So you’re going to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta? AWESOME! Whether this is your first fiesta or you’re a seasoned pro, one thing is certain: you’re going to have a fantastic time. And if you’re wondering what to take to the Albuquerque balloon festival, I’ve got you covered with this post.
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dozens hundreds of balloons literally lifting off right before your eyes is simply astounding, and will be an experience you’ll never forget.
But if it’s your first time, and you’re wondering, “What the heck do I take to the balloon fiesta?” Well, I’m here to help answer that question.
Shoot, even if this is your 20th time at the event, there may be something here you haven’t thought about taking yet.
The following list is assuming you brave the traffic, and drive to the park.
Pro tip: Taking kids to the balloon fiesta? Check out my post devoted kids and the balloon fiesta!
When is the Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta?
The balloon fiesta takes place every October in the Rio Grande Valley in Albuquerque, New Mexico. For nine days, hot air balloons will dot the sky like confetti.
Future Balloon Fiesta Dates:
Mark your calendar and make some hotel reservations asap. Here are the dates for the upcoming fiestas:
2022: October 1-9
2023 October 7-15
2024 October 5-13
2025 October 4-12
Going to the Albuquerque Balloon Festival? Pack the following:
1. A Camera.
If ever there was a time to bust out your fancy camera, this is the place to take it. This balloon festival is one of the most photographed events in the world, so get that clicker ready.
Don’t forget: a backup camera and accessories
Fact: if you’re taking kids with you, your hands will be full, so if you don’t think you can get out your DSLR, a smartphone will 100 percent be fine. If you have a great phone, that’s all you need to capture priceless shots.
If you are taking a big camera, don’t forget to also charge those batteries and take any additional lenses you may want.
While a 50mm is a gorgeous lens, keep in mind that you’ll be up close and very personal with the balloons, so unless you want to literally bend over backward to get part of a balloon in your frame, you may want to go with a wider lens.
Pick up a tripod for your phone while you’re at it. The balloon festival starts before the sun rises, so a tripod is super handy to have.
Kid tip: If you have an old smart phone, take the SIM card out (or put it in Airplane mode), and let them go to town taking photos with it!
2. Sunscreen and Chapstick.
You may not think you’ll need sunscreen in the middle of fall, but once that sun comes over the Sandia Mountains, those rays will start working their magic, and before you know it you may feel yourself start to burn.
Likewise, keep those lips hydrated. Albuquerque is quite dry since it’s so high in elevation, that, combined with chilly mornings may leave your lips chapped. Make sure you have a tube or two of chapstick on hand and easily accessible.
3. Wear Layers.
Speaking of the climate: Albuquerque is a strange place when it comes to weather, especially in October. The mornings (before the sun rises) are pretty darn chilly (in the 30s) but come mid-morning you may start feeling the heat (in the 70-80s).
Dress in plenty of layers, and definitely wear closed-toed shoes since the grass will be wet with dew.
Now is not the time to wear your favorite pair of heels or booties; you’ll be traipsing in the dirt, wet grass, and maybe a little mud here and there. Especially if you go balloon chasing since you’ll be tromping through fields.
For the kids, I go all out: hats, gloves, under shirts, a coat, and waterproof boots, and then I start peeling off the layers as the morning progresses. I’d rather have them complain about being hot than whine about being too cold.
If you’re making a list of things to take for your balloon fiesta morning you’ve gotta put this on it. In fact, since you’ll be leaving well before the sun is up, make sure you put “sunglasses” on your list at least twice to you don’t forget.
Trust me, even though you’re leaving your place while it’s still pitch dark, you’re going to want those sunglasses a few hours later, so make sure they’re in your bag!
Repeat after me: don’t forget the COFFEE! No, those capital letters aren’t typos. You’re going leave your house/hotel around 3 am, so coffee—or some type of caffeine—is an absolute necessity. Brew some at home and take it with you to drink while you wait in line to park. You’ll thank me later.
