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2013 Balloon Festival Events

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Antioch, Illinois
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2013 Balloon Festival Events

In general, which is better to be at: The first weekend or the closing weekend of the Festival? Perhaps due to weather problems, might be better to plan for lst weekend and reschedule for last if winds and weather don't cooperate. Thanks for any info based on experience!

Albuquerque, New...
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for Albuquerque, New Mexico
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1. Re: 2013 Balloon Festival Events

That's the common wisdom, especially for those locally who have that choice. Visitors only planning on one weekend don't always have that option. Reservations get filled up early, so it may be difficult to reschedule at last moment. Since it cannot be predicted when weather threatens (wind is biggest problem), folks usually go at earliest opportunity, given any option. That makes the first Saturday the most crowded and sometimes the biggest event. Cancellations aren't usually known until the very last moment...typically just before launch time...as wind and weather can change at dawn, for example. Midweek events help give you more options if you extend your visit beyond a weekend. MIdweek events are also less crowded. It's possible we have perfect launch weather every day but most fiestas experience a cancellation or two and it's not possible to predict when. They do all they can to launch (or glow). Seems like most everyone does get a chance to see a main event and gets wrapped up in the excitement of the fiesta and wants to come back again. On off days, there's plenty other things going on and great day trips.

Albuquerque, New...
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2. Re: 2013 Balloon Festival Events

On Thursday and Friday mornings during the fiesta, there are special shape balloons that are among the most fun to watch. These are the balloons that are shaped like animals, castles, boats, liquor bottles, insects, etc. etc. Some of the special shape balloons often hang around on the last Saturday, but there are not as many on the last Sunday. Early in the week, there are not as many special shapes. The last couple of years, we have had more bad weather towards the end of the week, but there is no way to know what will happen this year. As in the above response, you should try to add in some weekdays to whichever weekend you choose.

highland lakes texas
posts: 438
reviews: 134
3. Re: 2013 Balloon Festival Events

Do they launch balloons every day of the festival? Or only on the weekends? We are trying to decide whether to come the 1st or 2nd weekend. We are leaning toward to the 2nd hopefully for lessor crowds, but are really open to either at this time.

Albuquerque, New...
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4. Re: 2013 Balloon Festival Events

The "mass ascensions" are on weekend mornings. Check the schedule of events on the web site. balloonfiesta.com/event-info/event-schedule

I would say they launch every day (weather permitting), but mass ascensions are NOT every day, and that's probably what you most want to see. Years ago, they added another "mini" mass ascension on Wednesday morning and two special shapes ascensions on Thursday and Friday mornings. These are very popular for young and young at heart. The evening glows are not launches but are popular, too. Not every evening. The cross country gas balloons launch on the first Saturday. Most weekdays have competitions (a key grab, for example).

Mornings are the best for hot air balloon launches. Very early, and even on days when mass ascensions are not scheduled (and even before and after the official period of the fiesta) you will see many balloons in the sky over Albuquerque (even though not officially a mass ascension). These do not launch from the balloon fiesta grounds, however. More and more they are being launched on the west side but will float over the river valley and even up over the northeastern heights.

During the fall (on weekends other than the Balloon Fiesta), it's very possible to count over 30 balloons in the sky over Albuquerque just after dawn. The cool fall mornings (often windless) are conducive for hot air ballooning and I suspect several are commercial flights with visitors aboard.

We sometimes go to the new North Domingo Park in the very early morning hours on weekends. A new multi-generational center is in southeast corner (parking). There's also a skateboard park, a nice playground, a dog park, and they recently completed playing fields and a trail. (More to come.) That's not a bad place to view balloons from a distance. While I recommend viewing the Balloon Fiesta on the grounds for an experience unlike any other, several people are beginning to use this park and adjoining undeveloped fields for viewing balloons. When we are there on non-Balloon Fiesta mornings in the fall, it is almost certain we will count over 30 balloons in the far distance. It's also down the street from a Starbucks, so you can grab a cup of espresso and hot chocolate.

Edited: 11:37 am, May 23, 2013
Albuquerque, New...
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5. Re: 2013 Balloon Festival Events

See if this helps: http://maps.google.com/maps?q=albuquerque+north+domingo+baca+map&lr=&client=firefox-a&hs=4Rt&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&bav=on.2,or.r_qf.&bvm=bv.46865395,d.dmQ&biw=1178&bih=557&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=X&ei=DzSeUeLoLZTp0QHL_4CQCg&ved=0CAgQ_AUoAjgK

I want to emphasize that as a local who's gone to the Balloon Park almost every year, viewing the balloons in the distance from another vantage is wonderful but the real experience of a mass ascension is on the Park grounds itself. We're talking 100s in a mass ascension and at the Park you are right in the middle of it all.

