The Glow is the way to go with kids at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

The kids loved Spider Pig from "The Simpsons" at the balloon glow.

The kids loved Spider Pig from "The Simpsons" at the balloon glow.

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beesaglow

There were three bees in a row and these two kissed. (It was breezy on the field.)

colorful balloon

Since moving out West we have had a massive to-do list of places to visit and the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta was on that list. So for fall break, I drove the kids 8.5 hours to Albuquerque to experience this wondrous fall celebration. (See my next blog about driving the kids alone on desolate highways.)

For more than four decades, families have gathered in early October on a massive grassy field surrounded by low-lying mountains to watch literally hundreds of balloons ascend into the sky. There are two sessions each day for about eight days. The morning sessions begins very early. Everyone says you have to arrive by 4:30 or 5 A.M. to watch the balloons in “mass ascension.” The evening event begins around 4 p.m. and culminates with all the balloons inflated and tethered to the ground but lit from within glowing in the night sky. It is truly beautiful.

I didn’t think there was any chance I could get my kids to a freezing cold (Albuquerque has some altitude and can get cold.) field by 4:30 in the morning so I opted for an evening event. We got there around 5:30 p.m. and watched the teams blowing up their balloons. You can walk among the balloons and talk to the pilots. They are generally very friendly and often have trading cards of their balloons to share with the kids. You watch the balloon inflate and then rise from the ground into the sky. The announcer calls from above “all burn” and all the balloon teams light their burners and glow in the night sky. They do this off and on so you can walk around and look at all the lit balloons. There is no need for other lights really. (Although a light-up light sabre and sparkle wand helped me keep track of the kids.) Then the announcer calls for “flicker burn” and the balloon pilots turn the burners off and on.

The kids thoroughly enjoyed walking among the balloons and seeing the different designs and the baskets. They were not crazy about being close to the baskets when they would “burn.” It is very loud and flames shoot up.

The food at the fiesta is amazing of course. This is Hatch chile pepper country and New Mexican cuisine is fantastic. I love posole, which is a pork stew with green chiles and hominy. The kids love sopapillas, which are puffed out fried bread that you put honey and cinnamon on. (Santa Fe natives will tell you it’s best there because of the high altitude. It makes them puffier.) I had a fantastic vegetarian burrito at the fiesta.

The cost for the fiesta is surprisingly inexpensive. It was $8 for adults and all of my kids were free (12 and under are free). Although I did use a bus service which charged a nominal fee to transport the kids to avoid the traffic and parking charge of $10.

The night glow is the way to go with kids. It’s easy to attend and just the right amount of time.

wells fargoagow

The balloons are up but waiting to be lit.

The balloons are up but waiting to be lit.

If you get there between 5 and 6, you can see the balloons being blown up.

If you get there between 5 and 6, you can see the balloons being blown up.

This baloon was a cat on one side and an owl on the other.

This balloon was a cat on one side and an owl on the other.

24 comments Add your comment

Atlanta Mom

October 13th, 2013
9:21 pm

We have friends in Alb, and next year, all our children will be in grad school and off the payroll. Maybe we’ll do this.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

October 13th, 2013
10:53 pm

Atlanta Mom — If it’s just you guys you might like the morning session too. I just didn’t think I could get them there in time. My mom and dad and my Godparents went to the morning session and evening session. And they loved the mass lift off.

motherjanegoose

October 14th, 2013
6:51 am

LOVE ABQ! I hope to get back out in the spring.

I have never been during the Balloon Fiesta and it it on my bucket list. Thanks for sharing.

@ Atlanta Mom…we are counting the days too! One down and one to go!

ssidawg

October 14th, 2013
7:32 am

What a great experience! Cool pics- thanks for sharing!

ssidawg

October 14th, 2013
7:33 am

It’s probably not kid-appropriate but if I ever make it to ABQ I have to take the Breaking Bad tour….

Techmom

October 14th, 2013
7:43 am

I’ve always wanted to go to this. I grew up out west and hot air balloons are much more popular out there than in the south (not sure why… too many trees here??).

Techmom

October 14th, 2013
7:52 am

For those in the Atlanta area… The Rock Ranch is having a hot air balloon rally this Saturday and Kennesaw State is doing one the following weekend.

motherjanegoose

October 14th, 2013
7:58 am

@ Techmom…when I was in ABQ, the front desk guy was helping me with my luggage. I mentioned that I lived in Atlanta. He told me, ” I could not stand living in Atlanta….I have been through there.” I thought it was the traffic and asked him why. He replied, ” Too many trees…I would be claustrophobic ( sp)!” That made me laugh. I cannot stand NYC…too much noise and too many people. I like a visit and that is all.

