It’s that time of year folks! Every October, more than half a million people make their way to New Mexico for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. La Mesa RV has been a proud sponsor of the world-renowned event since 2011 and the official RV dealer sponsor for six years. We even have our own balloon! If you’re on the fence about whether or not you should venture to New Mexico next month, read on. Today we’re bringing you a local’s guide to the fiesta from our very own, La Mesa RV Albuquerque store employees, Traci Mitchell and Doug Schwebach.
Our team has been going to this one-of-a-kind event for decades, which is why we know a thing or two about how to experience the Fiesta like a true local. Check out LMRV Albuquerque local’s insight on the event and be sure to grab your tickets to the festival as soon as possible.
Any advice for a Balloon Fiesta newbie?
DS: Take the Park and Ride Service into the Fiesta. It’s the easiest and quickest way to get in and it affords you the opportunity to avoid traffic, fighting for parking and the pay to park fee. There is RV parking, shuttles and trollies to move you around the field efficiently and comfortably.
TM: Plan ahead and get there 1 to 2 hours early. The fiesta gets crowded and often the lines for food are quite long. If you’re attending the event with young children, it might be wise to bring your own food.
What sets the Fiesta apart from other Balloon Festivals?
DS: Undoubtedly, the uniqueness of the Fiesta-World’s largest collection of hot air balloons and their longest continuous balloon event in the world is what makes it so special. Dozens of countries are represented at the field and this year we will have 100 special shaped balloons in the air with over 650 balloons in total!
TM: Definitely the opportunity the crowd is afforded to interact with the balloons. This is really unique to AIBF as most festivals won’t let you within a good range of the balloons. Since dozens of countries are represented, many balloonists only speak their native language so remember to be patient and respectful.
What about RVing?
DS: The Fiesta offers RV camping every year. Unfortunately, the waitlist for this years event is full, but it’s never to late to make your reservations for 2019. If you’re interested, you can do that here. Still want to stay on site? You’re in luck! The Fiesta is introducing Glamping this year (‘glamour camping’ that offers a fancy tent-set up onsite which includes beds and showers) so you still have the opportunity to stay on the field! You can also check out this list of local RV campgrounds in and around Albuquerque.
How many times have you attended the event?
DS: I have been going to the Fiesta annually since 1983 as a spectator, crew member, sponsor and Board Member. I’ve also ridden in a hot air balloon!
TM: I worked at the Fiesta a few years ago and it was a crazy, exciting rush! There were so many things to see and do.
Do you have a stand out memory from the event?
DS: My favorite memory was a beautiful, warm fall evening in the VIP hospitality area, watching the Balloon Glowdeo, surrounded by my family and friends. The way the balloons lit up the night sky made it an evening to remember!
Can we ride in a hot air balloon? What else is there to do at the festival?
DS: Yes, of course! Group tours are available as well as hot air balloon rides. Eat! There are plenty of breakfast burritos, hot coffee and cocoa and all types of unique and delicious foods to try. You also have to check out the events. My favorites include Music Fiesta, Fireworks after Glowdeo every night, wood carving, the car show, Artesan Tent, Cross-Country Gas Balloon Race, Abruzzo Hot Air Balloon Museum and new to this year, the Balloon Fiesta Live! You can check out the events schedule here.
TM: Balloon Glow is a great go-to. The event isn’t as hectic as the launches and it’s one of the best times for photo opportunities.
Best balloon you’ve seen?
DS: One balloon that stands out in my mind is one that debuted last year – it was a very cool, very large motorcycle!
TM: I am always a big fan of the Cow and the Pig, both are New Mexico balloonists. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about but are intrigued, I don’t want to say any more but you should absolutely check it out!
Anything else we need to know?
DS: Check out the VIP Club, Gondola Club and Chaser’s Club on the field. These places are excellent spots to enjoy a delicious breakfast or dinner while dining with the most spectacular view of the balloons which are mere feet away from you!
TM: Every year there is a photo contest so be sure to bring your camera. Who knows, maybe you’ll be this years grand winner!
Are you attending the Fiesta this year? Have you in the past? Share your experience with us in the comment section below and if you plan on heading west after the event, make sure to check out our Ultimate RV Guide to Arizona.