Balloon Fiesta is a world festival located in Albuquerque, New Mexico in the U.S. This event is recognized throughout the country and even internationally, with it being the largest balloon festival in the entire world. People are drawn to the mesmerizing display of colors, shapes, sizes, and sheer volume of these gorgeous balloons. The festival began in 1972 with only 13 balloons but has now amassed over 1,000 hot air balloons at its peak in 2000. Occurring annually during the first week of October, the balloon fiesta attracts hundreds of thousands of guests to stare in awe at the surrealism that is this festival. This October, I had the amazing opportunity to take a trip to my friend’s hometown of Albuquerque during Balloon Fiesta weekend. It truly was an experience I will not forget, and I still find myself dreaming of those hot air balloons now.
Road tripping from Boulder, Colorado to Albuquerque definitely felt like a long time on the way there, with us spending at least half of the seven hour drive in the dark. Upon getting to Albuquerque late Friday night, we proceeded to go to bed and wake up at 4:30 am before the sunrise to get ready and head over to the festival. After parking and seeing the massive line of cars down second street, the coolness from the crisp morning air on my cheek made the tiredness littered throughout my body quickly vanish. I had never been to the Balloon Fiesta, let alone New Mexico, and to experience this event for the first time brought nothing but child-like excitement and jitters. When we got there we had a quick, classic breakfast burrito and watched as the dark morning sky turned into a pale palette of pinks, yellows and blues. As we wrapped up our breakfast and made our way towards the center of all the hot air balloons, I watched as some of the balloons began to trickle their way into the sky. I watched as the sky slowly but surely began to open its arms to the hundreds of balloons eagerly waiting for their ascension as the sun crept up along the horizon.
As we walked through the massive amount of balloons, both waiting to be inflated and those already ready to go, the canvas of color every way I turned took me by surprise. No matter how long I stared at the views all around me, I could not get enough. My favorite part is easily when a massive hot air balloon flies right over your head; very trippy. It’s no wonder how Albuquerque’s Balloon Fiesta is known as the “world’s most photographed event;” there was no amount of time that would have been sufficient to truly appreciate the beauty of my surroundings. There’s only been a few places and experiences that have evoked the same feeling — the Santorini caldera, right here in the Boulder Flatirons, and now at Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque. There’s something so humbling and inspiring when looking at something so magnificent – in size, in color and in raw beauty. It may sound a little absurd to talk about a giant, nylon, tear-dropped-shaped balloon, but it genuinely is quite the sight to see.
This trip was truly a memorable one between the late drives, early mornings, skies full of color and good friends to enjoy it with. Balloon Fiesta is definitely worth the trip, despite the long journey. Don’t forget to treat yourself to a piping hot cup of Piñon coffee on that chilly morning; though, be warned, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea (or rather, coffee).