Floating in a hot air balloon with a birds-eye view of the landscape is enthralling anywhere. Hot air balloon festivals are even more dramatic in New Mexico where the landscape ranges from white gypsum dunes and geological red rock formations to rolling grasslands and river valleys. With more than 300 days of sunshine and aquamarine blue skies, floating high above the enchanting landscapes during hot hair balloon festivals is both a grand adventure and a peaceful experience.
With nearly a million visitors each year, Albuquerque’s International Balloon Fiesta may be the world’s largest and best known ballooning event. However, other communities within New Mexico host almost a dozen balloon events. Many of these more intimate ballooning events provide an opportunity for meeting pilots and their crews and even volunteering with them.
Balloon festivals in Taos, Alamogordo, Gallup, Angel Fire, and Elephant Butte make hot air ballooning a year-round adventure. Keep in mind that hot air balloon festival pilots are always looking for volunteers to help inflate, chase, and deflate the balloons each day. Just show up early at the launch field to volunteer (there’s an online form to volunteer for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta). In return, pilots have been known to offer a free ride for your help.
Albuquerque Balloon Festivals
Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
(October 7 – 15)
If you want to be wowed by the number and variety of hot air balloons, see creative special shapes, and experience the most days of ballooning, the place to be is the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. If you’re lucky, the Albuquerque Box wind effect will keep balloons hovering over Balloon Fiesta Park for your enjoyment.
More in Albuquerque
The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta isn’t the only ballooning event in The Duke City. Smaller events include the First Nations Day of Honor (May 25 – 28) and the Rio Grande Classic, a balloon competition event with cash prizes for balloon pilots (May 27 – 29). The Friends and Lovers Rally invites romantics to ascend to new heights in February.
Angel Fire Balloon Festivals
Balloons Over Angel Fire
(June 16 – 18)
Take dad out for Father’s Day weekend to Balloons Over Angel Fire hot air balloon festival, one of the few high-mountain hot air balloon events in the country. Enjoy the leisurely pace of this community known for great skiing as you interact with the balloon teams. Admission is free and lawn chairs and tailgate parties are encouraged.
Other events include chairlift rides, golf and mountain bike events, and free music in Frontier Park on Friday night. After the balloon launch on Saturday, stroll the Mimosas on Main Street Fair for food, fun, music, and, of course, mimosas.
Eagle Fest Hot Air Balloon and Music Festival
Hot air balloons and free music by regional artists combine with a variety of activities in Eagle Nest, just north of Angel Fire. In addition to the morning launches, a visitor can register for the Soaring Eagle 5K fun run/ walk challenge. Nature buffs may opt to spend some of the day on an Eagle Nest dam tour or ranch tour provided by the Eagle Nest Gateway Museum.
More Northern New Mexico hot air Balloon Festivals
Four Corners Balloon Rally
(September 29 – October 1)
This hot air balloon festival held at several locations in Farmington includes balloon ascensions and balloon glows, vendors, and music. Balloons launch at dawn to drift over Lake Farmington with the occasional splash and dash. This event is free, and visitors have the opportunity to join a balloon crew. San Juan College hosts the evening balloon glow that lights up the starry sky.
Taos Mountain Balloon Rally
(October 27 – 29)
Every year on the last full weekend in October, as trees in the high country surrounding this historic village splash the mountains in a montage of oranges, reds, and yellows, colorful hot air balloons dot the blue Taos sky as they lift into the clear, cold dawn of sunrise. This weekend event also features balloon glows.
Red Rock Balloon Rally
(December 1 – 3)
Kick off your holiday season with the Red Rock Balloon Rally, held the first weekend in December. The second largest balloon rally in North America attracts 200 balloons. Aeronauts embrace the unique flying challenge presented by the incredible red rock formations at Red Rock Park, east of Gallup.
Red Rock Park with its massive sandstone bluffs and deep canyons is a dramatic backdrop for the colorful spectacle of balloons of all shapes and colors drifting through red canyons and over formations carved by wind and rain over thousands of years. Balloon pilots demonstrate their flying skills by touching down lightly on top of the sandstone bluffs before descending to hover in the narrow canyons.
One evening, pick a spot in the park to watch the Glow in the Rocks as the balloons create a fiery radiance that casts shadows on the surrounding cliffs. The event also includes Native American dancers performing social dances around a blazing bonfire. Don’t miss Gallup’s holiday parade, and the opportunity to shop for Native American crafts, such as woven tapestries, jewelry, pottery, and stone fetishes for those on your gift list.
In between balloon flights and balloon glows, plan a visit to the Red Rock Park Museum or join a walking tour to view Gallup’s dozens of murals. Sip a traditional margarita at the Route 66 icon and landmark El Rancho Hotel, rich in history and connections to the film industry.
International Santa Fe Trail Balloon Rally
(July 1 – 3)
Celebrate Independence Day at the International Santa Fe Trail Balloon Rally in the cool air of Raton, the highest point of the historic Santa Fe Trail. On July 1 – 3, watch as more than two dozen balloons launch against blue skies to float over ranch grasslands. Fill up on the Raton Elks Lodge pancake breakfast before or after a dawn balloon ascension.
On Tuesday, enjoy traditional Fourth of July activities, including a parade, a street fair in the historic district, and a fireworks show. This rally offers excellent opportunities to join a crew and chase balloons — and perhaps be offered a ride.
Southern New Mexico Hot Air Balloon Festivals
Elephant Butte Balloon Regatta
(August 4 – 6)
About 30 balloons launch from Lions Beach at Elephant Butte Lake during this August regatta, thrilling observers with a splash and dash as they float over the lake in which boats await to tether and tow balloons if needed. Many pilots will be offering tethered hot air balloon rides for a fee during the event. It’s a perfect opportunity for a child (of any age!) to experience the thrill of a hot air balloon festival ride. After the ballooning day, visitors can stop for a soak at one of the many Truth or Consequences hot springs locations and finish the day with a beer at the Truth or Consequences Brewing Company.
White Sands Balloon Festival
(September 15 – 17)
This fall hot air balloon festival is held in Alamogordo on Saturday at the Ed Brabson Balloon Park and the nearby White Sands National Park on Sunday, weather permitting. Morning ascensions and evening night glows — especially on the white gypsum sands at the national park — can be spectacular in this setting.
Story by Jackye Meinecke | Courtesy photos
Originally published in Neighbors magazine
Posted by Ruidoso.com