The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta celebrates its 45th anniversary in 2016. The nine day event features events, entertainment and of course, balloons galore, all in one place.
With a whoosh and a swirl, balloons inflate, rise and launch toward heaven. Whether it's your first time watching a balloon mass ascension or your 20th, there is nothing quite like it anywhere. And in Albuquerque, we lucky locals get to see it every year.
When is the Balloon Fiesta?
The 2016 International Balloon Fiesta takes place for nine days, from Saturday, October 1 to Sunday, October 9. For those nine days, there is a nonstop schedule of mass ascensions, balloon races, fireworks, competitions, shows, and balloon glows that take place, giving spectators a fantastic show. People travel from around the world to participate and to watch this event unfold. For many, it has become an addiction!
In 2016, the Balloon Fiesta has a Music Festival which takes place on Saturday, October 8, featuring three separate performances after the morning mass ascension and before the evening night glow. The headliner will be country music star Chris Young. Other acts will include Sim Balkey and Parmalee.
Where is Balloon Fiesta? The fiesta launches from 5000 Balloon Fiesta Parkway NE. Driving to the park is easy because signs point the way. From I-25 north or south, both the Alameda and the Tramway exits will get you there. See these balloon fiesta maps for details.
What to Expect
For mass ascension, expect hundreds of balloons rising in two waves. See the balloonists and crews on the ground as they prepare their balloons for flight. Gas and nylon and heat, oh my!
For balloon glow, you'll see hundreds of balloons glow in the dark, from the ground.
For the special shapes rodeo, you'll see balloons in the shape of every imaginable creature, from gargoyle to Energizer bunny, ascend into the sky.
Whether you go to the Fiesta for the morning mass ascension or the evening balloon glow, or a special shapes rodeo in between, there are some things you should know that will make your visit easier. The best thing to do is prepare a little in advance, which will make your visit the best it can be.
When Attending Balloon Fiesta
- Dress in layers for mass ascension. The early morning air is chilly, but once the sun rises, it becomes quite warm.
- Bring a stroller or wagon for young children.
- Bring a water bottle.
- Food can be purchased at the Fiesta, but prepacked snacks for kids cuts down on waiting in lines.
- Vendors are on hand for an assortment of reasons. There are balloon fiesta memorabilia pieces, funny hats, arts and crafts and more.
- Bring a camera with lots of memory. There will be more photo ops packed into one morning than you can imagine.
- Bring cash. Although there are ATMs at the park, the fees are steep.
What is a Mass Ascension?
Every morning before dawn during Balloon Fiesta, balloons and balloonists gather on the 78 acre balloon field and begin to inflate their balloons. The public gathers to watch. Launch directors called "zebras" (because of their black and white shirts) coordinate the entire affair so that balloons launch safely. The first balloons begin to rise at 7:15 a.m., and rise in two waves. Imagine if you can up to 700 balloons of different colors, and shapes, lifting into the air at roughly the same time.
Then imagine being at the site where the balloons are lifting up, and you begin to get the idea. Hearing the balloons fill with air, listening to the propane torches as they heat the air so that it expands, watching them rise, captivates onlookers. Seeing them together in the air does as well.
Mass ascensions take place daily, and Dawn Patrols as well. There is something happening each day of the week. Traditional mass ascensions include regular and special shapes balloons. Dawn patrols feature balloons going into the air before sunrise. The glow from these huge lanterns guides visitors to the fiesta.
What is a Balloon Glow?
Ah, the glows. The lucky ones who make the late afternoon balloon glows get to watch the balloons inflate. Then, instead of seeing them rise off into the air, the balloons stay on the ground and as it grows dark, glow. The hot air inside them makes each balloon resemble an extremely over-sized and colorful candle. It's nothing short of amazing.
Balloon Fiesta Admission
Adult: $10 over age 12
Child: Children 12 and under are admitted free.
Purchase advance admission tickets online. Or purchase in packs of five (5) for five morning or evening passes at $45. Ticket can be purchased online (service fees apply).
Other ticket package options include Chasers' Club tickets, which includes food, private seating, and live entertainment ($45/person, 6 years and under free).
Gondola Club tickets provide a prime experience, with prime viewing, special parking, buffet meal, shuttles, and private bathrooms. Gondola tickets are $100 per person or $50 for children 4-12 for the first session, with price discounts for multiple sessions. Groups of 14 or more are given discounts, and discount pricing is available Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday morning, no matter the size of the group. Children 3 and under are free.
What Do You Get With Admission?
The admission price gives you a chance to watch the mass ascension, or if you arrive in the late afternoon, the balloon glow. Then if you imagine a carnival, you begin to get the idea of the many booths with goods, the varieties of food, not to mention the entertainment that's going on. The Balloon Discovery Tent has hands-on interactive exhibits and a balloon basket that kids love to clamber into so they can pretend they're in flight. Also for the kids, there are rides, jumpers and exhibits.
Parking at the event is $15 per car. Find out more about park and ride if you don't want to wait in line to park at the fiesta. Park and ride tickets can be purchased ahead online at the Balloon Fiesta website. Waiting in the car for parking can take up a good part of the morning. Consider alternatives if you don't want to miss any of the ascension.
Ways to Save
Anyone planning to attend the Fiesta multiple times can save by purchasing a 5 pack of tickets. Rather than paying $10 per admission, the price is reduced $5, so 5 tickets are $45 rather than the normal $50. (Service fees applied).
Find out about the various modes of transportation to the Balloon Fiesta.