For nine days in October, the skyline in Albuquerque is full of over 500 hot-air balloons soaring amid the annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta®. It's the perfect reason to plan a trip to this New Mexico destination during the beautiful fall weather. Here’s an overview of the festival, plus ideas for exploring all that Albuquerque has to offer.
TRANSPORTATION, CONCESSIONS, AND EVENTS
The transportation options for getting to and from the festival include Park & Ride areas, bike rentals, and rideshares. If your plan is to park on site, bring cash as cards aren’t accepted.
While there are on-site concessions, outside food and drinks are permitted—but no glass containers or alcohol. Also, no smoking is permitted. Tickets are required to attend the festival and can be purchased via the event’s website or at the gate.
Held at the Balloon Fiesta Park in the northern part of Albuquerque, the festival’s schedule features a variety of themed launches and competitions. It’s best to review each day’s event listing beforehand. Many daily events start off early in the morning, when the temperature could get a bit chilly, so dress in layers. It’s also the best time to see the festival’s balloons take flight.
The Dawn Patrol Show, choreographed and set to music, has pilots launching before dawn so they can check on wind speeds and landing positions. The Dawn Patrol refers to position lighting systems that enable balloonists to fly at night.
The Mass Ascension is a captivating sight, as all the participating balloons lift off from the park in two waves.
In the evening, the Twinkle Twinkle Glow™ features the giant beauties tethered to the ground, but their propane burners are ignited to light up their interiors. The end result is a brilliant, photo-worthy display.
For those wishing to take a ride, Rainbow Ryders is the only festival participant permitted to take attendees up in a hot-air balloon. Rides sell out quickly, so try and book in advance.
Several Albuquerque attractions host events around the same time as the festival. The ABQ BioPark Botanic Garden has its annual Harvest Festival. The expansive facility also includes a zoo, aquarium, and beach.
The Indian Pueblo Culture Center’s Albuquerque American Indian Arts Festival offers multiple Native dance performances along with handcrafted art and jewelry sold by local artists. Dine at the Indian Pueblo Kitchen, with indigenous and New Mexican-influenced dishes, and shop at the Indian Pueblo Store.
In a former lumber warehouse, the Sawmill Market is a 34,000-square-foot food hall with a brewpub, coffee shop, marketplace, and outdoor patio, along with a variety of food vendors.
Old Town Albuquerque is a major shopping area for turquoise jewelry and Southwest artisan products, along with wine tasting rooms, galleries, and restaurants.
On the city's outskirts, Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm is a lovely brunch spot amid its scenic backdrop. For a digital dining experience with special table image, visit the Electric Playhouse. Afterwards, go play in the restaurant's virtual areas.
See Albuquerque from above via the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway, with a 2.7-mile ascent to the 10,378-foot crest of the Sandia Mountains. After reaching the top, follow along hiking trails or eat at the TEN 3 restaurant.