The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, one of the world’s most magical and breathtaking hot air balloon festivals, is set against the ruggedly beautiful landscape of the Rio Grande Valley. Whether you’ve been to it before or this will be your first hot air balloon festival, we encourage you to make the trip to Albuquerque this fall and experience New Mexico from an entirely new perspective. 

While the hot air ballooning activities are certainly the main show, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta also offers many fun activities to explore and enjoy during the fiesta weekend. We’re sharing five must-do activities, from balloon activities to special shows and more, while you attend this year’s festival.

1. Witness The Mass Ascension

Witness the magic of the Mass Balloon Ascension at a time in the morning hours when the world is still sleeping, and hundreds of balloons take flight slowly up into the awakening sky. During the mass ascension, participating balloons take to the sky at once and begin their day of flying. The unbelievable display of color against the starkly contrasting landscapes of the Rio Grande Valley is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. 

During mass ascensions, balloons typically launch in two waves. Weather permitting, balloons begin to launch at about 7:00 AM on mass ascension days, led by a balloon flying the American flag to the strains of The Star Spangled Banner.

2. Experience A Balloon Glow 

After you get your early morning fix during the mass ascension, be sure to stick around for one of the magical balloon glows throughout the day. During these times, balloons will burn their propane in sync with each other when it’s still dark outside while tethered to the ground. This ballooning event includes a Morning Glow, Twilight Twinkle Glow, and the evening event, Night Magic Glow. 

The views and spectacular ambiance will leave you in awe whenever you witness the glow, so be sure to bring a camera or phone to snap some videos and photos!

3. Enjoy The Magic Of The Dawn Patrol Show

The Dawn Patrol Show is presented by Route 66 Casino Hotel and RV Resort during the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. What began in 1978 when two California balloonists developed position lighting systems that allowed them to fly at night has grown into a staple of the festival many come far and wide to see. 

Dawn Patrol pilots take off in the dark and fly until it is light enough to see landing sites. Fellow balloonists appreciate the Dawn Patrol because they can watch the balloons and get an early idea of wind speeds and directions at different altitudes. Spectators who witness this activity also love it for the magical views and beautiful sights. 

Dawn Patrol inflations begin, weather permitting, at about 5:45 AM, with launch around 6:00 AM.

4. Browse Through Exquisite Chainsaw Carvings

While the balloon shows are certainly a main draw at the festival, additional activities should be on your itinerary – including viewing the exquisite chainsaw carvings on the grounds. The chainsaw sculptures feature intricately designed exhibits with the opportunity to take a carving home as a wonderful souvenir during the live auction each day. 

Though a newer art form, chainsaw carvings are something you won’t want to miss at the balloon festival. Witness the artists hard at work, performing a ballet of carving with a powerful chainsaw as their tool.

5. View Fun And Unique Balloons

The Special Shape Rodeo started in 1989 and now has become the most popular event at the annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, showcasing unique and fun balloons of all shapes, sizes, colors, and more. Since the first show, the special shape rodeo has caught on at other festivals, becoming a fan favorite for those wanting to see balloons beyond the traditional shapes and designs. 

This is another excellent opportunity to capture photos and create lasting memories.

Looking For More Reasons To Attend A Balloon Festival? 

We’ve got you covered! Learn more about these magical events and start planning your next balloon festival outing now.