: Know Before You Go!
Anticipation can be both exhilarating and nerve-wracking. But when you’re well-prepared, the excitement only amplifies. Head to the Know Before You Go! section and equip yourself with essential information. And for the detail-oriented souls, knowing what’s allowed and what’s not in the park is a click away.
Steering Your Way: Maps & Directions
Lost amidst the beauty? The Fiesta’s got you covered! Whether you’re looking to hitch a ride via the Park and Ride shuttle or maneuver your way through the public parking sites, the comprehensive Maps & Directions guide ensures you’re never truly lost.
Arriving in Style: Diverse Transportation Services
Traveling to the Fiesta is an experience in itself. Opt for the ADA-accessible options, ride in with the courtesy shuttle, or make an eco-friendly choice with the Bike Valet. The Fiesta’s commitment to making your journey seamless is evident in its diverse Transportation Services.
Tales of the Sky: Various Session Types
Every session at the Fiesta tells a different tale: The dawn patrols sketch the first narratives of the day, while the mass ascensions are where dreams take flight. Feel the adrenaline rush of competitions or immerse yourself in the enchanting Balloon Glows. And who can forget the charm of the Special Shape Rodeo/Glowdeo®? Each session is a new emotion, a fresh story waiting to be lived.
A Closing Whisper
There are countless reasons to visit New Mexico, and the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is certainly one of them. For nine straight days in October, Albuquerque’s early morning skies are filled with hundreds of colorful balloons which gradually spread out for miles before landing in parks, parking lots, or other open space. Days are filled with a host of fun activities, and evenings offer balloon glows, drone light shows and fireworks. It’s no wonder nearly a million people from around the world make their way to Albuquerque each year to take in the colorful sights and sounds of this inspiring sight.
To learn more about Balloon Fiesta and the schedule of events, visit www.BalloonFiesta.com. And to experience a sight you will remember your entire life, start planning your very own Balloon Fiesta experience today!
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