The Albuquerque International Balloon Festival

Written by on August 10, 2016 in NM Events - 1 Comment

Every year during the first week of October, the skies over New Mexico, bloom with color as the balloons from the Albuquerque International Balloon Festival take to the air. Nothing rivals the grander of these gentle giants as they ascend into the deep blue desert skies or fill the night sky with glowing, illuminated shapes.

The event began in 1972 with just 13 balloons that launched from a mall parking lot. Today, during the Balloon Fiesta, nearly 700 balloons launch from the 365-acre balloon park and pilots come to join the fiesta from all over the world. There are plenty of balloon events to enjoy each day…

Dawn Patrol
The Dawn Patrol is a group of selected balloons that launch prior to sunrise every morning. The pilots of the Mass Ascension almost always watch this launch to determine winds speed and direction aloft.

Mass Ascension
This is when all 700 balloons mass launch early the morning — it only takes two hours to get them all airborne.

Flight of Nations
The Flight of the Nations event is held during the Wednesday Mass Ascension event and honors all of the countries that are represented in Balloon Fiesta.

America’s Challenge
This is a long distance balloon race that launches from Balloon Fiesta Park in Albuquerque and ends on the East Coast (usually in a different location each year).

Special Shapes Rodeo and Special Shapes Glowdeo
Watch as hundreds of shaped balloons (like a stagecoach, a piggy bank or a cow) launch in the most colorful and unusual parade of the fiesta. This is the most popular event, and when it first started, caused traffic jams all over Albuquerque.

Balloon Glows and Fireworks
The events now known as balloon glows were invented in Albuquerque in 1979, when local pilots inflated balloons on Christmas Eve night as a thank you to local residents. The sight of balloons lit from within at night like giant holiday ornaments is breathtaking. The most spectacular moment of the festival is when the pilots all fire their burners at the same moment, lighting the sky with exotic colors and shapes. The event is nearly always followed by a fireworks show.

Flying Competitions
Pilots compete in Balloon Fiesta Hold ‘Em, Key Grab, Balloon Fiesta Golf, Multiple Judge-declared Goal, Fly-in Task, Minimum Double Drop and a Prize Grab. All competitions are based on flying accuracy rather than speed.

Balloon Rides
After watching the balloons launch and you find yourself wishing you were up there, too, your wish can come true! Rainbow Ryders, Inc. provides balloon rides throughout the fiesta. For more information, you should visit their website at

The Festival lasts eight days and there is much more to enjoy than just the balloons. A stage located in the center of Main Street offers a lively schedule of various bands and children’s acts, and roving entertainers wander throughout the park. In addition, there are great interactive educational displays at the Balloon Discovery Center. The food at the festival is the “best in the west,” from the smell and taste of roasting Hatch chilis and grilling burgers, to international cuisine, and just about every kind of treat imaginable — cotton candy, snow cones, kettle corn and more.

The weather during the festival is usually outstanding with cool nights (temps in the 40s) and warm days (in the 70s). Dress in layers and be sure to bring sun screen — the sun is still intense at this time of year.

Admission to the 2010 Balloon Fiesta is $6 for people over age 12. Children 12 years old and younger are admitted free when accompanied by an adult. General parking is $10 per car per session.

For lodging during the festival, please contact Balloon Fiesta Travel to reserve a hotel, or call 1-888-398-5537.

For tickets, schedules and more information on the Albuquerque International Balloon Festival, please visit:

Click learn more about what to see and do in Albuquerque.

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