Last Updated on May 14, 2023
In fall of 2023, the Albuquerque festival of hot air balloons, officially known as the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, celebrates its 51st anniversary. The world-renowned attraction celebrates ballooning with hundreds of dirigibles ascending from Balloon Fiesta Park.
It’s the largest ballooning event and most photographed ballooning event in the world. It’s also the largest annual international festival of hot air balloons held in the United States.
More than 25 million photos are captured annually at this much-loved festival.
- Albuquerque Hot Air Balloons Festival
- History Of the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta
- When is Albuquerque Balloon Fest
- Getting to Albuquerque
- What To Expect at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta
- 2023 Albuquerque Balloon Festival Schedule
Albuquerque Hot Air Balloons Festival
Albuquerque is renowned as the hot air ballooning capital of the world. It surely helps to have the sport’s best wind conditions and air temperature.
The “Albuquerque Box’” predictable wind patterns make it easy for pilots to navigate the Rio Grande Valley. Cool early morning temperatures assist the balloons to rise faster and handle better.
The spectacular landscape offers plenty of open space for balloons to launch, float through the sky, and land with ease.
History Of the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta
The city’s Balloon Fiesta began in 1972 with 13 balloons flying from a shopping mall parking lot. It is now an impressive 9-day event hosted in the 365-acre Balloon Fiesta Park, which is the size of 54 football fields.
When is Albuquerque Balloon Fest
The festival of hot air balloons is always scheduled for the first week in October with plans in place through 2026.
Getting to Albuquerque
Albuquerque is located in north-central New Mexico with the Sandia Mountains to the east, the Rio Grande River flowing through the center of town, and the Petroglyph National Monument to the west.
Driving by car, Albuquerque is nearly 600 miles east of Las Vegas on Interstate I-40.
It’s a major stop on the Southwest Chief Amtrak train, and by plane, you’ll arrive at Albuquerque’s Sunport – an international hub that serves as a cultural gateway with Southwestern art collections, shopping, and distinctive architecture.
What To Expect at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta
As many attendees have realized, weather rules the show. You are not guaranteed to see a balloon launch when you attend the Fiesta. If the weather turns sour at the park, take cover, or depart. If a thunderstorm rolls in, you don’t want to be in the open field.
With no viewing stands at the event, guests are permitted to walk the grounds and are part of the action thanks to the excellent safety record of this event. Annual attendees exceed 80,000 people visiting from all over the world.
The sights and sounds are mesmerizing.
Hundreds of burners igniting and filling the balloons with heated air and walking through the jungle canopy of colorfully expanding cloth astonish enthralled spectators.
Each balloon and chase crew is assigned a location on the field by row and space. It takes about two hours for all 500-plus balloons to launch.
2023 Albuquerque Balloon Festival Schedule
Opening ceremonies are currently scheduled for Saturday, October 7, 2023. The day starts early with three shows before the Mass Ascension event at 7:00am.
Many other exciting programs run throughout the days and evenings through Sunday, October 15.
The farewell Mass Ascension will occur at 7:00am that Sunday.
With all those early mornings, you’ll want a delicious breakfast. Here are our favorite breakfast restaurants in Albuquerque.
The Drone Light Show, Dawn Patrol Show, and the Krispy Kreme Morning Glow start on weekend days at 5:45am. Mass Ascension, or Balloon Launches, occur daily at 7:00am.
Visitors will want to check the online schedule for specific events like Chainsaw Carving and Solar Eclipse.
Evening programs run daily, except Monday, October 9, through Wednesday, October 11.
The first skydiving show is slated for 5:00pm and Glow programs start at 6:00pm.
An exciting way to end the day at the festival of hot air balloons is with the impressive AfterGlow Fireworks Show, which begins as soon as the launch field is clear of balloons.
Balloon Rides in Albuquerque
A hot air balloon ride is an extraordinary experience. Rainbow Ryders is the official balloon ride concession for the Fiesta. Rides sell out quickly, so be sure to reserve well in advance. Flight times run 45-minutes to an hour and adult and child prices are the same.
On my flight, I was quite surprised at the silence. The only sound was the igniter heating the air to keep the balloon aloft. There is no wind in your face because you are floating with the wind, not against it.
