1. Plan on going more than just one day!
Just the slightest change in the weather affects the balloons, and could cause ascension to be cancelled for the day. There would be nothing worse than making it all the way out there just to miss out on seeing the balloons lift off. I was able to go to two morning sessions this year, and the second one ended up being way too windy for any balloons to fly. Luckily, the morning before had perfect weather for the balloons, and I was able to see 500+ balloons lift off.
Pro Tip: Check the calendar to see what events are happening what day. Mass ascensions don’t happen every day.
2. Dress in layers.
The morning sessions begin quite a bit before the sun comes up, and it is COLD! By the time all the balloons are up in the air, it has warmed up a lot. I wore a long sleeve shirt and a fleece pull-over and was absolutely freezing. I definitely recommend bringing a warm jacket, and even gloves and a hat if you get cold easily!
Pro Tip: PACK HAND WARMERS!
3. Pack snacks.
This is even more important if you’re on a budget. There are tons are different stands selling food at the Balloon Fiesta park, but a lot of it is over-priced. The lines can be 20-30+ feet long to get a hamburger or cup of coffee. You can save some money and time if you pack breakfast or dinner (just no glass containers), and get to skip the lines. If you do plan on eating at the field, try something with green chiles! New Mexico is known for them, plus they’re delicious.
Pro tip: BRING A THERMOS OF COFFEE.
4. See more than one event.
Without a doubt, the Mass Ascensions are the main events of the Balloon Fiesta, but other events in the mornings and evenings are also worth your time. Dawn Patrol, Balloon Glow, and the Special Shape Rodeo are other popular events.
Pro Tip: Make plans to attend morning and evening sessions.
5. Be prepared with all of your camera gear.
Not that anyone needs reminded of this, but double, triple, and quadruple check your batteries!!!!!!!!!!! Extra memory cards are a necessity. You will end up taking way more photos than you thought you would. I definitely got a little shutter happy one day, and had to clear out space for photos for the next session we went to. With all of the colorful balloons up in the bright blue Albuquerque sky, it’s impossible to take a bad photo. This is the most photographed event in the world too!
Pro Tip: Consider bringing a monopod. I saw tons of these out on the field in the mornings. These guys are very mobile and easy to move around from balloon to balloon while helping reduce camera shake. I’m 100% investing in one for next year.
6. The early bird gets the worm.
I know setting your alarm for 4:00am sounds like an actual nightmare, but it is the best way to ensure you don’t miss out on anything. The lines to get into the parking lots can take forever since everyone is all trying to make it there at the same time. Try to beat them to reduce your time in line for parking/tickets and find your spot out on the field ASAP.
Pro Tip: Make sure you get all 8 hours of sleep the night before. You’ll need them!
7. Cash is king.
Who even carries cash nowadays? Well, the parking attendants at the Balloon Fiesta expect you to! Parking in the official Balloon Fiesta lot was $15.
Pro Tip: If you don’t buy your tickets ahead of time, get in the cash line! It goes 10x faster than the credit card line.
8. Check out the Balloon Museum.
The morning session we attended, but was too windy for any balloons to take off wasn’t completely a bust. We hit up the Balloon Museum, which is all about the history and science of ballooning. It is actually on one end of the field, so it’s easy to get to!
Pro Tip: If you absolutely can’t stand the cold, the museum could offer nice views of the balloons, while keeping you at a nice temp. ALSO, they have actual bathrooms!
9. Otherz (Not completely unimportant)
Sunscreen-You’re probably a lot closer to the sun than back home, so you are more likely to get burnt. You don’t want to be looking like a tomato especially during the middle of fall.
Sunglasses-Again, closer to the sun, plus the sun will come up and it will be bright! Who wants to be squinting the whole time?
Cell service-Plan on having sketchy cell phone service/data. Don’t be surprised if all of your Snapchats and Instagrams fail to upload while down on the field.
Comfortable walking shoes-I know this is an obvious one, but I planned on wearing my Converse one day, and totally ended up changing my mind. Good comfy shoes with good arch support will having you feeling less dead after all of the walking you’ll do getting to the field and then walking around all of the balloons.
Something to sit on-Blanket, little folding chair, big folding chair, etc. You might get tired of standing and there are limited picnic tables to sit at. PS, the grass is most likely going to be a little dewy.
Pro Tip: There was a Verizon tent with free phone charging. We all know how draining that hyperlapse of the balloons taking off will be on your battery. D: Don’t be left with a dead phone!
10. See other things in Albuquerque.
The Balloon Fiesta is just one out of many things to do while you’re in Albuquerque. Don’t limit yourself to your hotel room for naps in the middle of the day. Make the most out of your trip to this cool desert city.