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One of the fun things to do while travelling is attending local festivals. And when one of my friends from Germany visited us here in West Texas a few years ago, we really wanted to show her a good time to reward her for coming such a long way 🙂 Luckily, we found out that the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta was going on during her week here, so we started making plans immediately. Marco and I had never been, but had kind of meant to go for a few years. All I really knew about it though was that there were going to be a lot of hot air balloons, that it was a five hour drive for us, and that it was going to be a lot of early mornings. Jaded traveler syndrome? Probably 🙂 But you see, where I grew up in Germany, there are always lots of hot air balloons in the summer. I have seen them up close leaving the ground, pass over our hills and forests and during our last day of high school, my class paid for a hot air balloon to take our principle for a ride – far away, so that we could have fun during the party we had planned during the day at school without him interfering. Anyways, I kind of was familiar with hot air balloons and the South seems to have festivals for everything: chicken fried steak festivals, kolache festivals, fake Oktoberfests, … Don’t get me wrong, these small local festivals can be lots of fun, but worth such a long road trip on a short weekend? I wasn’t convinced. I guess I was kind of scared that there were going to be ten hot air balloons and lots of fuzz about nothing. I couldn’t have been more wrong. This “little local balloon festival” is a huge, international fiesta! Every year, tons of hot air balloonists from around the country and world flock to Albuquerque and ascend to the New Mexico blue skies. I have never seen this many hot air balloons in one place or in the air at the same time. It’s really incredible! I was totally blown away by the creativity of some of these hot air balloonists; the shapes of some of the balloons are just too cool. In 2011, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is going on between October 1-9. If you haven’t been, you should go if you’re ever in the area – or want to make it a trip. I realize it’s kind of late to make plans for this year, but keep this festival in mind for things to do in New Mexico and and fall festivals for future years.

The schedule during the week of the Balloon Fiesta is packed from early morning to late at night. We decided to go see the Mass Ascension in the morning and the Twilight Twinkle Glow at night.

The Mass Ascension is really early (around 7am I think), but that’s when you see all of the participants up in the sky, so it’s worth getting up early for. Take into account though that that’s what everybody wants to see, so expect huge traffic jams on the highway at 6.30am in the morning. Most people stay in one of the hotels downtown and so you’ll see a huge caravan of cars heading north on I-25 at the same time. We had friends in Albuquerque when we went and instead of joining the craziness in the Balloon Fiesta Park itself, we met them at a street overlooking the whole park. Best decision ever! There was still some traffic (more than you’d expect on a Saturday morning that early), but the real traffic jams were further north on I-25 N. We ended up parking somewhere on San Pedro & either Alameda Pl or Wilshire and had a great view of the balloons going up in the air. They follow kind of a box shape in their flight: up, to the right, down, to the left, up again, repeat. It was fun to see the sheer amount of hot air balloons and then hear the locals go nuts for some of the famous hot air balloons that are there every year or new ones that really stand out because of their shape: the bees, the bear, Darth Vader, the cow, and many more.

During the day, we visited some of Albuquerque’s famous and less famous sights and then headed to the Balloon Fiesta Park in the afternoon for the Twilight Twinkle Glow (where the balloons are inflated, and lit up from inside, but stay on the ground). We parked the car, and I was surprised how much like a fair the park looked. There are food stands, there are shops, and there are activities for kids. We walked around a little, bought dinner and hung out waiting for the show to start. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see it. The wind was so strong that evening that they couldn’t do it. So, after trying a few times, they just had to let the balloons deflate. It was too bad because I would have loved to see the balloons glow in the dark. Oh well! Next time maybe. They still put on a little show and all balloonists fired up their propane burners at the same time. Pretty neat in the dark. And of course we stayed for the fireworks show that night, because… well, who doesn’t love fireworks?

Check out a few of the pics we took that day below and more in an album on Facebook.

New Mexico Festivals: Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

New Mexico Festivals: Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

New Mexico Festivals: Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

New Mexico Festivals: Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

New Mexico Festivals: Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

New Mexico Festivals: Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

New Mexico Festivals: Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

New Mexico Festivals: Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

New Mexico Festivals: Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

 I submitted this post to Travel Photo Thursday. Head over there to check out more fun pics.

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