A Weekend Guide to the International Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque

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The International Balloon Fiesta is a 9-day event held at the Balloon Fiesta Park in Albuquerque, New Mexico during the first weeks of October.

The fiesta is an attraction for all ages with hot air balloons of various shapes and colors, and also provides fun mini-events for all to enjoy.

There are people who spend all 9 days at the park, camp out, or rent an RV to stay in for the event.

However, if you only have a weekend to spare and would like to add this event to your completed travel bucket list, read more below.

Prioritize Your Events for the International Balloon Fiesta

One of the most popular sessions for the Balloon Fiesta is mass ascension, which is when all the balloons are filled up and are lifted into the air at the same time.

Pro-Tip: Mass ascension will be held only on weekends either in the morning or evening and once in the middle of the week.

Depending on your timeline, you should definitely plan a mass ascension into your schedule.

On the morning of mass ascension, there is a morning glow around 6:30 AM where all the balloons are being prepared for take-off. Then ceremonies will happen around 6:45 AM and mass ascension is usually around 7 AM.

We planned a morning mass ascension and arrived at the park by 4:00 AM (eeks!) to beat the crowds.

Traffic was low during this time, although there was still a line ahead of us to get to the parking lot. We parked and got in line for the ticket booth, which you can buy here and download as a mobile ticket.

You’ll receive a free guide to the fiesta mailed to you.

There is also the evening balloon glow and mass ascension which starts around 7 PM and a show of firewards afterward.

Make sure that you plan your day accordingly because your general admission ticket is good for one session, which means either a morning ascension or an evening ascension only.

You do, however, have the ability to choose which day you would like to attend. Personally, I would recommend a weekend morning mass ascension.

Other events to plan for are chainsaw wood carving, balloon competitions, car shows, pin exchanges, and so much more! Check out the schedule so you know what you’re in for.

Plan for the Weather at the International Balloon Fiesta

Double-check the weather before you pack! New Mexico boasts of nice cool breezes and low 70s in October… but that is for the daytime. If you are planning to stay for any of the mass ascension sessions, temperatures can be 20 to 40°F.

I was in layers of clothing including a T-shirt, a long sleeve shirt, a cardigan, and a winter coat, and I was still freezing in the early morning hours. On my feet I had a pair of wool socks and sandals, not recommended for the early morning temperatures, so my toes were freezing because the ground was so cold.

I would recommend packing multiple layers of clothing for both your tops and bottoms and making sure that you have plenty of socks on to keep your feet warm. You can always remove layers when the sun comes out later.

Side note: there is a chance that mass ascension can be canceled if the weather is not cooperating (too windy!) So–triple-check the weather before you go. Luckily, the weather was perfect for our Saturday morning mass ascension.

What to Bring to the International Balloon Fiesta

  • Make sure you have a map so you know where to go and how to park.
  • Bring a camera or your mobile phone for pictures. This event is made for photos and you don’t want to miss out!
  • You are allowed to bring in outside food and drinks, so I would recommend some snacks and water but there are plenty of vendors selling concessions as well.
  • Bring a bag or backpack so you have a place to store your layers and other belongings, such as souvenirs.
  • If you are planning on staying for a few hours, bring a blanket or a lawn chair to sit on.
  • As the sun comes out during the day, you may want sunscreen and sunglasses for protection as well.

Here for the Pictures?

One of the biggest draws to the International Balloon Fiesta is the PICTURES! Pictures of balloons on the ground, balloons in the glow-up, balloons flying high–and you want to make sure you can capture all of it!

Arrive early and find your spot so that you have eyes on the ground. During these early hours, you can walk around and take pictures of the balloons getting set up and as they start their glow, you’ll be able to snap some amazing pictures. Some of them have really cool designs and shapes.

As the sun starts to come up and the skies light up, the morning ceremony will start and you’ll be able to take pictures of the balloons starting to rise.

To see the balloons from up high, you can take them from atop the Balloon Museum directly in the park. You can also exit the park and take a right to a trail that leads to higher ground and snap some pictures from there.

For this option, make sure that you are ready to leave as you won’t be able to re-enter for that particular session.

Balloons flying over the Balloon park at the International Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque.

Transportation to the International Balloon Fiesta

Parking at the park itself is about $20 and can be hard as there is no limit to the number of people who attend a session.

