My First Hot Air Balloon Ride at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

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A bucket list item was marked off when I got My First Hot Air Balloon Ride at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta.  To say it might be a once in a lifetime experience is an understatement.  Not only being my first time flying in a hot air balloon, but to do it at the largest gathering of hot air balloons, made it even more special.

What’s on your bucket list?  Does it include a hot air balloon ride?  I hope you read about the Balloon Fiesta HERE for so many details and fun facts.  Attending this should be on everyone’s list to experience.

my first balloon ride albuquerque balloon fiesta my home and travels pinterest image

I’ve included several photos from my view – I am still amazed what the feeling was to experience this.

My First Hot Air Balloon Ride

This has been on my bucket list my whole life, but as I get older, heights bother me.  Not so much the height but looking down from a high height.  Normally looking straight out, such as riding in a glass elevator, is no problem. 

my first balloon ride albuquerque balloon fiesta my home and travels my view

I really wanted to do this, and Don did too, but I would only do it if I could do it together. 

The roughest part was taking off and landing, as it is a bit bumpy.  The flight between was very smooth. There was a moment there as we were taking off, I had to wonder if I was going to make it.  Luckily that feeling didn’t last long, and we were off.

Sometimes when you in the air, it’s almost an optical illusion as you don’t know if you are floating higher, or if another balloon is going higher and you feel like you are going down. 

I was surprisingly calm, enjoying the views looking out over the landscape of Albuquerque and the mountains.

My stomach did turn a bit when Don asked the pilot how high we were, and he said about 1500’ feet.  I just chose not to think about it.  Thinking about the experience and the views wiped out any doubts and fears.

Seeing all the balloons floating through the air was a sight everyone should witness.  Even the next day as we were driving out of town, the sight was something I couldn’t get enough of.

It can be loud so I wore headphones as I am sensitive to loud noises.  

A Few of My Favorite Photos


Attending the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

Planning is key to spending your day and getting the most out of it.    

The weather can be downright cold early in the day, but mid-morning or later, it can almost be hot.  Wear layers to adjust to the temps, even think about gloves.

Long lines can be found at most vendors, including the popular food spots.  Breakfast is available with a large variety.  It’s been said the breakfast burrito started here, but I couldn’t confirm that.

How the Day Goes

Start early – arrive around 4 am to park – it can take quite a long time, just follow the directions.

You will find a schedule of how the day can go for 2024 HERE.

As part of the media, we headed to the media tent for breakfast and to prepare for the day.  We were able to sign up for a balloon ride, but it’s not guaranteed.  I was thrilled to find out Don & I were granted a ride together.

When you are chosen for a ride, you head out to the balloon area, and introduced to your pilot and their team. 

You are considered part of the team and expected to help during the whole day and flight.  This is decided by the pilot, so your experience can vary.  Some of our duties included:

  • Watching over the balloon so other visitors didn’t walk too close to it or step over it.
  • Unfolding to prepare for the filling of the hot air
  • In flight – being a lookout for other balloons coming to close, or coming up from below
  • Landing – helping to hold the balloon in place
  • Packing up – folding the balloon and getting it and the basket into the truck
After landing
Waiting for takeoff
You can land sideways
Ballon is filling up
It’s a team effort to get ready

These duties just really added to the whole experience.

Where to land?  You look for open areas such as parking lots and fields.  You might even see an X to let pilots know they are welcome to land there.  Avoiding power lines is one of the most important rules.

X marks the spot

Schedule for the Day

See a link above for the 2024 Schedule. 

Each day begins with the Drone Light Show about 5:45 AM

The Dawn Patrol Show and Morning Glow is about 6 AM

These balloons take off to test the weather and wind to determine if it’s safe for the Fiesta to proceed.  It’s your first glance of balloons taking flight.

The Mass Ascension begins a bit after sunrise at 7 AM.  This is one of those don’t miss moments.  It’s amazing to see hundreds of balloons fill the air.

If you see people dressed in a lot of Black and White, maybe in referee outfits, lots of Zebra prints, or even a few more outlandish outfits, they are considered a Zebra.  This team of Zebras will let you know when your team if ready to lift off.


Some of the fun balloons to see are shaped in mostly animals.

Schedule Your Own Ride

You can make a reservation for your own balloon ride, and the experience can vary by your pilot.  Find the details HERE.  I recommend doing this as soon as possible so you don’t miss out.


My First Hot Air Balloon Ride

Would I do it again – YES!!!

Look around for a lot of local hot air balloon festivals and shows.  But the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta should be on your list.  Sometimes these shows will offer a tethered ride where you go up to a certain height, but you are never loose in the air. 

Let me know if you have experienced a hot air balloon ride and how you enjoyed it.

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I’ve included affiliate links to Amazon for you to find some products easier.  I may receive a small commission, but the price is the same for you.  It just helps my blog out.

Happy Travels, 


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