The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is the world’s largest hot air balloon festival and the most photographed event in the world. Unsurprisingly then because of this the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is presented by Canon. Canon holds a contest for the best photos taken at Balloon Fiesta and the winner can receive a brand new Canon camera.
Balloon Fiesta is 10-days long and takes place every October in the small southwestern city of Albuquerque, New Mexico. It is a truly unique experience seeing 500 balloons ascend into the clear blue skies while bundled up in layers on a crisp autumn morning and a wonderful way to embrace the change of seasons.
Albuquerque in October is absolutely stunning. There are cool temperatures in the morning and at night but during the day it’s pretty hot. The whole city is changing seasons and you can watch the orange leaves fall all around town while still enjoying warm weather during the day. If the weather permits it, ascension happens at 7 am but if it’s too windy, or it begins to rain, the balloons cannot ascend. People start to show up at around 4:30 am to beat the traffic to Balloon Fiesta Park.
There are shuttle stations all over ABQ where you can park and ride to avoid the stress of trying to find parking at the venue. Remember, thousands of people show up from all over the world to see this! General admission tickets only cost $10 per person. Keep in mind that the tickets are for one session and a session is either all morning activities or all nighttime activities.
If you’re not an early riser, at 6 pm there is a Balloon Glow and a firework show at 8 pm. During Balloon Glow, the hot air balloons stay on the ground but are lit up all at once. Carrying around your fried food while walking through the warm glow of the balloons in the grass is a great date night activity or family outing.
The Balloon Fiesta is great for seeing hundreds of different hot air balloons, of course, but tourists also flock here for the abundance of New Mexican food stands. You can try things like breakfast burritos with green chile (yes, “chile” not “chili”), tamales and various other junk foods that are deep-fried and delicious. There are other little shops set up where you can purchase balloon merchandise like collectible pins, hats and shirts.
Live performances go on all day long so if you want to see some bands play or watch dance performances this is the place to be especially because they always hires a big country star to give a performance as well. Also, this year Balloon Fiesta is hosting a chainsaw carving exhibition where people carve art into wood with chainsaws to create unique sculptures.
My favorite day of Balloon Fiesta to attend is the day of special shapes. They have hot air balloons shaped like famous characters, brands and animals. It is amazing that these balloons can fly through the air with such ease. Some of my favorites are the cactus, cow, Yoda and the bumblebees.
Other things to do in Albuquerque that you could enjoy while you’re in town include:
- Before or during the festival, drink some coffee from one of the local coffee shops like Piñon Coffee House or Satellite Coffee.
- Try traditional New Mexican food at Monroe’s or Sadie’s and sip on some margaritas while stuffing your face with sopapillas. Sopapillas are fried bread that you can stuff with savory food or dip into honey as a dessert.
- Head up to the Sandia Mountains or the petroglyphs for hiking.
- Albuquerque is famous for the popular show Breaking Bad and fans can actually go on a Breaking Bad tour of the city to check out all the hot spots from the show.
- If you have time, take the Rail Runner train 40 minutes to the capital city of Santa Fe to check out the Georgia O’Keefe museum or the eccentric art museum Meow Wolf.
- Albuquerque has many local breweries where you can sample lots of beer. On the weekends you could go downtown or to Nob Hill to drink and dance.
The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is an event for everyone. A trip here is perfect for families, couples or even solo travelers. If Albuquerque or New Mexico in general is on your list of places to visit, October would be the best time to see this beautiful state and get to witness the International Balloon Fiesta, make some amazing memories and take some amazing photos while you’re at it!
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