When I was little I used to love reading Curious George books. You know, the mischievous monkey with the man in the yellow hat? Ever since George went on a hot air balloon I knew I wanted to do it, too. As I got older, I saw the pictures in hot air balloons with the champagne brunch afterwards and it seemed like such a fun, classy affair.
So, I added it to my bucket list.
A few weekends ago I was able to finally cross this one off the bucket list and ride in a hot air ballon during the Albuquerque International Hot Air Balloon Festival! It was amazing. It was everything I had hoped for; so silent and peaceful in the air gliding along and made more beautiful by the fact that we launched with 500 other balloons. Everywhere we looked there were other hot air balloons!
One of the most magical, and maybe most terrifying, parts of the process is the fact that you have no control of where you go. The pilot on the hot air balloon can control the altitude (by the amount of propane he shoots into the balloon) but has no control of the wind and the side to side movement of the balloon. You can drift aimlessly looking for a place to land when fuel gets low. The fun part is that no two rides are the same and you are truly free to go where the wind takes you – just hope it takes you somewhere you can land!
When it was time for us to land we were over a residential neighborhood, so we picked a quiet street to land on much to the delight of the neighbors who all came out to take pictures of the balloon that landed in their front yards.
This trip is something I would absolutely do again and would definitely recommend to others. I thought I would give a few tips and tricks having gone through it once!
- While the festival last two weeks, there is no need to stay more than a weekend. If you go opening weekend or closing weekend there are opening and closing festivities such as fireworks that are worth attending.
The balloons launch very early in the morning (sunrise) and are lit up at night (hello, glow!) but there isn’t much going on during the day. Take that time to explore other areas of New Mexico such as:
- The San Dia mountain – there is a tram to the top with a restaurant/bar up top with amazing views. To cut the line, go to the Mexican restaurant at the bottom of the tram (still great views) and spend the time waiting in line, eating as the server will get your tickets while you eat.
Take the train to Santa Fe on the rail runner express. It is an $8 ticket each way or you can buy a $9 day pass. The train is clean and quick and will get you to Santa Fe in a little over an hour and a half.
Once in Santa fe make sure to check out:
- The Loretta Chapel, an amazing little church with an incredible staircase built with no railings or supports. Eek!
- The Plaza, an amazing little square full of trees, street vendors, live music and cafes.
- Canyon Road Art galleries, which is such a cute street full of art galleries. If you get tired of shopping, make sure to stop in the Teahouse Restaurant. They have amazing teas, coffees, drinks and baked goods. The strawberry shortcake was especially amazing!
- Eat as many green chile items as possible... every restaurant will have at least one dish with green chiles. YUM!
- If you are looking for a great bar to go to at night, try the Marble Bar with an amazing rooftop patio, rotating food trucks and live music.
- Make sure to go to the night glow. It is amazing to see all the balloons light up and walk around. If you plan to stay for fireworks, you might want to bring a sheet or blanket to sit on. The corn dogs are a must have, and if you are feeling really adventurous you can try a green chile corn dog.
- If you want to ride in a hot air balloon, it is best to book with an outside balloon company so you don’t have to fight traffic into the festival and so you can save some money. They only have limited balloons allowed to launch from the fair grounds. We used Discover Balloons and they were amazing!