The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, known colloquially as “Balloon Fiesta,” is one of our favorite state festivals. This is a yearly hot air balloon event that takes place during early October—just after peak tourist season and just before the cold weather kicks in. This is a must-see event for anybody with even a casual interest in our beautiful state.
Balloon Fiesta began as a small gathering of 13 hot air balloons in 1972. Since then, it has grown to become the largest balloon event in the world, now attracting almost 600 balloons and over 1,000 pilots. The first gathering was held in the parking lot of Coronado Center Mall in Albuquerque, but the event quickly caught national attention; the following year, thirteen countries took part in the “First World Hot Air Balloon Championship,” which was held at the New Mexico State Fairgrounds. Just four years after the event’s inception, the city of Albuquerque hosted 273 balloon entries. In 2000, Balloon Fiesta organizers registered over 1,000 balloons.
Hundreds of thousands of guests from around the world visit Balloon Fiesta each year. In addition to offering spectacular views of hot air balloons dotted across the Albuquerque horizon, the event now offers several unique events. The festival offers a car show, the AIBF Chainsaw Carving Invitational and Demonstrations, Laser Light Shows, live music, fireworks displays, and several panels and Q&A sessions.
If you visit New Mexico for Balloon Fiesta, book your flights and hotels (or Air Bnbs!) in advance—though the event takes place outside of peak tourism season, it still draws a massive crowd. Once you’re settled, be sure to catch a Mass Ascension (they happen every morning) and the Nigh Magic Glow, where each balloon is illuminated against the diminishing sunset. Tickets are surprisingly affordable—General Admission is just $10 per session. Music Fiesta tickets cost a bit more, and you will have to pay to access dining areas. In all, this inexpensive annual event is a necessary visit for any fan of our beautiful state.