Visit Albuquerque prohibits users from downloading images from our website.

Please use our media library for downloadable images and usage rights.

Hot Air Ballooning in Albuquerque

When you step up to the doors of this train on the Denver Light Rail system, you’ll feel like you are stepping into the gondola of a hot air balloon floating gently over Albuquerque.

an image of a Denver light rail train wrapped in a ballooning Visit Albuquerque promotional image

The history of hot air ballooning in Albuquerque began more than a century ago, in 1882, when P.A. Van Tassel piloted a balloon from the center of town up to nearly 14,000 feet and landed a few miles away. Still, ballooning remained a little-known sport until 1972. On April 8 of that year, 13 balloons launched from the eastern edge of a parking lot in Albuquerque as 10,000 spectators watched. 

By 1978, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta® had become the largest hot air ballooning event in the world, now drawing about 800,000 attendees and more than 550 balloons to the city for nine days every October. The Fiesta is said to be the most photographed event on the planet, with an estimated 25 million photos taken each year.

In addition to being home to the Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque earned the title of Hot Air Ballooning Capital of the World for many reasons. More balloon pilots live here, per capita, than any other city in the United States. The also city boasts a museum dedicated to the history and science of ballooning, the Anderson Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum.

The museum is named for Ben Abruzzo and Maxie Anderson, two Albuquerqueans who, along with Larry Newman, made the first successful crossing of the Atlantic by helium balloon in August 1978. In 1981, Abruzzo and Anderson, along with Albuquerquean Ron Clark and Rocky Aoki of Tokyo, were the first to cross the Pacific by helium balloon. Troy Bradley, another Albuquerquean, has set over 60 world records for ballooning.

Ballooning is a pursuit and passion in Albuquerque, and colorful hot air balloons are part of the backdrop of daily life here. The city’s clear blue skies, predictable wind patterns and mild temperatures allow year-round ballooning, and more than a dozen private ballooning companies offer flights that soar over the city. Views stretch from the Rio Grande Valley to the Sandia Mountains as passengers gently float with the wind. No wonder it’s an adventure on so many people’s bucket lists!

Visit Albuquerque wrapped trains on the Denver Light Rail System with five authentically Albuquerque designs. To read more about the project, click here.