Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta Tips and Guide

10 Tips to Make the Most of Your Time at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is an annual event in October that features special-shaped balloon rodeos, twilight balloon glows, and vibrant balloon-filled skies. It takes place at Balloon Fiesta Park in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The event is known for creating an enchanted world where visitors can witness the mass ascension of hot air balloons, enjoy free musical and cultural performances, and experience thrilling balloon rides.

The Balloon Fiesta offers various activities and attractions, including the Dawn Patrol, where balloons launch in the dark before sunrise, and the Mass Ascension, where hundreds of balloons take to the skies simultaneously. The event also has a Concierge Program, Chasers’ Club, and a crowd favorite, the whimsical special shape rodeo.

For the latest information on the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, you can visit the official website.

Here are our 10 tips to make the most of your time at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta:

1) Allow a Back-Up Day

Tours of Distinction plans for many unanticipated contingencies on trips. On this trip, because we can’t control the weather, we have planned for a backup day. Although Albuquerque’s weather is mild and sunny during the Balloon Fiesta, balloons don’t fly in inclement weather. This is why we have planned to be at the Fiesta for two days, not just one day. If you are visiting the fiesta on a day when balloons don’t go up, you can still enjoy talking to the pilots hearing their stories, and taking fantastic photos of the balloons that will color the landscape like a patchwork quilt. Another option is to visit the Anderson-Abruzzo International Balloon Museum, adjacent to the Balloon Fiesta Park.

2) What To Wear - Comfort First

Albuquerque is located in the New Mexican high desert. October is one of the best months to visit New Mexico, it is the time of year when desert temperatures drop at night and remain low in the early morning when many Fiesta-goers arrive to watch the balloons take off. Expect morning temperatures to be in the low 40s and rise to about 70 at noon. It is best to dress in layers and to bring a jacket.

The Balloon Fiesta Park consists of more than 360 acres and the launch field is more than 60 acres. In general, dress comfortably and make sure to wear shoes that won’t bother you as you walk the Fiesta grounds. 

3) What To Bring

Albuquerque’s altitude is over 5,000 feet, causing more UV rays to reach the ground. If you arrive in the early morning, chances are that it will still be dark out, but don’t let that fool you - because sunshine will flood the desert by mid-morning. Wear plenty of sunscreen, and sunglasses after daybreak to reduce glare. It is also advisable to bring water to keep yourself hydrated. One backpack per person, water, and snacks are allowed on the grounds. There are security gates to get into the fiesta and all items will be checked.

4) Arrive Early for Balloon Glow

The city’s dry climate is perfect for hot air ballooning and for a full week in October, the skies are filled with colorful balloons. On many mornings, balloons launch en mass of 500 + just before sunrise and are illuminated against the night sky. It is a bucket list experience so make sure to arrive early to beat the crowds. We advise our small tour groups to leave as early as 4 a.m. to witness a 6 a.m. balloon departure. For evening events plan to be at the park by 4 pm. because gates open at 4:30.

The morning balloon glow is one of the main highlights of the fiesta.
The morning balloon glow is one of the main highlights of the fiesta.

5) Get Your Free Trading Cards @ the Special Shape Rodeo 

This special morning event will feature more than 100 specially shaped balloons that can be anything from a penguin, a baby T-Rex, a British palace guard, a zebra, bees, a seabed, and so many more! Don’t miss out on getting your free trading cards from the crews of your favorite shaped balloons, they make great souvenirs! The tip here is to get them early on before they are all given out!

6) Don’t Forget Your Camera

The Balloon Fiesta is one of the most photographed events in the world. The colors, shapes, and sizes of the balloons are amazing whether they are on the ground or floating over the mountains against a bright blue sky. Whether you bring a stand-alone camera or a phone camera, don’t forget it - and keep it charged up. 

7) Concessions, Food Vendors and Cash

The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta is a full-fledged fair with more than 100 tents offering all types of merchandise and concessions cooking up a countless variety of sweet and savory foods. This is the perfect time to try some regional specialties. We advise that you bring cash, in small bills when buying food and small souvenirs -  it is just less complicated.

8) Enjoy Free Entertainment on Main Street

If balloons weren’t enough the Balloon Fiesta features great local and national performers on the Main Street Stage located in the center of Main Street, where you can listen to everything from military brass bands, funk, soul, and salsa to rock, jazz, and folk music. Be on the lookout for street performers as well as Native American dancers, Flamenco ensembles, and Mariachi troupes. 

9) Precautions Around Balloons - Be Respectful

The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta is one of the only balloon events where people can walk around the balloons and talk to the pilots as they are inflating. Please do not touch them or step on or over any of them and, always follow the directions of the pilots, crews, and Launch Directors, known locally as Zebras, identified by their black and white striped shirts.

10) Be In the Know

To plan time on your own at the Balloon Fiesta, download the mobile app to keep up to date with the daily schedules, weather conditions, where the bathrooms are, and much more including information about the balloons and pilots. To download the app click here.