Up & Away at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta (Part 3)

Up & Away at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta (Part 3)

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Every year, Albuquerque, NM hosts the biggest and best hot air balloon event in the world. There are hundreds of balloons, tons of food, lots of tourists, vendors, and even campgrounds. People come from all over the world to take part in this festival. If you love to travel, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is an event you don’t want to miss!

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In part 1 of our series, I talked a bit about the time leading up to the balloon fiesta, our check-in day, and our mornings watching balloons fly overhead. In part 2 of our series, I shared a bit about the Fulltime Families rally itself and introduced you to some of our new friends. In this post, I want to introduce you to the awesomeness that is the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

Calling all travel families! The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is an event you don't want to miss! #TravelWithKids #Balloon Fiesta #TravelNewMexico #Albuquerque #WayBeyondTheNorm

Balloon Fiesta Basics

The balloon fiesta is held every year in October. It usually starts on a Saturday, runs a full week, and ends on a Sunday. Weather permitting, balloon launches are scheduled every morning throughout the week and also in the evenings on the weekends.

If you want to head to the balloon field for morning launches, you need to be sure to arrive early.  Launches typically begin at 7 AM. We woke up at 5:30 AM on the mornings that we went to the field. You may need to get up earlier if you are driving to the event.

The balloon fiesta was so pretty, but I did not like all of the walking. My favorite part was the Special Shapes Glowdeo where they all lit up their balloons in the dark.


On the Field

Once you are on the field, the magic begins. What is a dark or dimly lit sky turns into a canopy of balloons blowing up in the space above you. Everywhere you turn you see another balloon and a sea of people waiting for it to take off.

I like to compare the on field experience to Walt Disney World: massive crowds where everyone is going one way, then the next, and back again with no real plan of action. At least that’s how our experience was.

I liked all of the different balloons and their different shapes, sizes, and colors. It was really cool to see them light up their balloons when it was dark outside. They would countdown and then you’d see all of the balloons start to glow.


When you have kids, they each end up having their favorite balloons. This means you have to watch one get assembled and fly away, then make your way to the next one that may be all the way across the field. Then you watch that one take off and you make your way back to the other side of the field again for another one. Plus each balloon has trading cards that the crews give out to anyone that wants them, so the kids decide they want to dart all around the field to get new cards they hadn’t gotten previously.

The whole experience only lasts about 2-3 hours. There are other things to do at the balloon field if you want to stay longer. They have lots of different vendor booths, tons of food, kids play areas, and some days they even have balloon competitions. Our kids were worn out within the first hour and a half, so we headed back to the camper after all of the balloons lifted off.

One thing that was extra special was that Peyton got to celebrate his birthday while there. It was only fitting that he found his favorite balloon during the Special Shapes Glowdeo:

Peyton and Spiderpig at the balloon fiesta

Next Year

We’ve already reserved our RV site for next year. Obviously, the kids are wanting to go back. We’ve also decided that next year we’re going to volunteer to crew a balloon. As part of the Fulltime Families group, they arrange for families to help crew with a certain number of balloon pilots. This year a few of the families even got the opportunity to ride in the balloon they crewed.  How fun!!!

This is definitely a family-friendly event that you want to make plans to attend. If you are an RVer with kids, we highly recommend joining the Fulltime Families group and attending the rally in Albuquerque during the balloon fiesta. It just makes the event even more amazing for the kids.

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Have you been to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta? Reply in the comments below and let us know about your experience, or if you haven’t gone, let us know if it’s something you think you’d like to do.
  • I haven’t been but it looks like a fun time. I didn’t realize there was all this build up for such a short (few hours) show.

    • Each time they inflate and take off, you’re correct, it’s only for a couple of hours. BUT, this takes place every day for 9 days. And about 5 or 6 of those days they do night time inflates as well called “balloon glows.” So, there’s much more to it than just a couple of hours. But it’s an amazing experience.

  • I would love to see something lime This! Riding in a hot air balloon is on my bucketlist. It would be so much fun but not so sure I could get up that early.

    • Ha! Ha! Yes, it’s fairly early every day. I’m not one for early mornings either, but this and Disney are both worth early mornings.

  • I attended graduate school at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque and will never forget the first time I looked up in the sky and saw what must have been hundreds of balloons in flight during the balloon fiesta. It was truly breaktaking, as in I had to remind myself to breathe. What a sight!

    • How cool, Sage! I had no idea you lived in NM at one point in time. Definitely breathtaking when they’re all up in the sky and you can see them everywhere.

  • Jenn | By Land and Sea September 28, 2019 at 1:30 pm

    I’ve always wanted to go to this – it looks so fun! So glad you guys got to experience it. Thanks for sharing!

  • This is so great! We have talked about going to the Albuquerque Balloon Festival for years but have yet to do so. I would love the see them light up all the balloons at night!!

  • Marianne Blackham May 19, 2019 at 5:53 am

    I have wanted to go to that and haven’t been yet. Maybe next year.

  • We have boon been to this Balloon Fiesta. However, it has been on our list for some time now. We look forward to attending.

  • Julie Gazdecki May 19, 2019 at 1:26 am

    I love balloon festivals!! My mother-in-law went years ago, and I loved looking through her photos!

  • I have always wanted to go to this balloon festival. It looks so cool and would be a photographers paradise!

  • I have never been to one, but have always wanted to go. I am going to make sure this year it happens! Looks so fun.

  • I would love to attend one of these. I know there is one in Vermont. I need to check the dates and make some plans. This looks amazing. I love the Spiderman sweatshirt 🙂

    • Our son was proud of the fact that he was wearing his spiderman jacket and then we turned the corner and there was spiderpig. 🙂

  • So very cool…and even cooler that you’re volunteering as a crew team next year…what a great family experience!

  • Never been to a balloon festival but it looks like fun! Where do they all end up?

    • In the right conditions, they all land right back on the field they started from. There’s a “box effect” in Albuquerque that makes it a great place for flying hot air balloons. But other times, they’ll land in random places throughout the city.

  • I am really wanting to get to a balloon festival. You give a lot of great info, thanks!

  • I am freaking obsessed with this and need to see it in person! SO AMAZING!!!

  • The balloon festival sounds like an activity that my grandkids would enjoy! So cool that people can help crew and even ride in the balloons!

  • Lisa Manderino May 16, 2019 at 3:56 pm

    I was driving through Albuquerque and was so confused why there was so many hotair balloons in the sky and figured out that it was a festival!

    • Ha! Ha! That’s crazy that you were just in town during the world’s biggest hot air balloon festival. 🙂

  • This would be such a neat thing to see. We actually have three or four balloons that are out almost every day in the summer and it’s always fun to watch them. We’ve even had a few crash land in our neighborhood (no injuries luckily)! Even though I see them often, they still thrill me.

  • Shannon Delaney May 16, 2019 at 3:21 pm

    I love balloon festivals! This was great info. Thank you for sharing!

  • I would love to do this! Bookmarking for future travel planning!

  • We went to the Balloon Fiesta a few years ago. We drove to the festival site, and got there early, fully expecting to have to sit in traffic for an hour, but after maybe 10 minutes of sitting in line, we were in a parking spot. I could NOT believe how organized Albuquerque was with getting cars into spots and out of the way before everything started!

    Absolutely loved this and hope to make it back some day!

    • Kelly,

      That’s awesome! The balloon fiesta does have most things down to a science now. Unfortunately, the RV parking lots still need a bit of organization as we found out last year. But the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is a must do for everyone. So much fun!

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