When we left Colorado, our original idea was to spend a week in Taos but with a chilly forcast showing overnight temps there dropping into the low 30s, we decided we should keep moving south. I found that Albuquerque was a good twenty degrees warmer all around and so we made that the destination. It wasn’t until Brad started looking into camping options that we realized the International Balloon Fiesta was currently going on!
THE QUICK DETAILS
- Albuquerque hosts the International Balloon Fiesta the first full week of October every year
- There is on-site RV camping available but you’ll definitely want to book ahead – we were able to find camping at Enchanted Trails RV park the day before we arrived but this was over 25 minutes from the Fiesta
- There are morning and evening sessions at the Fiesta and each day offers a different schedule so check the official website to learn more
- Be sure to check out our video for more tips to make your visit a great one
- Our stay in Albuquerque was brief but we enjoyed visiting Old Town and Red Door Brewing Red Door Brewing which offered several gluten-removed beers!
TWO NIGHTS IN ALBUQUERQUE
When we arrived at our campground, Enchanted Trails RV Park, we pulled into our site and realized that the small trees on either side of us were positioned directly in front of both of our slides. No matter how repositioned, we were going to damage either the RV or the trees if we put the slides out so I went back to the office to see if they had any other sites. The woman working in the office was incredibly kind, which was very much appreciated, and she switched us with a much smaller rig who hadn’t arrived yet and who wouldn’t have any trouble fitting into our site. Funny enough, the new site still had us right against a tree on one side but we were able to pull far enough forward that it wasn’t a problem.
Since it was going to be a short stay, we finished getting set up, walked the dogs, and then headed out the door to get a little taste of the town. First up was a visit to Old Town Albuquerque.
Night was falling fast so we just walked around a bit, enjoying the architecture and the colorful store fronts. A man on the street corner played an amplified pan flute and it was just a lovely evening to be outside. Many stores had hot air balloon decorations and we popped into one that carried an assortment of local coffee, crafts, and clothing. After a little while we hopped back in the car and continued to nearby Red Door Brewing – their downtown location. I had read that they offer gluten-removed beers and was delighted to find that the majority of the beers on their menu were such. I thoroughly enjoyed the IPA and Brad said the milk stout was fantastic.
We kept it a pretty early night, made it home for dinner and set our alarms for 4:45am. We actually attempted to buy our Fiesta tickets online that evening but the website kept malfunctioning once we were at the shopping cart. We would need to buy them tomorrow. After a sleep that seemed just a few hours, with coffee in our thermos and all our camera gear packed, we left the RV at 5:35am. We headed to the Cottonwood Mall where we would need to buy tickets on-site and from there take the shuttle to the Fiesta. The parking lot was a buzz of people and busses and excitement. We waited in the ticket line for about 10 minutes before boarding the bus and at that point it was starting to seem like a stretch to get to the Fiesta in time for the Morning Glow at 6:30am. The website had said it was a 20 minute shuttle ride but once we got within a few miles of the Fiesta the traffic was at a crawl. We could see a bit of the Glow happening from the bus windows but it was clear we were going to miss it. That was definitely pretty disappointing – it was a big reason for getting up so early! Lesson learned, if you’re unable to camp on-site, definitely allow a lot of extra time for traffic, especially on the weekend.
When we arrived, the Mass Acension had begun but as we learned, this process is fairly lengthy – I mean there are over 500 hot air balloons that launch! We were able to walk right into the thick of everything, getting so close to all the action.
One of our favorite ways to capture the action was to set up a camera on a tripod and take timelapse video. We brought a GoPro, our trusty Lumix, my Nikon, and we had our phones so since we had tons of ways to take photos and video, it was easy to dedicate one to doing timelapses. But that footage was so fun to watch later: the hot air balloons raising from the ground up in seconds, twirling as they lifted off, and it just helped you to see the scale and scope of the event. Another pro tip: we brought a giant thermos of coffee and snacks, and wore all kinds of layers so we were able to keep comfortable and didn’t have to spend any extra money while we were there. However, on the way home we passed a Natural Grocers so we popped in to get some veggies for a late breakfast hash and Brad went over to a nearby donut shop, Rebel Donuts, where they actually had some gluten free ones. We were home shortly after 10am and were super happy to get back to our little nest
Be sure to check out our video, if for no other reason than to see the awesome balloon timelapses!