10 Tips for Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

Last updated: September 27th, 2023 | Originally published: September 22, 2023
Balloon Fiesta

There is nothing comparable to the sight of 700 hot air balloons taking flight at sunrise. This is what makes the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta the largest balloon festival in the world and one of the most beloved festivals any kind in the United States.

Good weather is not guaranteed, but a crowd certainly is. The 2022 Balloon Fiesta gathered nearly 830,000 attendees over the nine day festival. The bottom line is this: If you want to behold this bucket-list spectacle with your own two eyes, you are going to have to plan ahead.

In this short article we’re going to discuss ten pieces of information we believe are helpful (and dare we say, integral) to know before your visit to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. We hope you enjoy!

Balloon Fiesta

1. Balloon Fiesta Dates, Location, and Ticket Info

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta takes place annually in the first half of October. It begins on a Saturday and continues for nine days through the following Sunday. Here’s a LINK to the official website.

Address of the Balloon Fiesta: 5500 Alameda Blvd NE, Albuquerque, NM 87113

General Admission Ticket Price: $15/ per session (all of Morning or Evening events are considered a “session”). Puchase Tickets here (link).

Balloon Fiesta also offers an assortment of ways to enhance your Balloon Fiesta experience, including: Gondola Club, Chasers Club, Concierge Program, Fiesta Sky Box, as well as other means of pampering.

2. Different Events of the Festival

Every day of the nine-day festival begins with a Dawn Patrol, a Glow (balloon inflation without ascent), and 07:00 assent. Some AM assents are Mass Ascents, which means all the balloons go up; some are smaller ascents; and some have specifications like “character balloons”.

Monday through Wednesday (and the second Sunday) the Balloon Fiesta events are done for the day by 09:00.

Thursday through Sunday (including both Saturdays) have events all throughout the day and into the evening. Every evening’s agenda includes an 18:00 Glow, followed by a skydiving show, drone light show, and 20:00 fireworks.

3. Morning & Evening Sessions

A typical day at Balloon Fiesta will include an Morning and an Evening launch or “glow”. Each day has its own schedule — they mix it up to give variety to the days of the week.

You will buy general admission tickets that can be used for the Morning or Evening session. Both are great. Try and do (at least) one of each when you visit.

Thursday through Sunday, between the Morning and Evening events the festival organizers sprinkle an assortment of activities to entertain the goers. Things like chainsaw carving, skydiving, and hot air balloon competitions fill the days for those who stick around after the Morning events or arrive early for the Evening events. Vendors also give visitors something to indulge as the day draws long.

Balloon Fiesta

4. AM Traffic at Albuquerque International Balloon Festival

One of the great spectacles of the Albuquerque International Balloon Festival is an AM launch. So, to be clear… This isn’t a secret and you aren’t the only one trying to get there before the 07:00 launch time.

You will most likely approach Balloon Fiesta Park from Interstate-25. While cruising along this dark freeway in the early morning hours, thinking you’ve got it made, you will eventually notice cars stacking up in the exit lanes. It’s worse than first glance, because this is happening at multiple exits near the park.

It can be incredibly frustrating to get in line and see other cars driving past you only to pull ahead of you in line. Be prepared for this. Also be prepared to second guess yourself about which exit you chose.

The only way to avoid this traffic disaster is to arrive closer to 05:00 than 6:00. We believe it’s worth it to sacrifice an hour of sleep to get their early and park the car with comparatively less stress. The worst outcome is to watch the balloons launch from the Interstate or parking lot because you thought 06:30 would be a great time to arrive.

5. Cash for Parking

If you are driving to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta and plan on using the general parking lots at the festival (which you should), bring cash to pay for parking! They do not accept credit cards.

It would be a darn shame — the kind of shame that fills you like a hot rage balloon — to be turned away from the parking lot after sitting in gridlock for an hour.

