Welcome to my Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta Gallery! Every October, Albuquerque is home to one of the biggest hot air balloon celebrations in the country. For just over a week, pilots from over 650 countries fill the sky with the beautiful colors and characters of their balloons. It’s a spectacle like nothing I had ever seen before and I was mesmerized by it!

(Prices have been updated to reflect 2019 Fiesta pricing.)

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta – Morning Session

Cost: $15 – Park & Ride w General Admission (Adult) Ticket

The Fiesta is divided into sessions – Morning and Evening. We started our day with a 4am wakeup call, to get to the Park ‘n Ride where they provided parking and shuttles to take you right to the entrance of the fiesta.

We were one of the first bus loads to arrive, so we found a spot in the grass to lay down a blanket and enjoy a small breakfast picnic of coffee, yogurt, and fruit. There are a couple vendors open serving hot coffee (more vendors opened throughout the morning) and the rest we brought with us.

The day starts with the Dawn Patrol and Morning Glow. The Dawn Patrol begins around 5:45am and allows fellow balloonists to get a feel for the wind speeds and directions before the Mass Ascension. Around a dozen balloons participate in the Dawn Patrol Show, a choreographed performance set to music of the balloons inflating and launching. 
Breakfast picnic of coffee, yogurt and fruit; glowing hot air balloons light up the dark night sky

Hot Air Balloons against the morning sky as the sunrise starts

Then, just as the sun starts to rise, The Opening Ceremony begins with the American Flag and National Anthem announcing the start of the day.

Hot air balloon carries the US Flag across the morning sky

Immediately after, hundreds of balloons launch in multiple waves during the Mass Ascension. It is the most amazing sight to see! The energy of the morning is palpable as you walk through the field, watching the teams at work. All around you balloons inflate and float up into the air, then new teams race in to take their place and get ready to launch.

Hot Air Balloons fill up and launch into the sky.

The sky fills with color and designs, making it feel like you’re watching a kaleidoscope toy constantly changing as the balloons fly through the air.

A multitude of hot air balloons fill the sky!

Albuquerque NM Balloon Fiesta, colorful balloons fill the sky

Don’t miss the special characters! Some of the hot air balloons are shaped like animals and popular cartoon characters:

Elephant, Teddy Bear, Astronaut, Heart and Dragon shaped hot air balloons

Darth Vadar Hot Air Balloon

Frog, Seahorse, Dog, and Bumble Bee Hot Air Balloon Characters
At the conclusion of the Mass Ascension, buses are standing by to take you back to your car. 

There is a break in balloon activity between the morning and evening sessions, so you can head off to explore Albuquerque and find a fun spot for lunch before heading back to the Fiesta.

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta – Evening Session

Cost: $15 – Park & Ride w General Admission (Adult) Ticket

NOTE: The morning and the evenings are separate sessions, so you will need a 2nd ticket to enter the park for the evening session!

The evening session begins setting up at sunset. I had great fun walking amongst the balloon field as the balloonists got ready for the evening. While still energetic, the atmosphere was a bit more relaxed as there wasn’t the focus on getting so many balloons launced. You could wander the field and talk to the different teams, see what they were doing.

Hot air balloons in the field get blown up for the evening festivities.

Once the sun sets, the Twinkle Twinkle Glow begins. As in the morning, the hot air balloons light up and ‘dance’ along to music!

Hot Air Balloons light up against the night sky.
And, then the night ends with a fabulous AfterGlow Fireworks show!


It was an amazing experience, unlike anything else I’ve done. I was so inspired by the size, energy, and beauty of the Balloon Fiesta.

If you liked the post, be sure to share it on your favorite social media. You can click on either of the images below to pint to Pinterest:

Let me know in the comments below which balloon was your favorite!

About Cynthia Graner

I’m always looking to travel, but don’t always have a lot of time or money, so started exploring ways to take more trips for 2 Days & (mostly) under $200 at a time!

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