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The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is the largest balloon event in the world showcasing around 600 balloons each year during the first week of October. Pilots travel from all over the country and the world to participate in this bucket list experience. There are four main ways to experience the Fiesta and each one is incredible in its own way.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta with Fulltime Families


Walking Through Balloon Fiesta Park

Mass ascension kicks everything off on the first Saturday of the 9-day event. You will want to be on the field before 6am to watch the dawn patrol go up. As the first couple balloon rise, they will light up and look like fireflies in the sky. Assuming dawn patrol deems it safe for other pilots to fly, opening ceremonies with start within the hour and the balloon field will come alive around the 7 o’clock hour. It is important to note that all times are approximate as wind and other weather conditions play a huge factor in what happens on the field and when.

When pilots get the green flag to fly, their crew will start laying out the envelope (fabric of the balloon) and then get the balloon inflated. What was once a flat land will become a 3D jungle as balloons start to rise all around you. The noise from the fans and the quick movements from the crew add to the anticipation. As you are walking from one end of the field to the other, the zebras will start telling the pilots when it is safe to ascend. Hot air balloons will start lifting all around you and everyone will be cheering. The energy on balloon field is incredible and you will be in awe. There are multiple waves of balloons taking flight, so you have time to soak up every moment.


Riding in a Hot Air Balloon

Walking on the field during mass ascension is a truly amazing experience, but if you really want to take it up a level, schedule a hot air balloon ride during this event. Soaring above the balloon field is absolutely magical. You get a totally different viewpoint of the balloons and the magnitude of the event from high above the ground. Hearing the fire blast to lift the balloon adds to the experience. The sights and sounds of this experience are things dreams are made of. Rainbow Ryders is the only company that launches from Balloon Fiesta Park. They do carry groups of 10-12 but it is strongly recommended to book far in advance if you would like to fly during the Fiesta. Flights are offered before and after the event as well but there obviously won’t be as many balloons in the sky. There are also other hot air balloon companies in Albuquerque, but they will have different launch sites. If you are walking around the field during a launch, you may just win the lottery and get asked by a pilot to join them in the sky. You shouldn’t count on this happening, but lucky attendees do get the opportunity every year.


Crewing for a Balloon at ABQ Balloon Fiesta

Crewing for a Balloon Pilot

Did you know that many pilots don’t have crew that travel with them? Remember I told you that pilots come from all over the world to fly in this event, well that means many of them need extra bodies to help with a successful launch off the balloon field. If you are planning ahead like you should, there will be a sign up on the Balloon Fiesta website a couple months before the event takes place where you can register to be part of the crew. For the last minute decision makers there is always a station at the event where you can add yourself to the list during the event.

What exactly is crewing and why do you want to do it? When you crew for a hot air balloon pilot you are part of the action on the field. Under the direction of the pilot, you may find yourself unfolding the balloon, holding the mouth of the balloon open during the cold inflate, managing the crown line which is the rope at the top of the balloon, working the fan, or even helping steer people clear of the area when the balloon is ready to go up. Crewing is an amazing hands-on experience and many times even kids can help.


Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta South Lot

Watching Hot Air Balloons Fly Overhead at the South Lot

Most people drive in for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, but did you know that you can actually camp there? We HIGHLY recommend getting a campsite in the South Lot and enjoying the hot air balloons off the field as well. It is very common for the balloons to fly right over the South Lot and the view is something not to be missed. Depending on your camp spot, you may even get woken by the roar of the burner as balloons fly directly over you! We’ve seen some campers enjoy the view from the top of their campers while others will stand near the open field space in hopes of being able to assist in a landing. The excitement is high, and the memories will last a lifetime!

If you do decide to camp at the event, check out Fulltime Families if you are looking to attend with children, Escapees if you’re attending as a single/couple, or other rv clubs to see if they are hosting a get together during that time. The only thing that would make your ABQ Balloon Fiesta experience better is enjoying it with friends!

Don’t own an RV but still want to experience the Balloon Fiesta this way? Rent one from Outdoorsy!

Hundreds of thousands of people flock to New Mexico to see this world class event and it’s not hard to understand why! In what ways are you going to experience the Balloon Fiesta next year? For more inspiration check out #balloonfiesta on Instagram!


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