A Fall Weekend in Albuquerque: 2018 Balloon Fiesta

If you love traveling and exploring, then I am sure road trips are part of your life already. When we found out we were moving to the southwest, we knew we wanted to visit my cousin in Albuquerque. One of the things they recommended was we try to attend the annual International Balloon Fiesta. As such, when I asked for vacation I knew I wanted to try to get one of the weekends and be able to go. Luckily, I got the week that I wanted. Then we officially started planning our weekend getaway to Albuquerque to attend the Balloon fiesta. To summarize, we had a blast, and we were completely stunned after such an incredible experience. This post is a long one, so grab a cup of coffee or tea and let’s get into everything that we did!


The International Balloon Fiesta

This was the BEST part of the whole weekend. If you ask me, I’d say that everyone should try to go at least once in their life! Never in a million years did I imagine I would get to witness something so magnificent as the Hot Air Balloon Fiesta. Confession: I absolutely LOVE hot air balloons! Ever since I was a child I was mesmerized by them. Imagine these amazing things that flew with FIRE! I’m sure many of you can relate. Looking back, I remember a Barney and Friends episode (yup, embarrassing confession moment) that was all about hot air balloons. From that moment, I dreamed of seeing one in person and riding it. Now, you can see why my excitement was through the roof when we set this plan in motion.

Albuquerque Balloon FIesta Mass Ascension

Getting to the Event

Let me take you through how the day goes for the Balloon Fiesta. First off, you need to wake up early, 4:00am being your best bet. This will allow you to get to the even on time to see the morning glow and the start of the mass ascension. There are several options for getting to the location: Park and Ride, self parking, and getting dropped off. The Park and Ride is a ticket you purchase and park at a designated lot.  You then hop on a bus that will take you to the event. The benefit of this is not having to drive to the event or back. Self parking for us seems like the best option. There was traffic but it was also easy to get there if you arrive early. After experiencing both, I would do self parking and get there early.

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta Morning Glow

There are also many other ways to get to the event. From camping in the area, staying in an RV, to catching an Uber there is something for everybody. I found this pretty amazing resource that has many ideas on how to get to the event. In addition, the post gets into other details about the event. The way that you choose to get there can also play into how you can maximize your time. You can figure out what you want to do during your time in the area and decide which mode would allow you the most flexibility.

abq balloon fiesta morning

Morning session

In the morning there is a lot happening at the same time. They usually start the day with a small events building up the main one, the Mass Ascension. The events prior are not that exciting. My advice is to get there before 6:30am so you can be there for the setup of the first set of balloons going up. The buildup to the main event is the “Morning Glow” which consist of the balloons “lighting up” in preparation to rise. It’s absolutely breathtaking. Weather permitting, the mass ascension begins at 7:00am. After the ascension begins, it literally doesn’t stop! Hundreds of balloons are getting set up and seeing them fly away is absolutely magical. They have an app with the map of the area and you can chase your favorite balloons to make sure you see them rise!

Most of the balloons are unique and incredible. Some of my favorites were the Penguins and the Darth Vader/Yoda.  Many come from all over the world and some even are supporting a specific cause. For about 3 hours you see the sky fill up with balloons. You can run from one place to another to experience the different stages of the balloons and if you are lucky, you can snap some pretty amazing pictures. If you want to go the extra mile and splurge a bit, you can even ride a balloon. Of course, since this is a super unique ride, it’s pricey. Tickets go from $500-$800. Price depends on if you go with a groups of 4 people or more/less. I hope you can tell from this post how unique and amazing this experience was. It was truly a magical morning even in the crisp, chilly morning we had.

my favorite hot air balloons

The Night Session

At around mid morning the heat begins to rise. Too much heat affects the balloons flying. So, by this point the balloons have either returned and landed or drifted away and landed elsewhere. Usually people start heading back to rest up or explore the city. Then, at around 5:00pm you can head back for the night session. The night session is much more relaxed than the morning session. It is a great time to explore the vendors and enjoy the Festival part of the event. At 6:00 pm the show should begin for the Twinkle Twinkle Balloon Glow which is similar to the morning one. The balloons that are participating line up and put on a show using the fire to make the balloons “glow” in the sunset. Unfortunately for us the weather was not optimal, it was too windy, and they cancelled the glow. We still got to witness a beautiful sunset.

Albuquerque sunset

After the glowing balloon show, there is a laser show. I found this to be meh/ok. It wasn’t very impressive and it’s nothing you can’t see elsewhere. There was nothing unique about it. Finally, at around 8:00pm the final act should commence, the fireworks. The day we were there something went wrong and they show didn’t begin on time. Instead they began almost at 8:30pm. It was a good fireworks display. They had 2 different areas that would alternate throughout the show. After that, unless you want to stay for the vendors, food, and drink, the night is pretty much done.

How to Prepare

If you live nearby, there is not much preparation needed. The story is completely different when you live farther away. Since the Balloon Fiesta is a huge event, hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world are visiting during this time. If unlike us, you don’t have family nearby finding where to stay can be tricky. Many places get booked fast, so trying to book your stay as much in advance a possible is the best plan. If that is not possible for whatever reason, you can always look to AirBnB for a number of great places at really good prices most of the time. Another alternative that might make for a great time is renting an RV and staying somewhere close to the Ballon Fiesta field. In Albuquerque there is a wide variety of great RV parks with amazingly beautiful sights and lots of things to do.

Albuquerque Balloon fiesta mass assension

The most important part of preparing for the fiesta is keeping in mind the weather. October is a transition month and like so temperatures can vary greatly. So the week before you head out I would check out the weather forecast and plan accordingly. Remember layers are your friends! In addition, I would certainly take a few extra pieces of different style in case it gets hotter or colder than predicted. For shoes I would recommend wearing a good pair of boots or other shoes that can get a bit dirty. To finish off your outfit I would grab a good fall jacket that is good for temperatures in the 40-60’s. Also, don’t be an idiot like me and forget your DSLR to take the most amazing pictures!

What I wore

my outfit for the balloon fiesta

If you remember that I am from Puerto Rico, you can probably understand that I am a tropical individual. As such, even though I loooove the cold, I needed to be well prepared. I decided to go for layers and wear one of my new absolute favorite pieces, this blue striped long-sleeved tee from Loft. What attracted me to it was the red embroidery on the left that says Merci and the bright blue color of the striped. I layered it with a flannel shirt (similar) from last year that I got at American Eagle. For pants, I chose my Kut from the Kloth Mia black toothpick skinny jeans and my Steve Madden Dicey boots from last year with Vans socks. As for my jacket, I finally got to test out my new quilted jacket from J.Crew Factory (psst it’s on Sale!!). All of these together made for the PERFECT outfit for the event. I was cozy and warm yet rocking my own style!

the rainbow ryders

The Passenger Balloons, The Rainbow Ryders

AARP Balloon Fiesta 2018

Phew, that was a lot! I wanted to make this post into a weekend getaway post but it got waaayy too long. As such, I have decided to make this into a two-part post so I can give you all of the information, the stories, and pictures! So stay tuned for the next few days or next week for part 2 or join my newsletter to always be the first to read my latest posts!

Have you ever been to the Balloon Fiesta? What was your favorite part? Let me know in the comments!



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Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

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