The southwestern region of the United States offers endless possibilities for vacations, retreats and life changing experiences. Having lived in Arizona, California and Colorado, I have thoroughly enjoyed exploring every hiking trail, backroad, canyon and sand dune over the years. Eventually I will write about these adventures, including multiple hikes in the awe-inspiring Grand Canyon, falling victim to the spiritual vortex of Sedona, playing on the water slides in Oak Creek Canyon, camping in Pason, sand railing in the Yuma Sand Dunes and touring as many canyons and monuments as possible in Colorado and Utah. But the one experience that everyone must know about in the southwest region, and should be on all of your bucket lists, is the most beautiful event we’ve ever experienced: the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. Click the link above to see the photo tour.

With almost 600 hot air balloons attending from all over the world, the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta is the largest ballooning event on earth, the most photographed event on earth, and the largest annual international event held in the United States.

Held each year the first week of October, it’s a magical sight to behold. Especially when the weather cooperates and creates the infamous ‘Albuquerque box.’ The box is a phenomenon that happens only in Albuquerque as the balloons stay contained in this large square pattern in the sky: as if they are creating the frame around a painting. This happens when the air currents move in opposing directions only a few hundred feet apart in altitude. Let’s use a few directions to help you ‘frame this picture’. As the balloons take off they catch the lower current heading south. They stay on this current for about a mile or so before they rise up a few hundred feet and catch the current that now carries them north. They stay on that northern flowing current, not drifting east or west, directly above the balloons still heading south, thus creating the box. To complete the box, the pilot then lowers the balloon to catch the original southern flowing current. The result is a  very large box in the sky with hundreds of balloons floating around the picture frame.

This event is a site to behold! To make your experience more magical, here are

11 Tips for attending the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

  1. Book early – the hotels and campgrounds fill-up way in advance.
  2. Get lots of sleep before you go, because you’ll be up before the ‘butt-crack’ of dawn every day!
  3. Bring warm cloths! Balloons take off very early in the morning and that cold, damp air will chill ya to the bone.
  4. Bring a flashlight or headlamp – don’t miss the nighttime balloon glows OR where you parked your car.
  5. Join a chase crew if you can find one. Many balloon pilots are not able to bring their chase crews with them, so they need people to help on the field; launching the balloon, chasing frantically to see where it lands, and then packing it up for the next day. There are ways to get involved if you want to be part of the action.
  6. Don’t skip breakfast, but don’t worry, you can still eat before 8:30am even if you attend the daily launching ceremonies.
  7. Make dinner reservations if you want to eat at a particular restaurant. With thousands of balloon crew members and spectators in town, seating at good restaurants is a premium.
  8. Camera hint #1- make sure you have enough room on your camera for thousands of pictures.
  9. Camera hint #2- make sure you have enough battery for thousands of pictures.
  10. Camera hint #3- make sure you bore your friends with your thousands of pictures.
  11. Stop taking photos for at least a moment or a morning, sit back and just soak it all in. There is no other event like it on earth.

Bar none, this was one of the most magical events we have ever attended. If it is still on your bucket list, maybe this year is the right time to go. Click here for more FAQ.