There are several things that I really wanted to do on the RV trip and one was the Albuquerque International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta. I purchased our RV spot for the entire Fiesta the moment they went on sale last October. I have always been fascinated with hot air balloons and the Fiesta has been on my bucket list for years.
VIP North Lot
I’m so glad I booked on Day 1 because this year they were testing out a new VIP lot and we were asked if we would like to upgrade to it for free! I am thinking we must have been selected since we booked so early and were not part of a group. It was AWESOME! We could see the launch field from our RV and could walk to the gate in no time at all. I can’t believe how lucky we got with our VIP lot!! It seriously was VIP treatment in a big way. The only downside is that we are now spoiled for any future visit!
Friends in High Places
Last year when we were on our annual BVI sailing vacation, we met some people that live in ABQ. We had just booked our spot at Fiesta and turns out that they are hot air balloon pilots! After seeing them several times in the islands, we exchanged numbers. We connected with them the first morning of Fiesta and ended up hanging out with them all week. They were super nice and treated us to crew passes so we didn’t have to pay for each session. Typically, you pay $10 per person per session (there are two sessions a day).
We had an absolutely blast enjoying all of the festivities and hanging out with our crew friends. It was awesome being able to learn so much about the hot air balloon world from them. I went to every single session (again – two a day for ten days!) and loved all of them.
America’s Challenge Race
There is a balloon race that launches from Fiesta that has gas filled balloons. I went out for the launch and it was so neat to see. The balloons are walked up to stage and they launch to the sound of their country’s national anthem. Three balloons flew all the way to Canada. It seems so crazy!!! The winners flew their balloon 1,614 miles.
There are also competition flights. This is where the pilot has a beanbag and is trying to hit targets with it. This was also fun to see.
Each weekend evening there is a glow and a fireworks show following it. The glow is where the balloons are all on the ground inflated and the pilots fire their torches and light up the balloons. The fireworks shows following the glow are the most incredible fireworks shows I have ever seen!! We were both blown away.
However, one of our favorite things were the skydivers that kicked off the fireworks show. They jumped out of a plane in light up suits. If that isn’t neat enough, they start shooting fireworks off from the sky!! It was so cool.
Our new friends even let me be a part of the chase crew one morning. This was super fun too! We followed the balloon in a truck. The goal is to get to where it will land so we can catch it to make the landing softer. Unfortunately, we didn’t get there to catch the balloon but we were there right as it landed. Jeff is a great pilot so the landing was a breeze. I enjoyed it so much that I even went on another chase later that week!! I love that I got to see so many different aspects of Fiesta.
Partway through the week, I got a call from one of our friends (Colleen). Long story short, she ended up flying out to visit us three days later! She was going to be with us at the Balloon Fiesta then travel with us for a while. It was a lot of fun having her visit and I’m glad she was able to experience the Fiesta.
All of these things are cool, but what is absolutely mind blowing is Mass Ascension. This is where all 500+ balloons launch from the launch field. It is sooo cool to watch. The sky is filled with balloons everywhere you look. The launch directors and pilots work together and it really is a sight to behold.
The Best Part
However, the BEST thing all week was getting to RIDE IN A HOT AIR BALLOON!!! The last night the weather cooperated and our new friends took Austin and me up for a sunset ride. It was great and a super special experience in so many ways! We had gotten to know both Jeff and Joe through the week so it was cool to be able to be up in the sky with friends piloting us. Also, Joe is a pilot in training and this was one of his training flights. As a result, we got to do some cool stuff! We landed and took off again and buzzed right over the ground for a long distance which was super neat. We had an awesome flight ending with a layover landing which was adventurous for sure!! It was also fun being able to see our friends that were part of the chase crew following us. Seriously, it was SUCH a blast! I loved everything about it!
All in all, we had an amazing week at Fiesta. I absolutely loved it. We have had a lot of adventures in New Mexico, but this is my favorite! We aren’t planning to go in 2020 (at least not with the RV), but I really hope that one day we can go again!
If you are thinking of going, feel free to reach out. I gathered so many tips from being there!