Our family is coming into town and I'm SO EXCITED! My sister-in-law and her sweet little family are coming down to visit during the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. G and I are looking forward to spending time with everyone and sharing the balloon fiesta experience together as family. This is one of my favorite city wide events because It's unique and there are tons of AWESOME food. We have gone just about every year since meeting each other and we have compiled a small list of tips to enjoy the fiesta. It's a big event so preparation is key.
1. Consider alternative modes of transportation. Traffic can be a big headache when driving to the balloon fiesta so consider some alternatives to getting there. Park and ride shuttles are great, but just be prepared to be waiting a while before you can actually board a shuttle. My father in law arrived at the shuttle location at 4:30am and waited 45 minutes to board. Which makes for a really long and early morning. It’s also a good idea to head back to the shuttle pick up area early after you have had your fix of the balloons (preferably before the majority of them have taken off). For more information on the park and ride locations click here.
2. Layers. Layers. Layers. It is cold at 5 o'clock in the morning and the last thing you want to do is be stuck in the middle of a giant park without warm clothes on. The key to enjoying the balloon fiesta is layers. Once the sun comes up it starts to get warmer and you will be doing a lot of walking around. If you wear layers it's easier to get comfortable and shed clothes when you start to warm up. I personally look like a crazy person with my mismatched layers and super long socks but I'm so comfortable and can easily adapt to the temperature changes.
3. Biking to the fiesta can be a great way to beat traffic and get your adrenaline pumping for warmth. G and I have done this for the last couple years and love it! Except for this year when his bike tire went flat. He decided to jog while I rode my bike. (So, you can jog there too!) There are places around Albuquerque where you can rent a bicycle for the day. For more information on the Balloon Fiesta Bike Tour click here. The Balloon Fiesta also has a bike valet available for those who don’t want to lock their bike to a fence.
4. If you’re not a fan of big crowds and are feeling adventurous, then take a Balloon Fiesta Kayaking Tour. Before the sun rises you will be taken north of Albuquerque where you will put in your kayaks on the Rio Grande. From there you will float down the river as the sun rises and the balloons take off. It’s a nice way to get your balloon fix but avoid the craziness. The University of New Mexico hosts a kayak tour click here for more info. Quiet Waters Paddling Adventures also hosts a Float the Fiesta! tour. We did the Quiet Waters tour one year and had a lot of fun! It was super freezing cold and I'm pretty sure I couldn't move my fingers but it was an awesome experience and a different way to enjoy the fiesta. .
5. Buy your tickets ahead of time. Waiting in line for tickets will just add to your frustration. Buy and print your tickets online ahead of time to beat the ticketing crowds. Ticket Info. We usually just search around for a less crowded ticket booth but next time we go we will be buying them in advance.
6. Bring sunglasses. Watching the balloons take off is all fun and grand until the sun peeps over the Sandia Mountains. If you’re standing on the opposite end to get great pictures you’ll want to have these puppies on hand.
7.There are so many great food choices at the balloon fiesta but most of the drinks you will purchase will be lukewarm when you get them. Bring a thermos filled with your favorite hot drink to enjoy. It saves you money and the headache of having to rush five coffees to your relatives before they get too cold .... Okay, so we may not have rushed five coffees across the field but we did rush three! Dodging in and out of thousands of people while carrying food and drinks can be tricky so if you're up for the challenge ... good luck!
8. Last but not least check the weather. Albuquerque's weather is weird and unpredictable. Before putting on all of your layers and planning which burrito you're going to get first check to see if the balloons will actually take off or if it will be a static display. Local news stations should have all of this info. Check this one here. We recommend going during the first week, usually the weather in the second week starts to go down hill and a lot of the events, especially the Balloon Glow in the evening, get cancelled.
Have a great time, enjoy the food, and the balloons! What's are some of your tips for going to the Balloon Fiesta or any other large event in your hometown?