experiences

5 Tips for Attending the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

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A few observations from a first timer. In spite of my “wish I had known’s”, next time (and there will be a next time since the balloons never went up) I will be prepared.

1. If flying, don’t book late night flights into Albuquerque.

My flight was delayed getting in by 2 hours and didn’t get in until 1AM, which meant several things. The rental car companies close around then, so unless you’re lucky, you could wind up stranded without a car. Also, the balloon events start at 6AM, which leaves you only a few hours to rest if you have plans the next day.

2. Maximize your chance to see the balloons go up and plan to be in town an entire weekend during the Fiesta.

It makes complete sense, it just hadn’t occurred to me. The Mass Ascension of 500 hot air balloons going up is completely dependent on weather. Leave yourself with only one weekend morning to see them, like I did, and there’s a good chance your hopes will be deflated. Also note that the balloons don’t mass ascend most weekdays.

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta 2014 Mass Inflation

3. Wear comfortable, closed toe shoes in the morning.

I needed to dress for my whole day (which was got up in the 80’s), which meant a long dress. But I was perfectly warm early morning in with the addition of long johns underneath, trench coat, and delightfully thin Tilo scarf.

The only part of me that was cold were my feet, which had to make due in my favorite Teva Cabrillo Wedge site-seeing sandals since I didn’t have room to pack sneakers or an extra pair of boots suitable for the grassy field.

4. Take the Park & Ride to the Fiesta if possible to save time and money.

I waffled back and forth, weighing not having to drive myself at 5AM vs having the autonomy of being able to leave whenever I wanted and head straight to Santa Fe without backtracking.

So glad I took the shuttle bus! It wound up a 5 minute walk from my hotel. Even at the 5:45 crush I boarded in 20 minutes and was at the park by 6:30. The line into the parking lots was backed up a long ways. Plus it was only $4 more than admission for a round trip.

On the way back it took even less time and I still would have been trying to exit the parking lot by the time I got back to my hotel.

So if you’re’ staying near one of the pick up spots, I highly recommend taking it and book your ticket online at least 6 hours ahead of time to save $8 per person.

5. Save rental car fees by using Uber or the airport shuttle on your last night.

It’s about $100 a day to rent a car during the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, so if you have the time it actually winds up cheaper to only book the car for the days you actually need it. Don’t need a car your last night in town? Drop it off and take Uber ($15-$20) or the Sunport Airport Shuttle ($11) back to your downtown hotel and then to the airport the next day and save yourself ~$$60-75.

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