July 6 2021

For the first week of every October, the New Mexico sky transforms into a dazzling and colorful spectacle during the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. The largest balloon festival in the world, this event draws pilots and spectators from all over the world to participate in this colossal gathering. The first festival took place in 1972 with just 13 hot air balloons, but these days nearly 600 balloons take flight over the course of this 9-day event. Keep reading about the exciting activities and spectacular displays in your guide to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta in New Mexico!

Colorful hot air balloons rising into the sky.

The event kicks off with the Dawn Patrol at 6:00 am each morning, during which a few lighted balloons launch to test wind conditions before sunrise. At 7:00 am the first Mass Ascension begins, and all balloons participating in the festival ascend in an incredible coordinated display. Mass Ascensions take place on Saturdays and Sundays, so get there early on the weekends! If you’d like to participate in this magical display for yourself, Rainbow Ryders Hot Air Balloon Company will take you up during Mass Ascension so you can get the very best view the festival has to offer.

On opening day, the incredible America’s Challenge Gas Balloon inflation begins at 2:00 pm, and the race sets off at 6:00 pm. Participating teams have one goal, to travel the furthest distance they can and win the race! 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. 

On Thursday and Friday, you won’t want to miss the Special Shape Rodeo; an event that 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 take to the skies during this one-of-a-kind event.

Throughout the 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 the young at heart, where visitors can learn all about hot air ballooning, arts and crafts activities, and quiz tables to test their knowledge. Another attraction you won’t want to miss is the AIBF Chainsaw Carving Exhibition. Watch expert carvers create incredible sculptures right before your eyes, and after the sawdust settles you can 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 the 2nd to the 10th of October, with ticket sales beginning July 2nd. 

After a fun-filled day at Balloon Fiesta Park, 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 has 9 charming guest rooms to choose from, plush amenities, multi-course gourmet breakfasts, and is conveniently close to all the very best attractions Santa Fe has to offer. Explore, relax, and rejuvenate at this quintessential New Mexico villa.