Ballooning is extremely popular in New Mexico. The state is incredibly beautiful, with mountains, prairies, and desert. The best way to see these things and more is from the air. Since ballooning is so widespread throughout the state, it’s the perfect place for balloon festivals. You do not need to climb into a wicker basket to enjoy one of the festivals. In fact, many people will say that the festivals are better if watched from the ground. That way, you will be able to see the sky filled with the colorful designs. There are several balloon festivals held each year in New Mexico. Here are some of the best that you might want to check out. Remember that all festivals and activities will take place weather permitting.
Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
Albuquerque, New Mexico
If you are looking for more than just balloon sightings, then Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta could be exactly what you are hoping to find. It takes place each October over a period of nine days. Those nine days are jammed packed. There is live entertainment throughout the festival on three different stages. You’ll also find a chainsaw carving competition, classic cars, plenty of food, and special merchandise. There are opportunities to meet the pilots and to learn more about ballooning.
During the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, you’ll find more balloons than you ever thought possible. You’ll want to see the Mass Ascension. That is when over 500 balloons will fill the skies. It takes about two hours for all of those balloons to safely be airborne. Another launch event that you cannot miss is the Special Shape Rodeo. This is when the unique-shaped balloons will take to the skies. Some of the balloons from past festivals have been shaped like a helicopter, birds, and even Yoda. You can also see gas balloons inflate and then launch. You will end the day with the AfterGlow Fireworks Show. Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is the largest and possibly best known hot air balloon festival in the world.
Red Rock Balloon Rally
Gallup, New Mexico
The second largest balloon festival in North America is the Red Rock Balloon Rally. It takes place over a three-day weekend in late November to early December. The rally was started by a group of four adventurers who wanted to get a bird’s eye view of the rock formations in the Gallup area. There is a Mass Ascension each morning, and there are other events that take place throughout the weekend. There is even a Christmas Parade!
Red Rock Balloon Rally routinely features between 150 and 200 balloons each year. This event is popular for flying as well as viewing, since the views from the balloons are unforgettable. One of the best parts of the Red Rock Balloon Rally is that it is free, although there is a $5 fee to park. If you plan to attend, you might want to give yourself an extra day or two to explore Red Rock Park. It is a colorful blend of canyons and sandstone bluffs, and it dates back over 205 million years.
The Elephant Butte Balloon Regatta
Elephant Butte Lake, New Mexico
The Elephant Butte Balloon Regatta started as an unofficial event over Mother’s Day Weekend back in the late 1970’s. It now takes place over a three day weekend in September. There is more to The Elephant Butte Balloon Regatta than just watching the 50 or so balloons take to the skies. There are balloon rides, and for those who are a little less adventurous tethered balloon rides.
Part of the fun of The Elephant Butte Balloon Regatta is that you can also camp at Elephant Butte Lake State Park. That will allow you three days of adventure along the shores of the beautiful lake. There are usually about 50 balloons that are included in the regatta. There is a Mass Ascension each morning, and there could be a Balloon Glow in the evenings. If you are a pilot and would like to be involved, be aware that you will launch from a sandy beach, so it is recommended that you have a 4×4 vehicle so that you will not get stuck. Admission to Elephant Butte Lake State Park is required to attend, but there is no additional fee to experience the regatta. If you purchase a balloon ride, the park’s admission fee will be waived. That deal includes tethered balloon rides.
Balloons Over Angel Fire
Angel Fire, New Mexico
What better way to spend Father’s Day Weekend than at a balloon festival in Angel Fire, New Mexico? Balloons Over Angel fire is another three-day festival. Up to 40 balloons participate. There is a Mass Ascension each morning, but that is not all. You can support local vendors, ride a chairlift, and show your respects at the Vietnam Memorial. There is also a Balloon Glow on Saturday evening. Make sure you pack a light jacket because the temperature can drop dramatically in the evenings because of the high elevation. Balloons Over Angel Fire is one of the main events that take place annually in this beautiful town in Northern New Mexico, and it will not disappoint.
Taos Balloon Rally
Taos, New Mexico
A second October balloon festival takes place in Taos, New Mexico. Part of the reason why it is held in October is so that the pilots and riders can truly enjoy the fall foliage. Taos Balloon Rally is by invitation only for balloonists, and the organizers are proud of the intimate feel. Between 35 and 50 balloons usually take flight during the three-day festival. Those visiting are encouraged to get up close to the pilots as they get ready for launch each morning. It is a great way to learn more about the sport. In addition to the daily Mass Ascensions, there are Balloon Glows in the evenings, a parade, and a grand ball. Those participating in the Taos Balloon Rally get to see an unforgettable view of the Taos Mountains. It may be a smaller festival, but it is well loved by all who participate.