What To Know About The Albuquerque Balloon Festival

Last year I was able to cross something off my bucket list and attend the Albuquerque Balloon Festival with my best friend. It was beyond magical and I do not use that word because it always makes me think of Disneyland. Anywho, this was and totally worth absolutely everything.

What made it extra special was that my best friend was just about to get engaged and begin the life change of getting married and moving away, so this was a perfect final trip for us to go on together and make some great memories.

I love information on placed and events before I go. So I called the balloon festival about 27 times, looked at google maps to try and understand the layout of the festival before we got there, and literally did everything short of driving there and scouting everything out beforehand. And yet I still learned so much and was unprepared for a few things, so here I am to tell you how to handle it.

Where To Stay?

Even now, I am sure most of the hotels are booked. And yes, even the motels, bed and breakfasts etc. I know, this was me last year too. Turns out our hotel was perfect!!! Small, little super 8 looking thing that I knew for sure our car would get stolen at, but it's all for the sake of the balloons!

We ended up being just 2 miles from the festival grounds which ended up being KEY!!!! As now explained...

Do I do "Park and Ride" or do I pay to park?

I called so many people with this questions it's insane. The city of Albuquerque might have me on a black list somewhere. EVERYONE said to not pay to park, they said it's insane and you will sit in traffic for hours. So that leave the "Park and Ride" so ok, I guess we will do that!

The problem for us was that our hotel was 2 miles from the grounds, and the park and ride locations were at least 7 miles from the grounds. So we literally had to drive away from the grounds to get a ride to the grounds. This seems illogical to me, but I did what everyone told me.

"Park and Ride"

The beginning was perfect. They had about 200 buses lined up ready to go. There were people standing in place ready to receive us at 4:30 in the morning to get there early and watch the sun rise. We didn't stand in line. We parked, showed up and got on a bus immediately and took off. Super easy!!!!! I was optimistic we had made a great decision.

However, once the balloons had taken off and the morning session was over, every single person that was on those 200+ school buses, now wanted to leave. AT. THE. SAME. TIME. ====== 4 HOUR LONG LINE TO GET ON A BUS to head back to your car.
Ummmmmm....what? My friend and I decided there was no way we were going to stand in line for 4 hours to get on a bus that would then take us to our car where we then had to drive back to our hotel. No way. So we begin to look for a taxi. Well, about 100 other people thought of that too. So there was a line there as well.

That is where the hotel being close worked out so perfectly. We walked.
It was a little warm, and it was close to 3 miles once you navigated the traffic and closed roads etc but we still got back sooner than we would have if we had stood in line. After that we decided we were going to walk to the rest of the sessions. The weather was so great, not brutal at all and so many other people were walking so we did not feel unsafe or alone at all.

We got back to our hotel, crashed, then of course our car was still at the "park and ride" location so we had to get a taxi to take us back to our car, but we eventually worked it all out.

Miscellaneous Things To Expect, or Do:

**Eat at Sandiago's Mexican Grill. They do take reservations, even though when I called they said they did not, but we still got it. Their food is good and they have a view of Albuquerque that is unbeatable. Try to time your dinner to watch the sun go down and make sure of course you sit on the balcony to be able to really see everything.

**You do not have to get there at 5:00 AM for the morning sessions!!!! I cannot say this enough! We followed the instructions exactly as everyone told us so we were there at 5AM ready to go. No. No. No. Nothing happened. There is no "getting a good seat" because nobody sits. You are up walking around in the midst of the balloons, You literally have to step out of the way for some of the balloons to go up! So basically my friend and I were there, freezing our butts off (yes it was cold at 5 in the morning) and nobody was there. Nothing started happening until 6:00 when they had the Dawn Patrol Show.

**Same for the evening session. My friend and I arrived an hour early like the instructions said, and we sat around on a blanket and just waited, again. Nothing happened until it said it was going to.

** In the morning, do not feel you need to take a chair, or even a blanket to sit on because unless for physical reasons you need to, you probably do not want to sit down. You will want to be walking around because it's incredible to see so many of them so close up. Although I was glad I had a blanket for warmth, and we did sit at the end and just enjoyed watching them float up into the sky.

Evening Session

The evening session is so chill. There are very few balloons and this is the time to bring your blanket, grab some food and enjoy the sunset and the balloons. Plus, once it is dark, they put on a firework show, which is pretty great to eat a funnel cake and watch (just a suggestion).

Overall, fantastic experience, a great weekend road trip!

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