During the first week of October each year, the New Mexico sky transforms into a dazzling and colorful spectacle. The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, (the largest balloon festival in the world) draws pilots and spectators from all over the globe to participate in this colossal event. The first festival took place in 1972 with just 13 hot air balloons. Today, nearly 600 balloons take flight over the course of this 9-day event! To learn more, here is your guide to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in NM!

Colorful hot air balloons rising into the sky.

Event Kick-Off

The event kicks off with Dawn Patrol at 6:00 am each morning when a few lighted balloons will launch to test wind conditions. At 7:00am, the first Mass Ascension begins. All balloons participating in the festival will ascend in an incredibly coordinated display. Mass Ascensions take place on Saturday and Sunday, so arrive early on the weekends! If you’d like to participate in this magical display, Rainbow Ryders Hot Air Balloon Company will take you up during Mass Ascension. You will get the very best view the festival has to offer!

Opening Day

On opening day, the incredible America’s Challenge Gas Balloon inflation begins at 2:00pm, and the race sets off at 6:00pm. Participating teams have one goal – to travel the farthest distance and win the race! Amazingly, the top team in 2019 made it all the way to Ontario, Canada. After sunset, the sky lights up during the Balloon Glow, the Night Magic Glow, and the Glowdeo events! Once the balloons come down, stick around for the incredible Afterglow Fireworks shows to top off an incredible day of festivities.

Fiesta Week

  • On Thursday and Friday is the Special Shape Rodeo. This entertaining event looks like the Macy’s Day Parade is descending on New Mexico! The rodeo is a novelty balloon spectacle where you’ll see everything from whales and puppy dogs to astronauts and beloved pop culture characters. This is truly a one-of-a-kind event.
  • Throughout each day, visitors are free to walk amongst the balloons for an up-close view, and chat with the proud pilots hanging out around the launch areas.
  • Other exciting activities include a trip to the Balloon Discovery Center – a hands-on exhibit for the young and young at heart to learn all about hot air ballooning, arts and crafts activities. Quiz tables will test your new-found knowledge.
  • Another must-see attraction is the AIBF Chainsaw Carving Exhibition. Watch expert carvers create incredible sculptures right before your eyes. After the sawdust settles, head over to the live auction and snag a souvenir to take home with you.

These are just a few of the amazing experiences you’ll have when you visit the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. The 2021 festival runs from October 2-10. Ticket sales begin July 2, so purchase your tickets soon!

Balloon Fiesta Lodging

After a fun-filled day at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, come back and get a peaceful night’s rest at Inn of the Turquoise Bear. Just an hour northeast of the festival, our adobe-style estate offers charming guest rooms, plush amenities, and a multi-course gourmet breakfast. We are also located near the best Santa Fe attractions. Come explore, relax, and rejuvenate at our quintessential New Mexico villa.

Published July 6 2021