Edited: 11:48 am, May 23, 2013
Albuquerque, New...
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for Albuquerque, New Mexico
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6. Re: 2013 Balloon Festival Events

Just to be clear. I talk about the Balloon Park (shown as the Balloon Fiesta Field when you zoom out on the linked map) and the other park is more correctly called North Domingo Baca Park. (The satellite view of the linked map must be recent. When you zoom in, you can see latest additions for parking and fields.)

highland lakes texas
posts: 438
reviews: 134
7. Re: 2013 Balloon Festival Events

What is your recommendation- we are coming the 2nd weekend and we will have two 2 1/2 year olds and 2 under 1 year olds. We are staying at the Marriott Albuquerque North. Do you think we should venture on the park and ride to the fairgrounds for the mass ascension, waking the babies around 4:30 or 5:00 or can we see the balloons just fine from our hotel? Is the character balloons on Friday morning as crowded as the mass ascension, thus needing the park and ride?

Albuquerque, New...
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8. Re: 2013 Balloon Festival Events

Hmm. With one or two small children, I'd say backpack carriers would be best, as you can get around so much more easily, but with 4 I can see the logistics problem. How do you usually get all 4 around? Two double strollers? Sit and stands? Strollers on park grounds would work okay. I've seen families bring wagons, too. And even the small umbrella strollers, but I never recommend those. There are some paved roads crisscrossing the grounds that will help strollers, but of course the grass (from which the balloons lift off) will be tougher to stroll on. It's fun to be right up to the balloons, but just before a particular one lifts, it can get crowded around that balloon and you'll have to watch for the lines, etc. But you'll see how it works (watch for the "zebras" directing the lift offs) and just be ready to be mobile. Thankfully, it is flat. Jogging strollers (doubles? quads?) with big wheels would work great on the grass, but I've never had to deal with 4. Small children love the special shapes and the vision of 100s of colorful balloons all around you is awesome for all ages. The 2 1/2's may be close to the fun children also have of collecting the special shapes cards at each balloon. There's usually a crew person assigned for each balloon to pass those out, although they tend to run out by the end of the fiesta. My own experience is that the very young children may be sleeping through much of it. The special shapes rodeo on Friday will be less crowded than Saturday's mass ascension. I still think the best experience is on the field, but the Pyramid is about the best hotel location there is. With your necessary gear, I think car may be better option than the park and ride buses. If you go early, as you seem to know, you can probably get parking close to a gate and if you are pre-dawn the crowds won't seem as bad as they will be shortly after dawn. There's small grassy knolls on the west side of the field, near a large row of portapotties that are away from the crowds, which congregate more on the east side of the field, adjacent to the "main street". On the west side knolls, you can sit on the grass comfortably and still view balloons lifting off up close. On the east side, there are some picnic tables you can usually nab early on. Be sure to consider what you want to bundle them in. It can be very cold pre-dawn and then warm up quickly once the sun comes up. If you are coming to ABQ for the balloon fiesta, I still think it's worthwhile to make the effort to be on the field for at least one early morning lift off.

Albuquerque, New...
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9. Re: 2013 Balloon Festival Events

Maybe just a bit more to help you decide or navigate. With the little ones so small, maybe one double stroller, preferably a jogging stroller, would fit them all. But how you get a double stroller on an airplane would be new for me...but maybe you are driving from Texas and plan to bring something along. As clunky as that may sound, you'd be able to get around despite the crowds. I try to drive so that I'm parking about 1/2 hour or more before dawn. It can be cold: hats, mittens, layers, blankets even for bundling. At that time, I usually am directed to good spot in dirt parking lot pretty close to a gate. The entrance gate is no problem. When I arrive predawn inside, I soak in some of the carnival atmosphere along the main street, find a breakfast burrito or something, and hot chocolate for my older kids, and nab (usually share) a picnic table along the edge of the field. About this time, the dawn patrol may be launching already. At dawn, the Star Spangled Banner is played as the first official balloon launches. That's a nice moment. At this point, the biggest crowd is along the east edge of the field. So before this moment comes I get onto the middle of the field, where many balloons are beginning to layout their envelopes and even inflate. There's less crowds on the field at this point and it's relatively easy to get around, although there's less ground to maneuver on when the balloons are still laid out on the grass. Once they fully inflate (it'll usually still be a while before they actually launch), there's more room to maneuver. While they inflate, it's fun to pick out one, hang around, and get some heat from the propane burners. You'll find a good spot to wait behind the gondola. They usually launch to the south and they may have to move along the ground in that direction several yards before getting in the air. As I say, listen for the "zebra" whistles and watch them to get a sense where the balloon will be moving and when it will launch. At some point the crowd on the edge begins to disperse onto the field. There are usually three good waves of launches. You might want to sit out some in the middle on the west side grassy knolls. By the third or so wave, the grounds are clearing out noticeably and it will be easier again to maneuver all over the field. By 9 or so, things are really winding down and it may feel remarkably warm.

Albuquerque, New...
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10. Re: 2013 Balloon Festival Events

Don't mean to disparage the umbrella strollers if you use those. What they save in space they limit in mobility, I think. The Balloon Fiesta has always been so laid back and inclusive, very proud of the "hands on" "up close and personal" aspect. It's not a stadium seating event. So you see all kinds of strollers, etc. They are checking backpacks at the entrance gates, but I've never heard of any policy limiting what you otherwise bring in. From the middle of the field, the kids will often glimpse some special shape balloon in another spot on the field they want to see. You are free to roam as you wish. During mass ascensions, many special shape balloons wait until the end to launch. If there's wind issue, some may only inflate. While there are waves, generally speaking the balloons launch one at a time.