Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

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Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

The event is the largest balloon festival in the world, followed by the Grand Est Mondial Air in France. The Balloon Fiesta is a nine-day event occurring in the first full week of October in AlbuquerqueNew Mexico.

The Balloon Fiesta began in 1972 as the highlight of a 50th birthday celebration for 770 KOB Radio. The Balloon Fiesta grew each year for decades. The number of registered balloons reached a peak of 1,019 in 2000, prompting the Balloon Fiesta Board to limit the number to 750 starting in 2001. Countless more people gather at landing sites all over the city to watch incoming balloons. It has increased to 1,000 in 2011.

The convention has also become a major showcase of New Mexican culture and history and features numerous cultural exhibitions.

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Balloon Fiesta Park (map), from which the balloons are launched, is located on the northern edge of the city. In 2005, the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum (map) was opened on the grounds. The museum is dedicated to the history, science, sport, and art of ballooning and other innovative forms of flight.

Dawn Patrol. Every day there’s a Dawn Patrol at around 6AM, where a few balloons take off before the sun rises. These balloons test the conditions before other balloons take off.

Mass Ascensions. One of the biggest events of the fiesta (about 7AM), where all participating balloons launch in two waves, filling the sky with hundreds of balloons at once. The first wave of the mass ascension typically begins at around 7am, around the time of Albuquerque’s sunrise in early October.

Artistic Vision. Many local artists take advantage of the balloons as favorite subject matter for their paintings.

Special Shape Rodeo. Many non-traditional, uniquely shaped balloons are launched at the same time. Some of the most famous shapes include a milk cow, a wagon coach, twin bees, and many others like soda pop cans and animals. This is the most popular part of the event.

Balloon Glows. Large numbers of balloons are illuminated at night by their propane burners. They stand static and do not take off during these events. The “Glowdeo” is a night glow for the special shapes balloons. Evening Balloon glows are often followed by fireworks displays.

And if you want to do more than watch the balloons, there are several local companies which provide balloon rides year-round:

  • Rainbow Ryders. The only one which operates directly from Balloon Fiesta Park during the Balloon Fiesta edit.


Albuquerque is often overshadowed as a tourist destination by Santa Fe, 60 mi (97 km) to the north. But any visit to New Mexico would be incomplete without taking in what Albuquerque has to offer. The city has pleasant scenery, colorful history, and a wealth of great attractions in its own right.

Here, in a setting that has been made familiar to many by the television series *Breaking Bad, you’ll find many excellent museums, colorful neon signs along old Route 66, the naturalistic beauty of the Rio Grande (map) and the Sandia Mountains (map), and a spectacular hot-air balloon festival in the fall.

The Old Town (map) is east of Rio Grande Boulevard in between Central Ave. and Mountain Rd. (west of downtown). A nice sightseeing area, Old Town is where the city was founded in 1706 and is a place where centuries of history and modern life merge.

Albuquerque Museum of Art and History (map). Guided walking tours of Old Town start here.

The Sandia Mountains offer outdoors opportunities ranging from straight hiking (the La Luz trail is popular) on to serious, multi-day rock climbing. For a map of Sandia Mountain trails, see the Cibola National Forest website.

Public transport

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Getting to and around Albuquerque ( • Transportation Options (

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 BUS > is the leading go-to website for booking inter-city bus ticket online. Intercity bus travel is widespread, but not available everywhere. Greyhound Bus LinesBolt BusMegabusChinatown buses. (*Long-distance bus travel in the United States)

 RAIL >   Albuquerque is a layover stop along Amtrak’s Southwest Chief daily train route. AMTRAK | eTicketing | Interactive Map. A commuter rail line, the New Mexico Rail Runner Express, connects Albuquerque to Santa Fe. (*Rail travel in the United States)

 AIRPORTS >   The international airports in Atlanta (Hartsfield) • New York City (Newark Liberty and John F. Kennedy International Airport) • Los Angeles • Chicago (O’Hare IA) • San Francisco • Seattle (Seattle-Tacoma) • Miami • Houston (George Bush) are the main points of entry to the United States by plane. Flight Delay Information — Air Traffic Control System Command Center.

 WATERWAYS >   Washington State Ferries | Route Maps: Where we sail (PDF). Bluewater Ferry Inc. (USA – Canada). America has the largest system of inland waterways of any country in the world. It is entirely possible to navigate around within the United States by boat. The New York State Canal SystemThe St. Lawrence Seaway • *The Mississippi River.

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