10 Tips for Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

1.) Make sure you plan your stay to include enough days to overcome any weather obstacles. I was quite shocked to see the fiesta cancelled on my first day when it was such a gorgeous, clear blue sky morning. But if the wind is higher than 8mph, the event gets called.  Watch the many small flags on the field to get a sense of flight probability.

2.) You can buy your tickets online, or at the gate. If you buy them online and the event gets cancelled, you must deal with them to get a rain check or refund. If you buy your ticket at the gate and the event gets cancelled, just show your ticket stub at the next event to be admitted.  Same for parking.

3.) Be sure to “friend” the Fiesta if you are on Facebook. That is how I found out the status of events. I knew the Saturday morning Mass Ascension was cancelled long
before it was announced over the loud speaker, because of their Facebook status updates.

4.) Don’t waste the extra money ($150 surcharge!) on Rainbow Ryders who advertise that they depart from the balloon field! According to what I witnessed, only about 10% of them actually leave from there. Mine didn’t, though hundreds of other private balloons were able to depart the field that day without any problems. Plus they crammed 14 of us into one basket…for a scenic ride over ABQ Industrial park!  Book a ride in town during the fiesta, but just don’t pay the extra Rainbow Ryders surcharge.  It’s a rip off!!

5.) If you think there is a chance that the event may cancel, consider driving. Or bring a book. The lines to get back on the Park and Ride buses are murderous when everyone is trying to leave at once.

6.) The green chile breakfast burritos from the “Sadie’s” stand are the best on the field!

7.) Try your very best to see the “Special Shapes Rodeo.” It is on Thursday morning. Every balloon is unique, and quite clever.  It was my favorite part…the joy was palpable.  I would say the same goes for the “Twilight Glow,” but the special shapes were just…well, very special!

8.) Dress in layers. It is freezing on the field at dawn when you arrive, and toasty when you leave. The grass is damp. The ground is cold. Wear comfortable water resistant shoes and warm socks.

9.) Get your souvenirs early, as they do run out.  If they are out at the shop there on the field “Main Street,” they have many of the same items at their Headquarters gift shop just up the hill on Alameda Blvd, just the other side of the balloon museum. (They won’t readily tell you about this in the field shop.)

10.) During the week when events are sparse, I recommend a drive toward Santa Fe along the scenic “Turquoise Trail.”  Be sure to stop at “Burger Boy” in Cedar Crest, just outside of ABQ. BEST Green Chile Cheeseburger hole-in-the-wall I have experienced! (And nice people there too!)

Have fun!   It is an experience not to be missed!

I’ll be back!

When dreams take flight…

For the last twenty years or so, I have a personal tradition to always try to cross something off my “bucket list” on or as close to my birthday as possible. Past examples were jumping out of a perfectly good airplane, taking a rock climbing class, racing in a sailboat regatta (and winning!) This year, with the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta falling on my birthday weekend, it seemed like the perfect year to cross off……the hot air balloon ride! Continue reading