I can’t really tell you how many times people would give me a puzzling look when I told them that I was using my PTO to go to New Mexico.  It happened so often that I started to reuse the same 30-second explanation for our destination choice.

Well, why New Mexico, you ask?  Not only does New Mexico have some of the coolest national parks, it is also the host of the annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta!  My sister and I had been looking forward to this event ever since we came across some amazing photos when our friend had gone last year.  We were also excited to explore White Sands National Park. Our travel plans were somewhat foiled, however, since all the national parks were closed as a result of the government shutdown.  But, nevertheless, our weekend trip to the Balloon Fiesta made up for it.

The festival is a week-long event, but you can definitely make this a weekend trip since there are more events scheduled on the weekend and the mass ascension repeats each day.

Starting at the early hours of the morning, we would wake up at 4:30am to make it out to the field by 5:30am.  At this time, they have the “Dawn Patrol”.  A very select group of hot air balloons lift off.  These balloons usually test the weather conditions before Mass Ascension. This morning, the Wicked hot air ballooon led the pack.   It is quite a beautiful sight as these balloons fire up at different times and appear to twinkle against the dark sky.

Wicked Hot Air Balloon

As with any American tradition, no grand event starts without the national anthem.  The official Balloon Fiesta hot air balloon takes off with the American flag, signifying the beginning of Mass Ascension.

National Anthem Balloon Fiesta

And, one by one, two by two, three by three, hot air balloons seem to come out of nowhere and fill the sky.

Balloon Fiesta Mass Ascension

Balloon Fiesta Mass Ascension

We were literally surrounded.  This must have been how Alice felt in Wonderland!

Balloon Fiesta Mass Ascension

Balloon Fiesta Mass Ascension

Of course, the balloonists also have a little fun with non-traditional and fun shaped balloons.

Darth Vader Hot Air Balloon

Smiley Hot Air Balloon

Fun Hot Air Balloons

Beyond the mass ascension, the festival has plenty of food, arts & crafts tents, and souvenir shops.  The evening portion of the festival is a separate admission ticket.  The balloons are fired, but do not lift off of the ground.  We walked through an entire field just filled with hot air balloons.

Night Glow

To top it off, there is also a fireworks show at the end of each night.

After popping our Balloon Fiesta cherry, my sister and I are planning to go again next year and would definitely recommend going at least once.  It is a sight that definitely needs to be seen at least once!  Hopefully, on our next trip, we will also get to fit in White Sands and Carlsbad Caverns!  We’ll keep our fingers crossed that the government won’t shut down next year.


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