Nothing prepares you for the wonder that is the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Each fall, hundreds of balloons and hundreds of thousands of tourists flock to the Land of Enchantment to be a part of something truly spectacular. It’s the most photographed event on earth, and if you’ve ever been, you understand why.
The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta has been enchanting guests from around the world for over 45 years. What started as a small gathering of 13 balloons in a mall parking lot in 1972 has grown into the largest hot air ballooning event in the world. In 2016, the fiesta registered nearly 600 balloons and more than 1,000 balloon pilots.
Attending the Balloon Fiesta is not for the faint of heart, however. You will get up well before sunrise, battle crowds and traffic, and you must prepare yourself for the possibility of a red flag – which means you’ll have to do it all over again another day. You see, the balloons will not fly if the wind is higher than 12 mph, or if there is lighting or rain.
But ask anyone who has witnessed a mass ascension, and they are sure to tell you it’s worth the effort! Here are a few tips for maximizing your Balloon Fiesta Experience:
- Plan, plan plan. Buy your tickets ahead of time, check the weather, and arrange for transportation (be sure to look into the Park and Ride option – it’s worth every penny).
- Dress in layers. October mornings are quite chilly, but once the sun rises it warms up quickly.
- If you are taking little ones, bring a stroller or wagon. Bundle them up in hats, blankets and gloves and hand them a cup of hot cocoa as you enter the gates.
- Prepare yourself for a large crowd, which means long lines at food & vendor booths, bathrooms, etc. The “midway” can get especially hectic – keep track of your people, it’s easy to get separated.
- Go out for a big New Mexico style breakfast afterwards, and then clear the afternoon for a nap!
- If there is a red flag, your tickets will be good for another day. Don’t give up…like we said, it’s worth it!