Taking a road trip through the Southwest region of the United States over just an extended weekend can be pretty tiring. This is why it is nice to have exciting activities planned along the way. Looking forward to the next stop can genuinely give you a burst of energy after sitting in the car for hours on end.
Part 2 of this 4 part series, left us on the road again. Traveling from Arizona to Albuquerque, New Mexico, just in time to attend an evening session of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.
The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta usually occurs in the early fall, lasting for about 9 days. There are often 2 sessions each day (one during the day and one at night). This festival takes place in the middle of the Rio Grande Valley and hosts between 500-600 balloons from all over the world each year. Not only is there an insane amount of hot air balloons spread across this enormous piece of land, but you also have your choice of food, drinks, souvenirs, and music. I’m telling you, this experience is pretty euphoric.
General admission tickets are $10 per person per session. I suggest you buy tickets online as the line to purchase tickets at the event was extremely long. Parking is $20 per car (cash only) due at the event. Be prepared for a lot of traffic heading in! It took us almost an hour to park, but the event staff on duty is very organized with directing people where to go. They do offer park and ride shuttles to the gates so you won’t have to worry about parking too far back.
We planned to attend just 2 sessions of the festival. A day session and a night session. With splitting parking 3 ways, our individual totals for this festival ended up being just under $30!
We arrived at our first evening session of the Balloon Fiesta just before sunset. I need to start off by saying that none of us really had any idea what we were about to witness that evening. We just figured we would see some balloons, grab a funnel cake, then sit and chat. Boy, were we wrong…
Once we arrived, we noticed that the balloons were getting set up for the evening’s festivities, so we scoped out some vendors, souvenirs, and food to pass the time. Afterward, we found a spot on the grass to sit and waited for the night glow show to begin. (Tip: Bring a blanket or folding chairs as the grass can be pretty dewy.)
As soon as the sun completely set and the field was pitch black, the balloons began to glow. Before this event, I didn’t really know what the evening glow would really entail. Basically, pilots light up their balloons without taking off to illuminate the entire field. This has been a tradition for about 40 years and is one of the most beautiful experiences I have ever had. The balloon pilots are very friendly and are super passionate and welcoming when it comes to getting close to take pictures and ask questions about their balloons.
After a full day of driving and getting our wigs snatched by the majestic scene of that evening, we were pretty tired and decided to leave for dinner and rest up at the hotel. We ended up staying at Homewood Suites by Hilton Albuquerque Airport. If you have read my previous posts, you know I try my best to sticking with just a few hotel brands to stack up on points. We used points to lower the cost of this stay and paid $178 ($59.33/person). After settling in at the hotel, we went to bed. We had an early morning planned…
Opposite of the evening session beginning at sunset, the day session begins right before sunrise. During Dawn Patrol, pilots will begin to inflate their balloons around 5:45 am and take off flying through the sky until the sun provides enough daylight to find a safe landing site. Like the night before, my eyes were in pure astonishment as I have never seen anything like this. Because this is during the fall and happens super early in the morning, I recommend dressing in layers for this event. It is freezing cold when you get there, but you will surely warm up by the time you leave (from the temps and from excitement).
Something that I didn’t expect was the different types of balloons. When one thinks of a hot air balloon, you imagine a standard teardrop shape that may be a bright color. During my time at the Balloon Fiesta, I saw balloons in the forms of astronauts, cows, bumblebees, and even a bottle of tequila! It goes to show that you can find creativity in anything. There are seriously no limits in anything that you do.
After our day session, we decided that it was time to hit the road and start heading back to our final stop on this trip, Scottsdale, AZ. Before leaving Albuquerque, we stopped for lunch and talked about our experience so far. I believe the common theme around the table was gratitude. We were grateful to be able to travel this far and have these experiences, grateful for our sight and the ability to see the beautiful wonders and creations on this earth. Lastly, grateful to be able to connect with the balloon pilots and festival goers over the past day. The pilots were so passionate about their careers. That type of passion and drive for something can be contagious and gets you motivated to explore the things that you are passionate about and seek your purpose. That transfer of energy proves that we are all connected and here to help each other heal, feel happy, and be healthy.
Overwhelmed with joy, we headed on to our final destination…but of course, we had another stop along the way. If you are not already subscribed to my blog, make sure you subscribe below! You don’t want to miss the conclusion of my four-part series, where we try to see if one can really get kicks on Route 66 *cue laughs…*. Until next week!