New Mexico Part I – Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

Show all

New Mexico Part I – Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

I am obsessed with hot air balloons.

I admit it. I love everything about them.

In college, I would go to the small balloon fest every year in Abilene, Texas, just to help out and/or take photos. Someone took pity on me once and actually took me up in a balloon and I thought that might end my fascination, but nope, still obsessed. I’ve had the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta on my bucket list since before I ever even had a bucket list, so it was pretty special to finally get to go this past October. Because this balloon festival is the Dom Pérignon of all balloon festivals. Turns out Dani has also had this item on her list for quite some time, so we both escaped a crazy fall wedding season for a quick Sunday-Thursday trip to New Mexico! It might seem nuts to plan a hardcore photo trip in the busiest month of the year, but it was exactly what I needed to fall in love with my camera again. Sooooo much to love about this trip. I literally shed tears over these hot air balloons, guys. They were that beautiful. See?


Okay, but first I’ll start at the beginning. There wasn’t much to “see” in Albuquerque, and the night glow didn’t start for another few hours, so we bummed around the historic Old Town for a bit. I shot a couple of photos, but wasn’t feeling terribly inspired. I do love all the brightly colored things against the drab backgrounds which is the decorating theme the whole city seems to employ.


We were pretty excited to photograph the night glow, our first official balloon fiesta event. This is when they inflate the balloons and “light” them up (by firing the burners) but they are tethered to the ground so they don’t actually go anywhere. We brought our tripods, which was a big pain but in the end definitely worth it. Couldn’t have done some of these shots without one.

2014-12-29_0002 2014-12-29_0003 2014-12-29_0004 2014-12-29_0005 2014-12-29_0006 2014-12-29_0007 2014-12-29_0008 2014-12-29_0009

Then there was a fireworks display at the end of the night! So cool! 2014-12-29_0010 2014-12-29_0011

The next morning was our balloon flight at a bright and early 6:30 a.m. call time. It could have been 4:30 and we wouldn’t have minded – see our excited faces? World Balloon for the win! It was about a million dollars cheaper to do a ride that left from outside the balloon park premises, so that’s what we did.

This is someone from our group peeking in as the balloon gets inflated. Which they do with just a high-powered industrial fan. Crazy! When it’s about 2/3 full, the burners are lit to heat the air so the balloon begins to stand up.
2014-12-29_0012 2014-12-29_0013

The inside of the balloon looks so pretty.
2014-12-29_0014 2014-12-29_0016

Just a little perspective shot… these balloons are MASSIVE! Ours is the one on the left.
2014-12-29_0018 2014-12-29_0019 2014-12-29_0020

Ready for lift-off! Murray was our pilot. I wanna be him when I grow up.

It was magical. I’m still in awe. Such a cool feeling, to just be floating around. It didn’t feel unsafe or scary in any way. And it’s so quiet when you’re up there! There’s not even any wind noise because you’re traveling with the wind. So peaceful. I think I want a hot air balloon for next Christmas, Mom. 🙂 Here are all the other balloons taking off from the balloon park.


Our shadow!

Even landing wasn’t scary. I guess it helps to be Albuquerque, where there aren’t too many trees and plenty of open dirt fields to land in.

After that awesomeness, anything else we did was going to be a letdown for the rest of the day, but I kinda still wanted to see these tent rock things (Kasha Katuwe National Monument) and Dani was up for whatevs, so we drove out there. Crazy looking, right? So there were two trails… one was like .7 miles and you just walked around the bottom of the rocks and then the other was like 3 miles long but took you up to a viewpoint above the rocks. (Any guesses yet on how this story goes?) I have this problem where I really need to see what’s around the next corner. I honestly just wanted to take a little peak at the longer trail and see what it would be like… 

Advice to future travellers: wear tennis shoes, not flip flops. All this sand you’ll walk on and the boulders you’ll climb over will make you hate your traveling companion who forced you to do the longer hike in flip flops. (Sorry Dani.)

But so cool, right? Totally worth it, right? 2014-12-29_0048

Not gonna lie, I was also pretty miserable by the time we got to the top. Because it was really hot. And we were in flip flops. But I’m glad we did it.


So that was exhausting. I can’t remember what we did that night, but there was no balloon glow so it probably involved being in bed by 10pm since we were getting up before sunrise (again) the next morning for the morning ascension. Back at the balloon park, things started happening!


I seriously had no idea there were so many uniquely shaped balloons. Personally, I love the classic balloon shape so I photographed more of those, but there were some really fun ones.

Now we’re talking! It is inexplicably awesome to watch hundreds of balloons stream up into the sky. They do it all in such close proximity and within such a short timeframe – I was pretty impressed. And notice that the park is packed too. At sunrise on a weekday! But the good thing is, it doesn’t matter how many people are standing beside or around you because everyone is just looking up anyway. It feels like you have your own private world in the sky.

After the balloons took off, we hung around and grabbed breakfast (insert foodie note: I ate so many delicious breakfast burritos involving green and red chiles) and then heard that the flying competition was about to begin. With no clue what that meant, we asked around and still had no clue. Haha. But suddenly, tons more balloons flew in from behind us and started dropping markers with flags onto targets on the ground. Or something like that. All I know was it meant more balloons to gape at and then the sky got even bluer and prettier than it was before. I could put about 200 photos in this post of just balloons, but I’ll try to keep it short. 2014-12-29_00682014-12-29_00702014-12-29_00712014-12-29_00722014-12-29_00732014-12-29_0074 2014-12-29_0075

So fun. See why I’m enamored? Anyway, that afternoon we left for White Sands for our next adventure. More on that tomorrow and plenty more pretty photos!


  1. Brooke says:

    This is SO COOL!! I am living vicariously through you, Emily!!! I have a total obsession with hot air balloons too (one (safely) crash landed on my neighbor’s house when I was very young, and I have been fascinated by them ever since!) These images are beautiful. What a cool, cool experience. Thanks for sharing. These images are beautiful.

  2. Brea says:

    This is the happiest, brightest, most fun post ever! I think I would have been okay if you posted 200 more photos of just balloons. So cool! I think it’s really neat that there are weirdly shaped ones, but I agree the traditional shape is much cooler. So fun!

  3. Lauren Swann says:

    Wow!! So many colors!!! Love!

  4. Jennifer says:

    Wow, this looks like an amazing trip- certainly something to add to my bucket list!

  5. tPoz says:

    dude. Wow. Just wow! Blown away by these pics! I had ZERO idea how many balloons would be there – I thought 10 would be a lot!! Ha! How do they not run into each other?!? That trail looked cool too!

  6. Dani says:

    As always, I love your photos better. So much pretty!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *