5 Things To Do at Albuquerque's Hot Air Balloon Festival
Every year, in the first week of October, thousands of hot air balloons take off from a park in Albuquerque to fill the skies with a brightly-colored airshow. This hot air balloon fest in Albuquerque attracts thousands of visitors every year, but 2022 will be different. This year is the balloon festival’s fiftieth anniversary, which means the event will be bigger and better than ever! This means more balloons, more fun, and more things to explore while in the Northern New Mexico area.
Dawn patrol is the nickname given to the balloon pilots up and at it before everyone else. Before sunrise, anywhere from a single pilot to a small group of them will lift off before sunrise in order to check weather conditions and gauge wind for the upcoming day of flying. In the morning light, the few balloons light up the sky and give a taste of shows yet to come. This is a long-held tradition of the festival, and even though it begins quite early at 6:00 am, it is often the event many people are excited for.
Mass Ascension is the colloquial name for the main event of the Albuquerque Balloon festival. Following dawn patrol and some other events including the national anthem, hundreds of balloons begin to take off from the festival field over a two-hour period. Visitors and guests can walk around the field as balloons are constantly being set up and inflated, and watch as they all take off. The sky soon fills with a colorful array of patterns around the festival, making for an excellent show.
Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway
The Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway is one of Albuquerque’s biggest draws. An aerial tramway that ascends one of America’s tallest urban peaks, cresting the Sandia mountains crest at 10,378 feet. The tram ride features excellent views of the mountains as you ascend up the side, giving amazing panoramic views of the Albuquerque area once you reach the top. If exploring the high elevation finds one tired or famished, there is also the TEN3 restaurant at the top, providing dining services to all guests.
The Evening Glow
One of the last things any guest should plan on seeing at the hot air balloon fest in Albuquerque is the Evening Glow event. Just before sunset, many pilots will inflate their balloon, but keep them tethered to the ground. Once darkness falls, they will intermittently ignite the burners, thus igniting the balloons, which show off the amazing patterns and spectacular colors of the balloon’s fabric in the dark. They will also organize synchronized burns where they all burn at once, lighting up the field of tethered balloons. This event is generally accompanied by a firework show that is well worth the watch!
Northern New Mexico is famous for its renowned whitewater runs, and if one plans on being in Albuquerque for multiple days of the balloon festival, it is well worth the trip. Iconic runs on the Racecourse, the Orilla Verde section, and even the Rio Chama provide guests with an exciting, but safe, adventure along the scenery of the beautiful Rio Grande Gorge or the Chama Canyon Wilderness. These amazing trips are also remarkably close to both Taos and Santa Fe, two very artistic and eclectic cities that deserve a day to themselves after a fun day on the river.
The 50th Anniversary of the Albuquerque balloon festival is bound to be a fun time, but there is too much to do to limit yourself to just the festival. So be sure to watch for family adventures anywhere from the river, to the mountains, to the air!