One of my bucket list items was to visit the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta and ride in a hot air balloon. I was able to check that off the list this month! My husband got me that trip for my birthday back in March, and I have been excited for it ever since! The experience did not disappoint, but I do have some tips for you, as not every trip will end the way mine happened to, depending on the amount of time you are there!
We only planned to be at the fiesta on 2 different days, Sunday and Monday. The fiesta lasts 9 days total…but we split up our fall break trip, and we only allotted 4 nights for Albuquerque and only 3 days total. We planned to have Saturday for the resort day (Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort), just chillin’ and Sunday and Monday for the fiesta, and that is what we did. It worked out, mostly…but let me explain a little about how things work there.
You see, if you are not there for several days, the likelihood of seeing balloons fly is far less likely than I ever realized. Weather plays a HUGE roll in that, as I am sure you know…but even when the weather seems ok to us, it is still not the right weather for hot air balloons. The wind truly makes things very iffy for balloon pilots, and numerous flights are cancelled each year, due to not having the green flag on the field.
We did get to fly on our Sunday morning flight, as planned…but we were under a yellow flag for a couple of hours before it turned green, and the pilot didn’t know if we would be given the go-ahead. We were THRILLED when we realized we WOULD get to fly!
We flew with RAINBOW RYDERS, and I think they are one of the best out there! We had to get to the tent at the field NO later than 5:00am…which was early and still very dark and chilly! We didn’t actually even head to the field until around 6:30-7:00…and it was close to 8 or after before we flew. It definitely made for a long morning, but it was well worth the wait for the experience!
There is truly NOTHING like soaring through the air, thousands of feet above the ground, with hundreds of other hot air balloons surrounded you. They look like little balloon confetti sprinkling the sky, and words and pictures cannot do it justice.
The balloons are HUGE, yet they look like little specks in the vastness of the New Mexico sky. It is truly remarkable.
We had a wonderful pilot on our trip, and he made it extra enjoyable with lots of stories and facts about ballooning. When we landed, we landed on a little road in a subdivision and the people who lived on the road all came to help! It was so neat to see! I had NO idea we would just land in the middle of a subdivision! The pilot didn’t either…but he just looks for a good solid place and goes for it. So different from a plane!
I hope you enjoy some of my favorite pictures from our flight!
When Monday rolled around, we had already experienced our main thrill, but we were excited to come and see the balloons take off from the ground level, since we experienced it from the sky. We had tickets for the morning rounds…(you get morning or afternoon), and we had Chaser Club tickets, which you paid extra for…and it provided seating, private bathrooms (which were even more needed than I realized once I got there! Trust me.), breakfast, coffee and cocoa and even little heaters around to stay warm. You may not realize it, but it is CHILLI in New Mexico in the mornings in October!
Well, we were disappointed on Monday, because the weather would not cooperate to allow the balloons to fly. Numerous balloons packed up to go home, but several did go up “static”…which just means they anchored them to the ground but blew them up so people could still get some sort of a show. It was still very pretty…as they are so majestic…but nothing like seeing them in the AIR.
Here are some pictures of the static balloons!
A FEW TIPS:
1. Stay as many days as possible IF you truly want to have the best chance at seeing balloons fly! As I have mentioned several times, you are NOT guaranteed to see balloons fly…or even have a static show. It literally all depends on the weather. This year (2022) was an especially tough year. I know that several of the days during the fiesta, no balloons were able to fly. It is a chance you take when planning this trip!
2. Upgrade to Chasers Club, if you want a place to sit (we flew so we didn’t have chairs or anything) and watch the balloons. It was also very nice to have the heat in the morning! AND the bathrooms were a huge upgrade. The other bathrooms were just lines of porta potties, which hey…they work fine- but this was an added bonus! *Kids get in free at Chasers Club, and I didn’t know that, so I paid for mine and wasted money!* You also got breakfast and coffee/hot cocoa, which was nice!!
3. Find things to do in the area while you are NOT at the fiesta! This may sound silly, but once we had done what we wanted at the fiesta, we really didn’t have anything else to do except go back to the resort. I am sure there is lots to do in the area, but it wasn’t super appealing to us in general…so we did a lot of relaxing in the resort (which was NICE, so no complaints!).
4. Come hungry! There are sooooo many food trucks! I read that there was 1/3 of a mile of nothing but food, and I believe it! The funnel cakes were amazing, and the lemonade was incredible too! You could eat til you couldn’t eat anymore- trust me!
5. Be prepared to WALK a lot! The parking lots for general parking are nowhere close, as there are just soooo many people and parking spots all over the place…so be prepared to do quite a bit of walking. I bet we walked about 5 miles total in the 2 days we were at the fiesta. Wear those comfy shoes!!!
6. Dress warm in the mornings-LAYER UP! They have lots of head wraps, blankets and pullovers for sale when you are there, and I got the cutest head wrap (the one I am wearing in all of my pics)…but you need to dress warmly and in LAYERS. It is typically warm in the afternoons but pretty dang cool in the mornings!
7. Have a portable phone charger on standby! You are going to want to take TONS of pictures, because trust me- if those balloons fly or start blowing up…it is like nothing you have seen! Make SURE to have your phone (or camera) ready to go! Don’t let it die on you! What a bummer that would be!
8. Be PREPARED when tickets go on sale! ESPECIALLY if you want to get to fly in the balloon, you will NEED to 100% make sure you are ready when tickets go on sale (early April each year for the event in October)! They sell out SUPER fast! It is not a “cheap” experience, but I can tell you…it is something you will never forget- and it was 100% worth it!
9. Be patient when buying tickets and navigating the website! I was on the balloon fiesta’s official website several minutes before tickets went on sale, because I didn’t want to miss out on anything I wanted to do- especially since it was my birthday present and such a bucket list item! Even though I was on there so early, I still had to be on there for a couple of hours because their site was bogged down and VERY glitchy! Be prepared and patient 🙂
10. Make alternate plans for weather! I know I have said this so many times, but if you are there for the balloon fiesta ONLY…and the weather does not cooperate, you will be very bored if you do not have other plans! I would hate for anyone to make that long trek and then have nothing to do!
Here are a few ideas…(I am not familiar with that area, so these are generic ideas mostly)
- Spa time
- Good restaurants
- REST! Always a winner for me!
- Tram ride
- Travel Route 66 destinations
Honorable Mention for our trip:
We ate at 66 Diner on Route 66 in downtown Albuquerque, and it was soooo nastalic and cute! The food was very good too- and the desserts were amazing and enormous!
Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort is where we stayed, and it was a BEAUTIFUL resort, with clean, spacious rooms and good views. We could even see balloons in the air from our balcony (they were small because they were not close, but it was still neat). We went on some walks on some trails at the resort, and it was very peaceful! The food at the restaurants was also very good! I do think the price was a little over the top, but I think it was because of the fiesta…as most places had their prices hiked because of that!