One of Albuquerque's best assets is the fact that each year offers four distinct and comfortable seasons. While each season has wonderful and unique qualities, Albuquerque's fall months just might be the most exciting time of the year. When the temperatures start to drop, the balloons will soon rise! The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, Oct. 2-10, 2021, is the largest ballooning event in the world. What started with 13 balloons in a mall parking lot in 1972 has flourished into a world-class event, with hundreds of balloons dotting the skies every year.
If you're visiting Albuquerque for the Balloon Fiesta, here are some tips to help you plan your trip.
What should I wear?
Desert temperatures drop at night and remain low into the morning, when Fiesta-goers arrive at Balloon Fiesta Park. Expect morning temperatures around 40°F, and dress accordingly, in layers and with a jacket. When the sun comes out, the temperature will rise, getting up to about 70°F by noon. If you need to pick up a warm jacket or blanket that can easily be shed as the temperatures increase, find a timeless and functional classic at Albuquerque Pendleton.
It will probably be dark when you first arrive at the grounds in the morning, but don't let that fool you--sunshine will soon pour across the fields. Its rays are beautiful but have UV radiation, and Albuquerque's altitude of over 5,000 feet makes more UV rays reach the ground. Wear plenty of sunscreen, and bring sunglasses for after daybreak.
In general, dress comfortably, and wear shoes that won't bother you as you walk around the grounds.
When should I arrive?
Crowds for popular events have neared 80,000 people. We recommend getting there early, by 5:00 a.m. for weekend morning events and 4:00 p.m. for evening events. The park gates open at 4:30 a.m. for morning events and 3:00 p.m. for evening events. For details on when events get started, please visit the Balloon Fiesta's event schedule.
Arriving early will also give you plenty of time to check out the Anderson-Abruzzo International Balloon Museum, adjacent to Balloon Fiesta Park--a fascinating museum with interactive displays.
What should I bring?
Bring a camera, either a standalone camera or a phone camera. The Balloon Fiesta is the world's most photographed event for a reason. The colors, shapes and sizes of the balloons never fail to captivate, whether they are in the process of expanding and ascending against a brightening morning backdrop, or they're floating serenely across Albuquerque's blue skies.
We also recommend bringing water and, for evening events, a flashlight.
What are my options for transportation?
There are several transportation options:
- Fiesta Express Park & Ride. The Fiesta Express lets you beat the traffic. Instead of driving to the Balloon Fiesta Park, you can go to one of several locations and take a Park & Ride. The locations are Coronado Mall, Hoffmantown Church and Cottonwood Mall. More information, including ticket prices, is here. (Please note, there is no Park & Ride service Monday-Wednesday.) If you need a ride to any of these locations, Uber is available.
- Biking. The free Bike Valet service is staffed by local bicycle group volunteers, who will help you safely store your bike once you reach the park by a nearby trail. Find out more here, including details about the trails and Bike Valet times.
- Public parking. Availability for public parking is first come, first served. You can view maps of the park here.
- Your hotel may also have a shuttle service to the park.
Is there food?
The Balloon Fiesta is a full-on fair, with tents offering all types of food. Part of the Fiesta fun is walking along the park's Main Street, where concessions spots provide countless sweet and savory treats, alongside merchandise tents. Local favorites at this year's Balloon Fiesta include Blake's Lotaburger, Funnel Cake of New Mexico, the Hatch Chile Shack, and Mac's Steak in the Rough. Don't worry, there's plenty of coffee too.
As you walk along Main Street, don't be surprised to see flamenco dancers, Native American dancers and other local artists in performance.
You are permitted to bring in outside food and drinks, but no alcohol or glass. If you bring bags and coolers, please note that they are subject to search.
One last thing about food: Have you had a New Mexican breakfast burrito? If not, add it to your bucket list.
STAY UP TO DATE
Before you head to the Balloon Park, download the 2021 Official Balloon Fiesta Mobile app, sponsored by Visit Albuquerque. The app will keep you up to date with daily schedules, weather conditions, park maps and much more, including information about the balloons and pilots.