Look to the New Mexican skies, and you might see any number of mesmerizing sights: flaming red sunsets, the Milky Way swaddled by stars, an 80-foot inflatable dragon soaring hundreds of feet overhead. Admittedly you’re only likely to see that last one in October when the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta livens up the capital’s skies for nine straight days.
Albuquerque’s first Balloon Fiesta was held in 1972 when a group of 13 hot-air ballooners gathered in the parking lot of a shopping mall to launch their whimsical aircraft. Today that number is 50 times higher. Now the biggest hot-air balloon festival in the world, the extravaganza welcomes hundreds of pilots and hundreds of thousands of spectators from across the globe to Albuquerque’s 350-acre Balloon Fiesta Park each year.
In addition to mass ascensions, when the entire fleet of balloons launches in two groups, the festival has grown an exciting roster of events of the years. After the sun goes down on the first Sunday evening of the fiesta, attendees can walk among a garden of grounded lit-up balloons during the annual Balloon Glow, then be awed by the AfterGlow Fireworks Show. Since 1989, the festival’s Special Shape Rodeos have spotlighted the event’s most unique balloons, which in the past have been modeled after everything from killer whales to firetrucks to Yoda. On Thursday and Friday nights, these balloons also get their own Balloon Glow, or Glowdeo.
Beyond a long list of ballooning events, festival-goers can expect a variety of concerts and dance performances, contests, children’s acts, and other exciting showcases, including a chainsaw carving demonstration. Balloon rides are also available. When they’re not busy with the festivities, attendees hop between concession stands peddling the flavors of New Mexico and beyond, from hatch green chile everything to fried Twinkies, frog legs, churros.
This year marks the 49th anniversary of the inaugural Balloon Fiesta. After being postponed last year due to COVID-19 concerns, the festival is back in action in 2021 and set to take place October 2-10. Attendees are expected to comply with local health and safety regulations, as well as any guidelines announced by the Balloon Fiesta. Current practices include mask mandates in indoor spaces per a statewide public health order announced in August, as well as a recommendation to wear a mask and practice social distancing outside.
Those traveling to New Mexico for the spectacle should also note that some businesses are requiring patrons to provide proof of vaccination. Ticket holders are encouraged to keep a close eye on festival announcements as health and safety measures are subject to change. Those unable to join the fun in person are able to live stream the extravaganza.
Tickets for the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta can be purchased online and are also available at the park gates. Gates open at 4:30 AM and 3 PM each day. Due to the popularity of the festival, attendees are encouraged to arrive as early as 4 AM for morning events.
Albuquerque Airbnbs to book for the Balloon Fiesta
Situated around Albuquerque’s West Old Town, roughly 20 minutes from Balloon Fiesta Park, this one-bedroom home has everything festival-goers need to stay comfortable when they’re not enjoying the fiesta. The property is simple but charming, with enough room to accommodate four guests between the master bedroom and sofa bed.
Four guests, one bedroom
Price: $132 per night
Perfect for solo travelers or a couple, this stylish property is located in a quiet neighborhood a stone’s throw from downtown Albuquerque and the Historic Old Town. Past guests have raved about the space’s coziness and cleanliness, the well-equipped kitchen and bathroom, and the kind and accommodating superhost.
Two guests, one bedroom
Price: $293 per night
Equal parts luxurious and rustic, this expertly appointed, state-of-the-art RV is located in an Edenic gated compound, with fruit trees, herb and vegetable gardens, koi ponds, and a beautiful array of flowers. After a long day at the Balloon Fiesta, guests can retreat to the patio for a delicious home-grilled meal in view of the mountains and desert. A variety of sporting equipment is also available, from bikes to bocce ball to badminton nets, as well as a private hot tub, sauna, and massage chairs.
Eight guests, four bedrooms
Price: $405 per night
Guests of this three-bedroom property will have as much to keep them entertained outside of the Balloon Fiesta as they will at the festival grounds, which is just 10 minutes away by car. With the Sandia Mountains nearby, guests have a wide variety of hiking trails at their disposal, and the property comes with its very own pool and hot tub.
Six guests, three bedrooms
Price: $850 per night
If you’re looking for an Airbnb that’s as striking as the Albuquerque sky during the Balloon Fiesta, this traditional adobe home in The Village of Corrales will deliver. Located an easy 20-minute drive from the Balloon Fiesta Park, the property comes with four bedrooms and five baths and is ideal for large families or groups of festival-goers.
Eight guests, four bedrooms
Price: $1,179 per night
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