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After taking my first hot air balloon ride in Sri Lanka, I am psyched to try some stateside adventures that involve this classic mode of transportation. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. Once the burners turn off, the world goes quiet from up above. There’s nothing else like it.

Sri Lanka Balloon Ride by Alice Lurker

A couple of years ago, Shauna had the pleasure of attending the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with Pure Wander. She brought her whole family and was able to have such an amazing experience. I’m all ready to take my own epic trip to Albuquerque now, too!

When Is the Balloon Fiesta?

It happens every fall, usually at the beginning of October. For more than a week, hot air balloons from all over the world launch from a central location. It makes for a spectacular display early in the day. At night, there are laser light shows, fireworks, and other aerial delights. I’m not a huge early bird, but I’d make an exception for this fest that mostly takes place in the wee morning hours.

What Should I Bring to the Balloon Fiesta?

Balloon Fiesta by Shauna ArmitagePhoto via Pure Wander

Pack layers. The best advice I’ve gotten about going to this event is to wear layers. Yes, it can be warm during the day, especially in the desert climate. As the sun rises, it takes a while to heat up. Bring along thermals or a fleece. Many people will bring their own chairs and camp out for the day, but you can walk around as well. Just make sure your shoes are sturdy and comfortable to cover ground. If you want to take a hot air balloon ride, you’ll need to bring cash. It’s an investment, but it’s also an incredible adventure.

How Do I Plan My Stay in New Mexico?

Fortunately, Albuquerque is chock-full of wonderful places to relax between balloon launches. Book your hotel far in advance, as it’s one of the most popular gatherings of the year. Consider a comfortable home base so you’re rested for early morning festivities.

It’s possible to fly in and arrange transportation, but it’s worth having a rental car for which we also recommend to navigate here to find the one. Then you’ll have freedom to move about the grounds and explore the rest of town, too. Keep in mind that parking lines can be long, so plan to go early or leave late.

In case of any mishap, it’s always good to know who to contact for help. If you happen to be involved in a car accident, it’s important to seek legal assistance from professionals found on websites such as

What Are the Balloon Fiesta Highlights?

New Mexico Balloon Fiesta by Shauna ArmitagePhoto via Pure Wander

The schedule for each day is fairly similar. You can enjoy the event over the course of a few days and attend a couple of different events. Make time for the Dawn Patrol at 6 a.m., as balloon navigators test wind speeds and ascend to ethereal music. An hour later is the mass ascension of countless colorful balloons. Keep an eye out for a few crazy designs, like Darth Vader and a pirate ship. At night, there’s light displays, live music, and more.

Have you been in a hot air balloon? Would you rather take to the skies or watch from the ground?


Author EileenCotterWright

Eileen Cotter Wright is a Boston, MA local and a former London, UK expat. Despite losing her passport the first day she left her home country, she's continued to roam the earth with gusto for more than 16 years. You can keep up with her hot mess adventures on Instagram @CrookedFlight.

More posts by EileenCotterWright

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