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New Mexico: The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
Adventures in Color
The vast, blue New Mexico sky is transformed into a kaleidoscope of color the first full week of every October as the International Balloon Fiesta takes to the sky. If you have never seen a hot air balloon in flight, you'll be astounded at the explosion of more than 700 balloons ascending towards the heavens. This annual event is the world's largest balloon rally, held here in the ballooning capital of the world, attracting balloon pilots from all over the globe.
The city will be jam-packed with visitors, but if you are able to visit during this time it is a spectacular sight to behold. You can come out to the Balloon Fiesta park and walk among the inflating balloons, watching the full process of getting one of these "gentle giants" laid out, inflated, and finally airborne.
The airflow in the Rio Grande Valley, coupled with cool, clear mornings give Albuquerque nearly ideal flying conditions. A phenomenon known as the "Albuquerque Box" means pilots can ascend, float southward, ascend further to catch a northerly airflow and float northward, and then land nearly at the spot from which they ascended.
Throughout the week, pilots compete in flying events for prizes, such as a key grab, where they try to navigate to a pole on which a car key is placed - winner keeps the car. They also enjoy a game called "splash and dash", in which they descend to the Rio Grande, dip the gondola in the water and burn the propane madly to ascend again, water splashing off the bottom of the basket.
But, the most popular spectator events are the weekend morning mass ascensions, completed in waves with hundreds of balloons lifting off over the course of 2 hours; and the evening Balloon Glows, where hundreds of pilots light up the balloon envelopes with the burners, making them glow like giant luminarias.
The mother of all events, drawing massive traffic snarls and crowds, and the delight of everyone, is the Special Shapes Rodeo, in which the myriad of giant specially-shaped balloons, from Noah's Ark and a giant flying Harley-Davidson to a La-Z-Boy recliner and a huge red chile ristra, and so many more, float upward like a newly-opened giant toy box that has dispensed it's goods into space.
Enjoying the Fiesta
The following tips will help you to enjoy your visit to the Fiesta.
It's never too early to start planning your excursion into the bountiful colors of balloons. The hotels closest to the Balloon Fiesta Park fill up early, some balloon pilots making reservations for the following year as they depart the current Fiesta. There are no hotels directly next to or in the immediate vicinity of the Balloon Park, but there are a couple down Alameda Boulevard. The list below is in order, closest hotels listed first.
Hotels Closest to Balloon Fiesta Park
Holiday Inn Express on Alameda
There are many hotels throughout the city. These are just the ones that are in the closer vicinity to the Balloon Park.
Hotels - To Arrive From the West Side
If you are in town for Fiesta and want to arrive early, coming straight down Alameda Boulevard and avoiding the long lines of backed-up traffic on the interstate, you may want to look into these hotels and inns. You won't be in the center of the city's activity here, though there are restaurants, a large mall and some other shops around the west side and Corrales areas.
There are many B&B's in Corrales and the North Valley if your prefer a small and charming inn (see resources below).
Wellesley Suites, Rio Rancho
B&B's - Corrales and Albuquerque area
© Valerie Schneider, 2005
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