FYI …when are the leaves turning here. I would love to see some fall foliage. I just drove through Hot Springs AR yesterday and while it was pretty, it would have been amazing if the leaves were turning. I am heading to TN this week but wondered about the Highlands area. Has anyone been up there?

motherjanegoose

October 14th, 2013
7:59 am

That made no sense…sorry…not sure I put FYI and left out the ?

jarvis

October 14th, 2013
8:33 am

Went to the Balloon Fest 3 years ago. I was there for a conference. So glad too becuase this is a part of the country we’d have never visited on our own accord.

Aside from the Balloons, not overly impressed with Alb. However Santa Fe is a hop skip and a jump away. Beautiful city and the drive between the Santa Fe and Alb on the Turquoise Trail is absolutley amazing.

jarvis

October 14th, 2013
8:36 am

@MJG, my mother once had a co-worker from Oklahoma. She hated the trees in Atlanta for the same reason. They made her claustrophobic.

DB

October 14th, 2013
8:51 am

@MJG: Haha, I get the whole claustrophobic thing — the thing I disliked most about living in the Midwest is that there WERE no trees for miles and miles — and I felt too exposed! Loved coming back to my Atlanta trees!!

T, thanks for sharing the photos — it sounds like a really cool event!

Techmom

October 14th, 2013
9:21 am

I love the trees too. I grew up in Las Vegas and miss the mountains and scenery of the desert but I’m not sure I’d want to leave the trees. I think the claustrophobic reason is a riot – never would have thought about that.

SAWB

October 14th, 2013
11:16 am

AZ is one of the few countires left you can travel to without a passort.

FCM

October 14th, 2013
12:40 pm

I went up to Blue Ridge this weekend. I love my trees! I went before it got packed and was out by noon…but it was enough to hold me a couple of weeks (and fried pies) later.

My kids know if we hit the big lotto jackpot I am getting a house in the mountains on a lake not one at the beach some place. We will keep the one we have now too for them during school. Now that would be awesome!

motherjanegoose

October 14th, 2013
1:15 pm

FCM…were the trees pretty? I love the beach but we are talking about getting a house near Lake Lanier and also the beach. Sell this one. We moved here when the MOG was non existent and the traffic is KUKOO now! Just now thinking about it.

Erin

October 14th, 2013
1:40 pm

Theresa, I lived in New Mexico for several years and can tell you, the Balloon Fiesta is a GREAT event. I’m sure the kids loved it. I know the adults do!

There is a LOT to do in Albuquerque. Lots of history and museums. Santa Fe is gorgeous and so it Taos. Southern New Mexico also offers a lot of fun stuff to do, as well. I’d suggest getting down to Ruidoso and definitely Lincoln and the historical stuff associated with that area, as well. And, if you want to see all sorts of weird fun,. there’s always the Roswell UFO festival in July. Of course, it’s July and it IS New Mexico, so expect withering, miserable heat. But it’s fun just for the sheer spectacle-ness of it all.

FCM

October 14th, 2013
6:59 pm

MJG trees aren’t weren’t turning yet. It was summery weather. after the fog burned off. They have had a time of it trying to guess the growing seasons.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

October 14th, 2013
7:02 pm

Jarvis — we went up to Santa Fe for the next few days. I’ve been there four times and always enjoy it immensely. It is beautiful, the food is great and I love the museums there. The New Mexico History Museum and the Governor’s Palace Museum are fantastic. We toured their capitol building this last visit and they have amazing art throughout the building. You can just wander through it. I think the capitol art is better than the New Mexico Art Museum in town.

Long time listener, first time poster

October 14th, 2013
7:03 pm

Brian Piccolo is not dean you know……He’s frozen solid and stored in a silo outside of Omaha. They’re not gonna thaw him out the economy gets better. True story.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

October 14th, 2013
7:04 pm

Erin — We did White Sands and Roswell two summers ago driving across the country. The UFO museum is fun but I wouldn’t make it a destination. I think if you’re going through then stop. We went sledding in White Sands on the sand. It is a crazy experience. Very, very windy.

Long time listener, first time poster

October 14th, 2013
7:05 pm

jmb

October 15th, 2013
10:37 am

FCM – We went to the Apple festival Saturday and the sourgum festival in Blueridge on Sunday and had a blast! We are definately going back next year to Blueridge but think we will skip the apple festival in Ellijay next time. Everything there was five times higher priced and way too overcrowed. The sourgum festival was laid back and very enjoyable though. Definately a great place to visit with or without the kids.

Becky

October 15th, 2013
12:45 pm

Looks like a lot of fun for you and the family..Would love to go someday..

@Techmom..We were at the Rock Ranch this past Sat. for the “Cowboy” festival..The kids loved it..That place is so much fun..

We are going up toward the mountains about the 2nd or 3rd weekend of Nov and hopefully the trees will be changing colors then..