Other options for getting to the park are taking advantage of the Park&Ride that is made available to bypass all the traffic. You do need to purchase your bus ticket ahead of time and it’s only good for the day you purchase it.

You can also bike or walk to the fiesta if you are staying nearby the park.

Map of Albuquerque for International Balloon Fiesta and other neighborhoods.

Where to Stay in Albuquerque

For cost-effective purposes, we chose Airbnb for our stay. It was about 30 minutes south of Balloon Park, but also nearby other places we were hoping to visit while here. There are resorts, hotels, cute Beds & Breakfasts in the area for all your needs as well.

Read more: Balloon Fiesta Resources // Balloon Fiesta Guide

Other Excursions in Albuquerque

As you take a closer look at the map above, you’ll be able to see the whole area of Albuquerque. Since you’ll most likely have tickets to one session of the Balloon Fiesta, you can spend the rest of your time enjoying other parts of the city.

Old Town Albuquerque

In the Old Town of Albuquerque, you’ll find cute shops lining the town plaza, and there may be some cultural music being played as well.

If you would like to purchase a souvenir, this would be the place to do so!

On the north side of the town plaza stands the San Felipe de Neri Church which is said to be the oldest standing building, dating back to the Spanish colonial period. Take a walk around this catholic church and read all about its history!

Petroglyph National Monument

Another cool area to check out is the Petroglyph National Monument. This area has a hiking trail you can get on and view the messages that the ancient settlers carved into the volcanic rocks. These messages include religious symbols like crosses and images of animals, people, and other pictures.

Nob Hill

Looking for a great place to eat? Check out Old Town’s Nob Hill.

Nob Hill is a part of the iconic Route 66 with plenty of taquerias, pizzerias, and pubs. For some shopping, there are antique shops and vintage stores to browse through too.

A side of a building painted with the words "Greetings from Burque" in Nob Hill in Albuquerque.

Map of International Balloon Fiesta and Other Excursions

Wrapping up Your Weekend at the International Balloon Fiesta

It may be a quick trip to New Mexico so you can see all the beautiful hot air balloons at the International Balloon Fiesta, but there is so much culture to see here!

Below is a budget view of how much it can cost you to spend a weekend in Albuquerque.

Have you attended the International Balloon Fiesta? What was the best part for you? Comment below.


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My Favorite Travel Tips + Resources

Here is a quick glance at all my go-to travel tips and resources that I use to plan every trip! For more information, check out my travel resources page.

  • Booking flights: I use Google Flights to check all routes and find the best flights. Then I compare them with Expedia (for reward points) and Skyscanner (for the lowest prices) before I book.
  • Accommodations: I love budget-friendly rentals or booking at a hotel where I can earn points. For hotels, I go through Booking.com or book directly with Marriott (for points + rewards). When I travel internationally, I’ll book through Hostelworld for very budget-friendly stays. For vacation rentals, I usually look through Airbnb, but you could also use Vrbo. Expedia also has some great bundles for hotels, flights, and car rentals altogether.
  • Transportation: For travel in the United States, I love renting through Expedia with Enterprise or Thrifty. They have been consistent and provide the best customer service. For international travel, I’ll book through Rome2Rio or Eurail for trains or bus fares.
  • Travel Credit Card: I book all my travel (flights, hotels, car rentals) through my favorite travel credit card. I also use this card for everything on my trip including dining, excursions, and souvenirs. Apart from earning 5x more points towards free travel, there are amazing benefits: no foreign transaction fees, trip cancellation/interruption insurance, trip delay reimbursement (so I can book worry-free), fraud protection, emergency assistance – it’s really a great deal! Check it out here!
  • Vaccines and Medications: Check the CDC website for updates on necessary vaccines to enter a country, including updates on Covid-19 and recommended places to visit. I recommend getting all the vaccines you need before you go!
  • Tours + Experiences: I absolutely love my tours! Everything from eerie walking ghost tours to food tours, I’ll usually book something every trip either through Viator or GetYourGuide. I also love LastMinute.com for very affordable tickets to theaters and other experiences in Europe.
  • What to Pack: I almost always travel by backpack. For products I like, check out my packing guide page for all the things I take with me on different trips.

2 Comments

  1. Hi Robin, thank you for stopping by! I had never heard about the balloon festival until I went. Such a beautiful experience! I hope you’ll be able to see the balloons in person someday.

  2. I have always wanted to attend this Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta! Great insight – thanks for posting so I could live vicariously through your adventures!

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