Family Vacations: The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

By: David Friel

New Mexicos biggest city hosts the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta every October, a premiere event for hot air balloon aficionados from around the world. While this is just one of the citys many draws for visitors, it is one of the biggest.

The event started in a parking lot in 1972. Today, more than 700 hot air balloons take flight at the yearly festival, providing airborne entertainment to several hundred thousand attendees. Events at the Balloon Fiesta include Dawn Patrols coordinated predawn balloon liftoffs which, on certain days, are choreographed to music.

A gaseous endurance test pits several Gas Balloons which can stay in the air for more than two full days against each other to see which one can travel farthest before literally running out of gas. There are also special nighttime Balloon Glows during which balloonists fire up their burners and light up the night sky. A similar event, the Special Shape Glowdeo, features irregularly shaped balloons.

The highlight of the Balloon Fiesta is the Mass Ascension, where all participating balloons take to the sky. Taking place four times over the course of the 10day event, balloons launch in two waves, beginning just past 7:00 a.m. On several nights, fireworks close out the days events.

Albuquerque has many other family attractions beyond the Balloon Fiesta. Among them, Albuquerque Biological Park consists of Albuquerque Aquarium, the Rio Grande Botanic Garden, the Rio Grande Zoo, and Tingley Beach.

The Aquarium explores all the Rio Grande Rivers habitats between Albuquerque and the Gulf of Mexico; the Zoo has more than 250 animal species; and Tingley Beach is an al p urpose recreation center, with three lakes for fishing, a model boat pond, as well as bicycles and pedal boats you can rent.

Thrill seekers can take a ride on the Sandia Peak Tramway, which, at almost 15,000 feet in length, is the worlds longest passenger aerial tramway. For a little indoor fun, check out the Hinkle Family Fun Center, an entertainment hub featuring arcades, bumper boats, bumper cars, gokarts, miniature golf, lazer tag, and paintball.

Beyond Albuquerque, the region is full of daytrip possibilities. In the Los Alamos area, the Ancient Ruins Loop is a series of ancient cliff dwellings. If you are heading to the state capital, consider taking the Turquoise Trail, a scenic byway between Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

The cities of Santa Fe, Taos, and Carlsbad are all worth a visit Santa Fe for its distinctive architecture; Taos for its art scene; and Carlsbad for its bewitching high desert landscape.

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