How to Have the Best Time at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

If you’ve never attended the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, you are missing out on the experience of a lifetime! Known as the world’s largest hot-air balloon festival, this spectacular nine-day event features more than 500 colorful balloons and fun for all ages. In 2021, the festival dates are October 2-10, and it is expected to be bigger and better than ever before. It is also never too early to start planning your trip for 2022 either as the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta sells out fast! 

This popular ballooning event is just one of several attractions you can experience before or after your stay at Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch. If you’re looking for more recommendations about things to see and do while you’re in The Land of Enchantment, make sure to request your customized New Mexico itinerary.

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What is the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta?

For nine days in October, visitors from around the globe descend on Balloon Fiesta Park to watch the New Mexico skies fill with hundreds of balloons during the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Before the sun rises, the Dawn Patrol takes to the sky to check out conditions. Then it is time for the Mass Ascension. There is nothing quite like observing the daily Mass Ascension as the sun brightens the horizon on crisp October mornings. When the balloons rise to dot the clear desert skies, it is truly a sight to behold. 

An array of popular events fill the day with things to do and sights to admire. Balloons of all shapes and sizes also add a unique spin to the spectacle. In the evening, these fun balloons are illuminated during the Balloon Glow and the Night Magic Glow. In addition to the hot-air balloon events, there is a wide range of entertainment, live music, food concessions, and more.  

One of the most unique aspects of the Balloon Fiesta is that you can walk the field and be a part of the action. The safety record of the event is unparalleled. This is one of the only events where you are actually able to walk among the balloons and talk to the pilots. If you’re brave enough, you can even join them in the clouds! Rainbow Ryders offers hot-air balloon rides during the festival for those looking to experience the ultimate sky-high adventure.

Highlights of the World’s Largest Balloon Fiesta

Perhaps one of the reasons the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is so highly anticipated is the amount of entertainment the festival offers! Often these fascinating events include everything from live shows to balloon flying competitions to fireworks, so there is never a dull moment.

Dawn Patrol Show

Sit back and observe the Dawn Patrol take flight before sunrise in this carefully choreographed display. On Mass Ascension days, nearly a dozen balloons take to the sky in the dark. This unique demonstration allows other pilots to observe and determine the day's winds before they take off later that day. Once there is enough light to see the landing sites in the early morning, the Dawn Patrol descends, and the Mass Ascension can officially begin filling the sky with a sight like no other!  

2021 Dates: Every morning of the festival at 6:00 a.m. 

Dawn Patrol
Mass Ascension

All participating balloons begin to launch around 7 a.m. during Mass Ascension days. This wondrous phenomenon is held almost every day of the festival, so make sure to arrive early and find a spot to watch.  

2021 Dates: October 2nd, 3rd, 9th, and 10th

Mass Ascension
Flight of the Nations

The Flight of Nations is one of the most beloved traditions of the Fiesta. During the ceremony, flags from all the participating countries are proudly displayed in honor of international pilots. 

2021 Dates: October 6th 

Flight of Nations
Balloon Glow

The festival features almost daily balloon glows, a beautiful display where floating balloons are lit from within. It’s a magical sight to see them light up the sky! 

2021 Dates: October 3rd 

Balloon Glow
Afterglow Fireworks Show

After the Balloon Glow, there is typically a dazzling fireworks display to cap off the evening.  

Balloon Flying Competitions

Have you ever seen a hot-air balloon competition? Now’s your chance! Watch as pilots expertly navigate their balloons in this precision flying event. 

2021 Dates: October 4th, 5th, 7th, and 8th 

Special Shape Rodeo & Glowdeo

Whether you’re a hot-air balloon enthusiast or a kid at heart, you’ll love seeing the Special Shape Rodeo. Watch as some of the most uniquely shaped balloons take off into the sky. From movie characters and animals to spaceships and more, you’ll spot many special shaped balloons at this popular festival event. 

2021 Dates: October 7th and 8th  

Special Shapes
*COVID-19 Note: Based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and the current State of New Mexico Public Health Order pertaining to COVID-19 Safe Practices, the Balloon Fiesta will require masks for all guests in all indoor areas, in crowded outdoor settings, and aboard all courtesy shuttles and park and ride buses. Physical distancing will be encouraged in all areas. 

Make Your Stay Memorable at Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch

Are you planning a trip to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta? If so, consider adding on a stay at Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch during your trip. We are located approximately 4 hours from Albuquerque in Southwest New Mexico. Start planning your 2022 trip now as both our small ranch and the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta sell out early! Tucked away in the heart of the Gila National Forest, our dude ranch is the ideal choice for an unforgettable getaway! During your stay, you can experience horseback riding, hiking, fishing, campfires, s’mores, line dancing, and more. Along with a fun-filled day of adventure, enjoy three delicious daily meals, and kick back in a comfortable cabin

Mid to late October is the peak of fall colors at the ranch, with golden cottonwoods, red sage, and yellow Gamble oak brightening the hills and canyons! Fall is also elk season, so you can often hear elk bugling their mating call at dawn and dusk. Let our horses and experienced wranglers guide you into the beautiful Gila National Forest. Ride through deep canyons, across crystal clear streams, and atop mountain overlooks where you can gaze upon the brilliant fall colors and vast 3.3 million acre National Forest.  

Are you ready to experience the Western getaway of a lifetime? Check our availability, and book your trip to Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch to fulfill your New Mexico dream vacation!