Hot Air Balloons

High and Mighty

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
Photo by Blaine Harrington III

The world's largest hot air balloon festival lifts off in Albuquerque.

By Ashley M. Biggers

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta began nearly 50 years ago in a mall parking lot when 13 hot air balloons gathered to mark a local radio station's anniversary.

Pilot Sid Cutter, one of the first people to own a hot air balloon in New Mexico, organized the 1972 event that has gone on to dazzle spectators — and their cameras — with more than 500 hot air balloons rising over the Duke City each fall. The fiesta is also noted as one of the world's most photographed events.

This event includes nine days of mass ascensions, special shapes rodeos, evening balloon glows, and pilot flying competitions. Several outfitters, including Rainbow Ryders, World Balloon, and Private Balloon Flights, offer rides during the event.

By the Numbers

Last year's Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta featured:

  • 588 balloons
  • 671 pilots
  • 17 countries represented, including Brazil, Colombia, France, India, Kenya, and Thailand
  • 12 glamping tents for overnight guests
  • 866,414 attendees
  • 104 differently shaped balloons, including crowd favorites Darth Vader and Yoda, a trio of bumble bees, and Spider-Pig