Don’t worry, you can refill at the park; just about every vendor will have coffee on tap.
6. Snacks and Water
Balloon Fiesta food is some of my absolute favorite food, because New Mexico’s best restaurants are all in one place, and they’re all selling their most popular items.
When you enter the park you’ll see 1/3 mile-long row of tents, and the majority of those are all food! However, the lines get very long, and if you’re at the other end of the park and have little ones begging for something to eat rightthisverminute, you don’t want to be caught without a snack on hand.
Pack some snacks with you and make everyone happy. The same goes for water. Stay hydrated, my friends. (No glass or alcohol allowed in, and your bags are subject to search, but snacks and drinks are allowed inside.)
You know those lines and tents I mentioned in the last section? Make your food adventure go a little bit faster by having cash on hand. There are also fun balloon souvenir vendors that walk around with carts of balloon “stuff” that you can buy throughout the park, and I’m pretty sure they only take cash.
Pro tip: Stop at the ATM the night before—you definitely don’t want to take a detour the morning of the fiesta.
8. Stroller/Carrier (for little ones)
Because the last thing you want to do is carry around a 30-pound child (or two 30-pound children), am I right? But more than that, you’ll have storage for all of your stuff, and they’ll have their own, personal front-row seat to see the balloons.
If you have really little ones, bring your carrier, too. Not only will it keep them warm, but it will keep them close to you at all times, so you won’t have to keep tabs on anyone running away.
This is more for the kiddos, but they’ll appreciate having a blanket to wrap up in while they’re sitting comfy in their stroller seat.
Plus, if you end up sticking around after all the balloons have left the field, the crowds start to thin, and you can lay the blanket out on the grass and let the little ones crawl or run around.
10. A backpack.
To put everything in. Remember all of those layers I told you to wear up at the top of this list? Well, they all need a place to go! Backpacks are great since they zip up and you won’t have to worry about things falling out. This is my favorite backpack for holding all the things, plus it’s anti-theft proof!
Bonus: if you’re taking a stroller, you don’t even have to put your back to work—just toss it in the stroller.
*UPDATE for 2022: If you’d like to use the “Express Lane” to enter onto the field, consider putting all of your belongings in a clear bag, or see-through bag, or container. Here is a large one big enough for all your things.
11. Lawn chair.
I’m always jealous of the people who bring lawn chairs to the Albuquerque balloon festival. There are picnic benches around, but finding an actual place to sit on them is harder than you’d think since everyone flocks to the few seats available.
If you have the space bring a chair that has a strap on it. Put that baby on your back (the chair, not your actual baby).
When the kids are all lounging in their stroller and you’re standing there like a sucker, you’ll wish you could sit down.
Cold weather makes the nose run, so nip that issue and stash some little packs of tissue in your bag. Your nose will thank you.
I know I’ve mentioned this already, but it’s very, very dark before the sun peeks over the Sandia Mountains, and with the exception of the glow from a few balloons getting ready to launch, you may want a headlamp or at least a flashlight to find your way around.
Where to stay for the balloon fiesta
Places in Albuquerque book up fast for the fiesta, so book something ASAP. While you can see balloons from the entire city, if you want to be close to the field where they take off from, you’ll want to stay in the northern part of the city.
Here are some places we’ve stayed that I personally recommend:
- Staybridge Suites Albuquerque North (close to Balloon Fiesta Park)
- Homewood Suites Journal Center (close to Balloon Fiesta Park)
- Hotel Albuquerque at Old Town
- Embassy Suites Albuquerque
There are so many possibilities on where to stay. Find a place here:
But most of all, have fun!
The balloon fiesta in Albuquerque runs for 9 days—balloons will pop up all around town, so if you happen to see one while driving around, try your hand at “chasing” one! It’s a ton of fun, and most of the time they’ll let you help bring it down. See more about balloon chasing here.
Have you been to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta before?
Would essentials would you add to the list?