My Unofficial Guide to the Albquerque Balloon Fiesta

Starting tomorrow, Albuquerque will be home to a weeklong celebration of breakfast burritos, hot chocolate, tourists, and BALLOONS! In other words, the 40th Annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta kicks off this weekend!

The Balloon Fiesta  is something that I am excited to brag about on behalf of my hometown and I’ve hardly ever missed a year on the field. Even when I was in college way over in Northern California, I still found my way back home for it.

Circa 1986

With all those years of experience,  I’ve learned a few secrets along the way.  Of course, you can check out  the official website for some good information.  Here’s what they left out

1) Starbucks is not a vendor.  You’ll have to get it ahead of time (every year I have about 15 desperate people ask me where I got mine.  I have to break the news to them that I imported).  The closest one to the park is at Paseo del Norte and San Pedro, just east of I-25.  (See map below: X is Starbucks, A is Balloon Fiesta Park).

2) 4:30 am is a good time to start heading out to the park.  The big rush starts at about 5:00 am, so you’ll encounter less traffic.  Also, avoid taking the Alameda exit.  Tramway (the next exit North) moves faster. The nice police officers will redirect you back around toward the park.  You’ll also get a better parking spot if you head out early.

3) I’m always surprised to see people in shorts and t-shirts.  Albuquerque is pretty nippy at 5:00 am.  A jacket, a scarf, something to cover your ears, something to cover your hands, and closed-toed walking shoes are your best bet.  This week is set to be pretty warm, so dress in layers so you can take off all the winter clothes once the sun comes up.

4) The pottys are all Port-a style.  If you are like me and would rather do just about anything else than use a port-a-potty, I suggest drinking that Starbucks slowly. 

5) There are two lines for purchasing tickets.  The MUCH longer line is for people who are paying with credit card.  The MUCH shorter line is for people with exact change in cash.  Admission is $6 per adult over 12 (children under 12 are free).  Parking is an additional $10. CASH ONLY!

6) This is the most photographed event in the world.  Don’t forget your camera!

7) Come hungry.  You’ll have burritos, cinnamon rolls, and all sorts of goodies to choose from.  Our favorite burritos came from Pedro’s.

Enjoy! (And if you are visiting Albuquerque, WELCOME!)

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