Once a year the city of Albuquerque becomes a backdrop as hundreds and hundreds of huge colorful hot air balloons majestically lift into the vivid blue sky. It’s the yearly International Balloon Fiesta, probably the largest in the country, and a family favorite. This year’s festival takes place October 2-10, 2010, and its definitely something every family should experience.
The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta began in 1972, with 13 intrepid balloonists. The goal of the original founders, Sid Cutter and Tom Rutherford, was to break the record of 19 balloons assembled together in a rally, so they had aimed for 21. Unfortunately, bad weather held up several from arriving. Today literally hundreds and hundreds of balloonists from all over the world come to participate in one of the country’s most unique and popular events.
This event is a particular kid-pleaser because the public is invited to walk onto the field as the balloons are being inflated. You’re up close to the behemoth balloons as they are laid out on the ground, are slowly inflated, and the shapes grow larger and larger until they stand upright. Finally, you’re there, walking among them as they slowly rise into the sky.
Not only are there the multi-color rainbow hued balloons, there are special shapes – Darth Vader, flying pigs, cows, and even giant flowers.
When the sun goes down, it’s Balloon Glow time – the balloons are tethered down and lit up from within. And still the public can walk among them. Children stand on parents’ shoulders to get a better view and giggle at the spectacle.
In between the dawn and evening activities, be sure to walk over to the Anderson-Abruzzo Balloon Museum, adjacent to the Fiesta. Named after Albuquerque balloonists Ben Abruzzo and Maxie Anderson (who made history when they completed the first non-stop crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in 1978), the fascinating museum celebrates Albuquerque’s ballooning heritage. Special treats for kids include Try This stations through out the museum where they can learn about balloon design, special fabrics, knot tying, and weaving designs for the baskets.
Everyone will enjoy trying their hand at piloting a balloon through a computer simulation. Follow the history of ballooning, experience the huge size of the balloons, learn the difference between gas and helium balloons, and admire some of the original gondolas and marvel that men and women spent days floating in the air in these tiny open cabins.
And for vroom-vroom art – it’s the Echo Chainsaw regional championship on the weekend.
October 7th through 9th, regional carvers vie for the championship. These artists literally take a chainsaw to wood to create their art. The chips will fly but spectators are protected by screening.
Ascensions that take place on the weekend cause massive traffic jams so Fiesta Park offers Park and Ride option. You’ll still have to get there very early, but you won’t have to sit in traffic, or park a long walk from the entrance.
There’s plenty of food choices, but you may want to take water with you. Days are warm in the high desert, but before and after the sun it can get quite chilly, so bring jackets.
Albuquerque also offers other family activities including a special children’s garden, and a wonderful hands-on science center. Read more about family activities in Albuquerque at Its a Trip.
Neala Schwartzberg is a freelance writer specializing in travel-related
stories, and editor of OffbeatTravel. She is a member of World
Federation of Journalists and Travel Writers / Fédération Internationale
des Journalistes et Écrivains du Tourisme (FIJET). Her articles have
appeared in New Mexico Magazine, Newsdays Parents & Children, AAA Journey,
and other local and national publications. She was for many years the
editor of a parenting publication and edited their book Raising Young
Children Well. Email her at Neala@offbeattravel.com