Elephant Butte New Mexico Balloon Regatta

New Mexico is virtually synonymous with hot air ballooning. Every year, enthusiasts and tourists converge on the state to witness its vibrant balloon festivals. The crown jewel among these is the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta™, which draws hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world every October for nine days of mass ascensions, glows, fireworks and so much more. Other significant events, such as the Red Rock Balloon Rally, Taos Mountain Balloon Rally, White Sands Balloon & Music Festival, and Balloons Over Angel Fire, all draw thousands of visitors for magnificent sky-filled displays of color.  

The Balloon Regatta at Elephant Butte Lake

A Doubly-Exciting Experience!

Elephant Butte New Mexico Balloon Regatta

A hot air balloon experience like none other, the three-day Elephant Butte Balloon Regatta is a tradition dating back to 1980. This colorful and inspiring spectacle is truly unique as it’s the only large-scale New Mexico balloon event that intertwines both sky and water. The beauty of colorful hot air balloons mass ascending against the brilliant-blue New Mexico skies is doubled, thanks to the stunning reflections as they move across the lake. Seeing the sky and lake dotted with bright, beautifully-patterned balloons is a sight to behold. The event is nothing short of a photographer’s dream!

Lakeside Launches and Laketop Floats

Elephant Butte New Mexico Balloon Regatta

Roughly 25 balloons launch at 7:30am, Friday through Sunday, from Lions Beach or Long Point at Elephant Butte Lake State Park. What’s really exciting is that you can stand right next to the balloonists as they prepare to inflate and launch, and then watch this action-packed, colorful sight from the shore or by boat. You’ll see balloons skim across the water, with some resting so long on the surface that they look like they’re actually floating like a boat! Others rise directly up into the sapphire-blue New Mexico skies, all with the backdrop of the area’s gorgeous mountains and mesas. The visuals are simply mesmerizing!

Chase Boats:  Another Unique Layer of Interest

Elephant Butte New Mexico Balloon Regatta

For this event, chase boats are indispensable. Given the fact that the balloons pass over water, these boats add an element of safety should any unforeseen circumstances arise. Each chase boat is paired to a balloon, with the role of following, and, in some cases, tethering the balloon and guiding it back to shore.

A Confluence of Nature and Art

Elephant Butte New Mexico Balloon Regatta

The Elephant Butte Balloon Regatta does more than showcase the wonders of hot air ballooning; it is a harmonious blend of nature and art. The intricate patterns and vibrant colors of the balloon envelopes, juxtaposed against the natural beauty of Elephant Butte Lake State Park, offer a captivating experience for photographers and nature lovers alike.

Weekend Fun for the Whole Family

Elephant Butte New Mexico Balloon Regatta

Most out-of-town visitors stay for the weekend or longer to enjoy other popular local, family-friendly activities. Things to do range from boating, fishing, jet skiing, tubing, kayaking, swimming, hiking and biking to off-highway adventures, exploring museums and ghost towns, golfing, and indulging in the local hot springs.

Getting into the Event

Elephant Butte New Mexico Balloon Regatta

While the regatta is free for public viewing, Elephant Butte Lake State Park charges an entry fee ($5 per car and $15 per bus). For those interested in an even more personal experience, tether rides are available at the launch site, (cash only), priced at $25 for those aged 13 and above and $20 for children aged 5-12. 

Accommodations and Amenities

Elephant Butte New Mexico Balloon Regatta

For those seeking a place to stay, Sierra County offers a variety of accommodations. From rental homes, motels, and hotels to hot spring resorts, there’s something for every taste and budget. And when it comes to dining close to the event, guests can enjoy Big Foot Express, Casa Taco,  and the bar, restaurant and patio at Turtleback Mountain Resort, all located in the City of Elephant Butte. Several other restaurants are located in nearby Truth or Consequences.

Tips for Attendees

Elephant Butte New Mexico Balloon Regatta
  • Early Arrival: With the balloons launching at 7:30 am, it’s advisable to arrive early. Not only will this guarantee a good parking and viewing spot, but the sight of balloons being inflated against the backdrop of a dawn sky is magical.
  • Weather Check: Ballooning is highly dependent on weather conditions. It’s wise to check the forecast and event updates to ensure the day’s activities will proceed as planned.
  • Hydration and Sunscreen: New Mexico’s summer sun can be intense. Carrying water and applying sunscreen is essential to enjoy the day comfortably.
  • Eco-friendly: While the event organizers strive to protect the environment, attendees can play their part by minimizing waste and ensuring they leave no trace behind.

Conclusion

The Elephant Butte Balloon Regatta is a stunning and memorable event that paints the skies over Elephant Butte Lake with a burst of color, leaving an indelible impression on all who attend. If you’re planning a summer visit to New Mexico, consider scheduling your visit to include this one-of-a-kind hot air balloon event. You’ll remember this sight for years to come!


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