Balloon Fiesta

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6. RV Park @ Balloon Fiesta Park

If your plan is to stay in your RV, this is the place you want to be. You will avoid the traffic funneling into Balloon Fiesta Park, which is worth the premium RV rates at the park.

The place you want to be is the President’s Compound RV Lot ($250/night). Very expensive but the lot overlooks the launch field and includes (4) general admission tickets daily. For half the price you can stay in the “North VIP lot”, which provides close proximity but offers no view. The South VIP lot is $50-60 bucks but you’re a decent walk from the action. Here’s the LINK with all the information.

2024 RV reservations will go on sale January 10th, 2024 at 9:00am mountain time.

7. Reserve Lodging a Year in Advance

We spoke to one RV Park near Albuquerque that was booked for the next six years (drops mic). We made our round of reservation calls in January for the following October and the closest we could get was Edgewood, about 35 miles east of Balloon Fiesta Park. They had one available space.

Hotels are no better. And they run up the rates significantly!

8. RV Parking in Edgewood for Late Reservations

We are pretty sure that Route 66 RV Park in Edgewood, New Mexico is not going to make your list of all-time favorite RV parks. The place is a dirt lot on a hill. If it rains the sites get muddy and there are rivulets everywhere. And the water tastes real bad.

Remember you are here for one reason: To see hot air balloons at the world’s largest balloon festival, Albuquerque International Balloon Festival. When the rubber meets the road, we’ll stay just about anywhere if that’s what it takes. Here’s a MAP from Edgewood, NM to Balloon Fiesta Park. The drive is scenic, too.

If you can’t find a reservation anywhere in Albuquerque because all the RV Parks are booked, don’t forget to check Edgewood.

9. Balloon Fiesta Museum

The Balloon Fiesta Museum is a large, modern facility with a variety of exhibits to explore. Learn about the history of balloons and dirigibles, the important people in ballooning history, the science behind hot air balloons, weather patterns, historic ballooning events, and partake in the abundance of hot air balloon artwork. The Balloon Fiesta Museum is close to the launch field.

Admission: $6 adults / $3 17-and-under.

Regular Hours: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Tuesday – Sunday.  Closed Monday.

Balloon Fiesta

10. Sandia Peak Tramway

One of the most exciting things to do in Albuquerque, New Mexico is to ride the Sandia Peak Tramway. From Balloon Fiesta Park look east to the large mountain — the tramway goes to the top of that mountain.

The large gondola crests this stunning, urban peak at 10,378′ in fifteen minutes. It is the world’s 3rd longest single-span tramway. Atop the Sandia Mountains you will have 11,000 square mile panoramic views.

It might not be a hot air balloon, but it’s the next best thing. Here’s the Website.

An Honest Conclusion for Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

We assume the natural question to ask would be, “Does the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta live up to the hype?”

Yes, it lives up to the hype. We spent five days in the area and it rained four of them — We’re talking about a complete disruption to the festival. The final day of our stay the rain subsided, but the gray skies remained. It was clear enough for us to enjoy a mass assent, which was sublime beyond words, gray skies and everything.

That night we came back for the evening events and enjoyed the glow and fireworks. It was cathartic to walk around the balloons beneath a darkening sky, having spent the previous four days hunkered down in a muddy RV park (and getting the tires changed on our motorhome). Six grand they charged us for new tires!!

The second natural question to ask would probably be, “Are you going back anytime soon?”

Probably not. We feel like we “captured the spirit of the thing” well-enough in our limited exposure. The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta was magical, but it was also stressful getting to and from the park. I’m sure we will return sometime in the future, but we aren’t making plans anytime soon.

Thank you for stopping by our website! We are the Hoffmann family, a full-time RV family that has split residence in Seattle, Washington and San Antonio, Texas. We have special needs children that we homeschool, and work travel assignments for the Veteran Affairs Hospital. If you would like to learn more about us, check out our Start Here and Biography pages. In the meantime, God bless and travel happy!

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