As Balloon Fiesta draws near, I think it’s important to share with everyone some things to know, especially if this is your first time coming out to one of Albuquerque’s biggest events.
A big insider tip is that driving to Balloon Fiesta from the North makes a huge difference. The reasoning is that the Fiesta is held North of the city, making about 90% of the attendees (coming from Albuquerque hotels and locals) driving from the South. What’s awesome is that Hacienda Vargas is North of Balloon Fiesta and only 20 minutes drive away. This saves anyone coming from our b&b a lot of time in traffic.
Another thing to keep in mind is there are balloon lift-offs for nine days straight (from Saturday to the next Sunday), and there are opportunities at night to enjoy a balloon glow. If you don’t want to fight the crowds on the weekend mornings, consider the other options.
If you want to see a morning liftoff, it all starts with getting up early, in the dark of morning, around 4:00 AM. I know, that sounds terrible, but it’s worth it to spend a few hours watching hundreds of balloons launch all around you. Getting in early to the fiesta ensures that you are walking around with the balloons instead of stuck in traffic, waiting for a parking spot.
What I love about Balloon Fiesta is walking among the balloons while they expand, taking candid photos of the balloonists as they focus on getting ready, and photos of the insides of the balloon envelopes as they’re on the ground. Last year I got a great photo of the Storm Trouper guarding the Darth Vader balloon. I also love digging into the food from the vendors like breakfast burritos and a hot cup of coffee.
I’d also suggest keeping a close eye out for hazards. For example, don’t step on the balloon envelopes when they are lying on the ground. When the balloons are being inflated, they’ll suddenly start rising. You don’t want to be in the way of the rope person, hanging on to the top of the balloon and rushing forward with the rising. He or she is there to make sure the balloon doesn’t rise too fast and fall the opposite direction. You’ll also want to keep close tabs on your friends, family and children. It can be easy to get separated with so many people and so many distractions. I suggest picking a location to meet if anyone gets lost.
I’ve been there a few times and each time I think I’m not going to take so many photos, and I always end up with over a thousand images on my camera. Definitely make sure to have plenty of space for digital photos. And if your camera uses batteries, bring extra. I remember my first time there, using an older camera. I went to take a perfect picture of the bee balloons. They always set them up so they look like they’re holding hands as they ascend. That perfect picture was lost, as my camera went dark from no battery power. Super annoying, and I plan to never let that happen again.
And, as for our weather here in New Mexico, well we are a desert. In the morning, you’re more than likely going to need a sweatshirt, knit hat, maybe some gloves because of the cold, crisp October air. Once the sun rises and is warming up the fiesta, you’ll probably be in a t-shirt, but keep in mind we don’t get too hot. So, I highly suggest wearing layers.
Make your plans as flexible as possible. The weather in New Mexico is usually sunny and not too hot, but we also occasionally have storms, or sometimes the winds will be to strong for the balloons to take off. If that happens, be ready for them to cancel, spend your day enjoying something else, then plan to hit balloon fiesta the next day.
Once your done at Balloon Fiesta, come back to your comfy room at the Hacienda Vargas for a nap, then check out the many other things to do in and around the area. We’re in between Albuquerque and Santa Fe – the perfect place to use as your “hub”.
I hope everyone enjoys his or her time in and around the fiesta. This is a great time of year to be here.