People call New Mexico the Land of Enchantment for a reason. Our beautiful state holds a treasure trove full of natural wonders that rival even the most bizarre and wonderful places in all of the United States. That doesn’t mean we don’t offer a handful of important human-made marvels and events. One of the most celebrated events in the American Southwest is the Albuquerque International Balloon Festa. This event features an array of fantastic activities for all ages and is the largest balloon festival in the world.
Don’t forget to check out our free Vacation Guide for more fun things to do and places to see during your trip to the City Different.
Your Guide to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
The exact dates of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta change every year, but it typically takes place over nine days in early October. Check the official balloon festival website for the exact dates, then book your stay at El Farolito as soon as possible. This event is incredibly popular, and even though Santa Fe is about an hour away (with traffic), rooms book up at an incredibly fast rate.
Where is the Festival?
Most of the main festivities take place at the Balloon Fiesta Park in northern Albuquerque. The site is less than an hour away from El Farolito, making it the perfect place to stay! Lodging options in Albuquerque are usually slim and expensive, so staying in Santa Fe is a great option.
You’ll find an array of fantastic events during the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta! You might even want to attend for all nine days so that you can experience the entirety of the celebration. The festival’s website has a schedule of events with dates and times, but here are a few of our favorites that you shouldn’t miss:
Dawn Patrol Show
Every morning, they release at least one hot air balloon before sunrise to check the weather conditions and visibility. This tradition is a great way to start your time at the festival.
Before sunrise, balloons that are launching that day line up to start their propane burners. The glow greets the morning sun, and the image of pilots synchronizing their burns is a glorious sight. Grab a cup of coffee and revel in this morning event.
Mass Ascension: The Highlight
This is arguably one of the most popular events of the entire festival. Over the span of one and a half to two hours, hundreds of balloons launch to fill the sky with brilliant colors. You’ll have the chance to walk around the launch field to see them getting ready, then gaze up in the air to see the colorful orbs amongst the clouds.
America’s Challenge Gas Balloon Race
Perhaps one of the most interesting events is the America’s Challenge Gas Balloon Race. Specially-designed gas balloons compete against one another to see how far they can go without touching the ground. This means they have to bring food, fuel, gear, and everything else they might need with them on their flight! These usually last one to four days and pilots have flown as far as Canada.
Evening Balloon Glows
Just before the sun goes down, pilots light their balloons and tether them to the ground. Once it is dark, they will periodically ignite the burners so the balloons will light up against the night sky. They will even synchronize together to light at the same time. Fireworks follow up this amazing spectacle.
A long list of other events and competitions take place during the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta! Live music, special shape balloon events, flying competitions, and others are on display at a variety of times throughout the week.
Plan Your New Mexico Vacation
El Farolito Inn provides an incredibly authentic and comfortable stay near the heart of Santa Fe. Each of our rooms has Southwestern-themed furnishings and a collection of amenities designed to give you the most relaxing and convenient stay possible. You’re just steps from the top attractions, historical sites, restaurants, and museums around town, so you never have to worry about dealing with driving or parking!
Start planning your Santa Fe getaway today by booking your room at El Farolito. We can’t wait to welcome you to our Northern New Mexico oasis.