10 Sights at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

Get carried away at the world's largest, annual hot air ballooning event that takes place in New Mexico the first week of October.






Getting Ready for Lift Off

A pilot inspects the interior of his balloon before a flight during the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta that takes place throughout the first week of October. Large fans are used to inflate the envelopes on the ground, then a propane burner is fired to heat the air and tip the balloons upright for flight.

Flying High

More than 750 balloons representing 18 nations take off during mass ascensions, making the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta the largest annual hot air ballooning event in the world, and the United States' largest international event.

Up, Up and Away

The feeling of taking off in a hot air balloon is described as being similar to going up in an elevator, and balloons only launch when winds are slower than 11 mph. Several Albuquerque ballooning companies take guests on balloon rides year-round.

Rollin' on the River

Balloons drift along the Rio Grande to the west of the 78-acre balloon field when wind conditions allow. After the balloons land, Albuquerque offers much to do, from exploring Native American culture to experiencing New Mexico's famous chile-based cuisine.

Splash 'n' Dash

Several companies in Albuquerque offer special Balloon Fiesta tours, such as Quiet Waters Paddling Adventures that takes kayakers on the Río Grande to greet balloons making a "Splash 'n' Dash", during which balloons briefly touch the water before lifting off again.

A Well-Run Zoo

Zebras are officials who coordinate launches and clear space so that balloons can safely take off. The distinctive referee uniforms are often customized and make it easy for balloon pilots to spot Zebras in large crowds.

Spot Your Favorite Characters

More than 100 special shape balloons participate during the eight-day Balloon Fiesta, including Yoda and Darth Vader from Belgium. An estimated 25 million photos are taken of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta each year, making it the most photographed event in the world. Several photo contests are held, including the Canon USA and Spot the Wonder contests.

All Aglow in Albuquerque

Balloon glows take place in the evenings and see hundreds of tethered balloons illuminated by their burners. Tens of thousands of visitors count down to when the balloons flare their burners simultaneously. The heat from the fire is welcomed by crowds on these chilly October nights.    

The Ballooning Capital of the World

Albuquerque's combination of cool October mornings, open spaces, 310 days of sunshine a year and a favorable breeze pattern called "The Box" that often returns balloons to near from where they take off has led to Albuquerque's title as the Hot Air Ballooning Capital of the World. 

Fire in the Sky

Firework shows follow balloon glows. The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta was founded by Sid Cutter in 1972, and the first Fiesta had only five balloons. Today, more than 750 balloons are registered for the annual event, and an estimated 1 million people visit the balloon park throughout the week.

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