Timely tips for enjoying Albuquerque’s Balloon Fiesta

It's always a good time to head to Albuquerque, New Mexico for Balloon Fiesta!

As I write this, the official countdown on the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta 2015 website reads: 0 days, 23 hours, 12 minutes, and 12 seconds remaining before lift-off on October 3, 2015.  What an exciting time for balloonists, fiesta organizers, and lucky ticket holders who will be making their way to the launch field for this year’s 44th annual “most photographed” balloon event in the world.

A beautiful globe balloon hits the skies at Albuquerque's Balloon Fiesta 2014.

A beautiful globe balloon hits the skies at Albuquerque’s Balloon Fiesta 2014.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our series on Balloon Fiesta based upon our four sessions we attended in 2014.  And although our two afternoon sessions were cancelled due to impending dangerous weather leaving us with no view of a Balloon Glow, we reveled in the colorful, awesome morning sessions we did see — the Special Shape Rodeo and Mass Ascension on the last day.

If you’re headed to Balloon Fiesta 2015 or any future fiestas, here are some tips that we wish we had known.  Most of them appear in tourist brochures readily available in hotel lobbies and in pages on the official website and make for “good to know” information.

  • Dress in layers.  Early pre-dawn sessions begin with the Dawn Patrol firing up and launching into the darkness.  So if you’ve been on the field for a while waiting to capture that must-see event, you could be cold.  Jacket needed.  But once the sun comes up, you’ll be shedding those outer coverings quickly.  Get ready to peel!
  • Bring seating if you want to be stationary.  Quilts on the ground, folding chairs, makeshift stools.  Doesn’t matter.  A limited number of picnic tables and benches are laid out at the edge of the field, but first-comers nab those quickly. You may want to bring your own resting place.  (Personal note:  We didn’t want to carry anything but our cameras, so we chose to stand most of the time.  But note to self:  If you want a chair, bring your own.)
  • Think about food and drink before you leave home.  Yes, ample consumables are available on Main Street, even for early-morning coffee drinkers like us.  But in the excitement of it all, you may be dead center of hundreds of balloons far away from the
    Don't be angry. Be prepared before you go!

    Don’t be angry. Be prepared before you go!

    food vendors.  Pack your snacks with your other bring-alongs like jacket, camera, etc., and you’ll be ready for the long haul.

  •  Examine the route and parking lot maps before you leave home or hotel.  The website contains excellent maps in the Guest Guide, so plan your route ahead of time.  Then watch the local TV stations for updates, especially on days of heavy traffic (e.g., Mass Ascension, Special Shape Rodeo, last day of fiesta, etc.).  Also, check the map for where to park if you have special needs.  If you qualify, you can get mighty close to the launch field just by finding the right parking spot.
  • Check out other things to do.  Although we attended four sessions as General Admission folks, we found lots more categories and events on the website that we’ll look into if we return.  You may want to volunteer to help a crew, ride in a chase car, buy VIP tickets that offer food service while you view, or enter a competition such as the one featuring photos of various events.
  • Attend more than one session.  With so many featured sessions — like Balloon
    Dawn Patrol -- Albuquerque's Balloon Fiesta 2014

    Dawn Patrol — Balloon Fiesta 2014

    Glow, Dawn Patrol, Mass Ascension, etc., you’ll want to see several while you’re in the area. Not only that, inclement weather may shut down a launch, and you’ll be hoping you could be there for another shot at a successful lift-off.

  • Be camera-ready.  First, be sure your camera batteries are charged and ready.  Second, bring more than one lens — you’ll want some all-encompassing shots of the mass ascensions but some close-up details, too.  For photo tips, be sure to check out the ones offered by Ken Slute on the website.  His posts cover camera settings, cropping advice, composition, and more.
  • And our best advice — go early!  We can’t say this enough.  On our first morning, we left the hotel at 4:15 AM with time to spare when we arrived at the field.  But on the second morning, feeling secure with our route and knowledge of where to park, etc., we waited until 4:30.  Big mistake.  The last day of Balloon Fiesta is packed, and we missed Dawn Patrol while sitting in long, long lines of traffic.  So, be forewarned.  Leave early.
It's up, up, and away at Albuquerque's Balloon Fiesta 2014

It’s up, up, and away at Albuquerque’s Balloon Fiesta 2014.

We hope these tips will help you maximize your enjoyment at Albuquerque’s Balloon Fiesta, but even if you don’t heed them all, we’re sure you’ll be simply amazed with the event anyway.  So, with that said, our best advice is HAVE  FUN.  Move around.  See all you can.  And take that obligatory balloon-coming-out-of-your-head shot.  Silliness is not only allowed, it’s encouraged.  Because we dare you to find anyone at Balloon Fiesta who isn’t smiling!

This giant galleon never made it into the skies last year, but it made for some fun shots at Balloon Fiesta 2014!

This giant galleon never made it into the skies last year, but it made for some fun shots at Balloon Fiesta 2014!

Best wishes for a great experience at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta!


Bert and Rusha

For more information:

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta 2015http://www.balloonfiesta.com

Facebook:  Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta 2015: https://www.facebook.com/balloonfiesta?fref=ts

Additional posts in the Oh, the Places We See series on Balloon Fiesta:

Best advice for Albuquerque’s Balloon Fiesta:  Go early.  Really early. 

Pulling strings to launch the big ones:  Albuquerque’s Balloon Fiesta

Yes, cows fly:  Special Shape Rodeo at Albuquerque’s Balloon Fiesta

Smiley faces all around at Albuquerque’s Balloon Fiesta

10 things to do if balloons don’t rise:  Albuquerque’s Balloon Fiesta

9 thoughts on “Timely tips for enjoying Albuquerque’s Balloon Fiesta

  1. Tina Schell

    Nothing is as fun as a balloon festival for one who enjoys photography! Your photos are gorgeous! I went to one in Bend, OR with some friends who live out there. We went pre dawn and they chose the spot based on where best to see the balloons. Of course, not being photographers they chose a spot that much to my dismay had me shooting directly into the sun 😩. By the time I realized where the sun would come up it was too late to get a good photography spot. Live and learn!!!

    1. Oh, the Places We See

      Thanks for taking a look. I’m by no means a strong photographer, but I’m having fun capturing scenes I like. I have a long way to go to catch up to you! But this event is so spectacular that I really think anyone with any kind of camera could walk away with some treasured photos, not to mention treasured memories! Best wishes for better viewing next time you go.

    1. Oh, the Places We See

      Sorry to take so long to get back to you. We loved that guy who resembled Santa. He was the first one we saw to wear that balloon hat! What fun these people have supporting this colorful, fun event!

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