The views were spectacular. The landscape below and the colorful balloons suspended in the air around me created an unforgettable sight. So much so, the hour-long flight seemed to “fly” by far too quickly.
Visiting with my husband, we also enjoyed the skydiving exhibitions and Native American dance performances while awaiting the evening glow ascension.
Chainsaw carving exhibitions and music performances are other fascinating events we’d recommend.
ABQ Balloon Festival tickets
Single session general admission tickets for adults (12+) – morning OR evening, not both – start at $15. Prices go up for specialty experiences listed below.
Balloon Fiesta Transportation and Parking Tips
Located approximately 12 miles north of the Albuquerque Sunport, the Park is in North Albuquerque, just west of I-25. It’s seven miles north of downtown and five miles east of Rio Rancho.
While you can drive your own vehicle to Balloon Fiesta Park, you may want to consider alternative means of transportation due to high traffic congestion.
If you need to rent a vehicle during the Fiesta event, be sure to reserve well in advance as rental vehicles can be in short supply. Visitors can also use Uber or Lyft, and be dropped off and picked up in a designated area south of the park near Alameda Blvd NE on Horizon.
If you ride a bicycle to the Fiesta, you can check it in at no charge with the Bike Valet. The bike trail runs along a channel and underneath the street crossings.
Park & Ride Shuttles are available from four locations around Albuquerque. Park and Ride services are a convenient and efficient way to get to the Fiesta Park. Plenty of buses and good signage make this method the best option.
We regularly took the Park and Ride transportation during our Balloon Fiesta experience. Admission to the festival is included in the cost of your Park and Ride round-trip ticket.
Hospitality Venues at The Balloon Fiesta
For additional fees, VIP clubs are exclusive offerings designed to make your Fiesta experience unique. The clubs include prime viewing of the launch field, private parking and restrooms, gourmet breakfast or dinner, shuttles, a souvenir gift, a collectible pin, guaranteed seating, and cocktail purchases.
If interested, make reservations for these clubs early as these tickets sell out quickly months before the Fiesta dates.
On-Site Glamping and Camping
An exclusive location at Balloon Fiesta Park accommodates glamping or camping tents. This is extremely convenient for those who want to walk to the launch field.
Both options include a three-night stay, premium parking, admission, and more.
Fiesta Sky Box
Shipping containers at a prime location on the launch field are specially outfitted for groups with food, adult beverages, upper deck seating, and a host assigned to each Sky Box.
If you want to enjoy an insider’s view of the Fiesta, consider arranging a concierge. This service includes golf cart transport, excellent for photographers, guests with mobility issues, and Balloon Fiesta first-time attendees. Many golf carts navigated the walkways when we were there, and at times, we wished we’d had one.
Albuquerque hotels near Balloon Fiesta Park
Hotel rates during the festival of hot air balloons are significantly higher than usual. Getting a hotel room at the last minute may be impossible, so reserve early.
The map below is centered on Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta Park, north of downtown, to help you pick the most convenient location. You’ll need to zoom out one or two clicks to start bringing in more options.
If you’re looking for an authentic New Mexico luxury experience, consider the Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm.
Helpful Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta Tips
• The Balloon Fiesta is a NO DRONE ZONE
• Arrive at the Park on weekend mornings by 4:00 – 4:30am. You read that correctly.
• Arrive at the Park for evening events by 4:00pm.
• Gates open at 4:30am and 3:00pm
• Smoking is strictly prohibited at Balloon Fiesta Park due to the propane fuel in the balloon tanks and pockets of odorless propane that can settle around the field.
• General parking lots are located on the north and south ends of the park. Bring cash for each session you attend. They do not accept credit or debit cards.
• Metal detectors are at the entry gates. Staff will search packages and backpacks.
• You cannot bring glass or alcohol into the park, but you can bring coolers and bags.
• The Park is handicapped accessible, with parking near the entrance gates and courtesy shuttles that travel the park’s length. There is also a limited number of wheelchairs, strollers, mobility scooters, and wagons available for rent.
• A limited number of picnic tables, benches, and bleachers are on site. Attendees can bring lawn chairs to use in the park.
• RV parking reservations can only be made online prior to arrival
Tickets for the 2023 go on sale April 7. Purchase tickets online or call the number on the website. You can also purchase General Admission tickets at the gate on event days.
And by all means, have fun. This is an amazing event!Albuquerque