The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque begins Saturday and ends Oct. 12. The 360-acre Park with 100 acres of grass and booths will be filled with balloons and concessions. Clyde Mueller/The New Mexican
The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, which attracts thousands of people from around the world who come to see hundreds of hot air balloons ascend into Albuquerque’s pristine skies, lifts off Saturday morning and runs through Oct. 12.
People driving from Santa Fe should plan to leave in the early morning hours if they want to avoid traffic and catch all the festival has to offer.
Tom Garrity, a spokesman for the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, said that he recommends arriving at the Balloon Fiesta Park by 4:30 or 5 a.m., meaning that Santa Feans should depart by 3 or 3:30 a.m. if they want to be there when the first balloons go up.
“You will not have a problem getting in if you’re pulling up at 5 a.m.” Garrity said.
The dawn patrol, a select crew of early balloonists, takes off at 5:45 a.m. At 6:15 a.m., there is a pilot briefing, where crews decide if conditions are good enough for the rest of the balloons to go up.
If the flights are canceled, the organizers will announce the news via social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Mass ascension, when the majority of balloonists take off, begins at about 7 a.m. most days.
Night events only take place on Oct. 4, 5, 9, 10 and 11. The night glow events, where the balloons are inflated but don’t take off, usually start around 5:45 p.m.
General parking costs $10 per vehicle, and admission to the park is $8 per session. Children 12 and under are free.
Those coming from Santa Fe should take the Tramway/Roy Road exit off Interstate 25 to the Pan American Freeway, which leads to the Balloon Fiesta grounds. Garrity said police will be on scene and directing traffic.
The state Department of Transportation has scheduled bridge work on I-25 at Waldo Canyon about one mile north of the La Bajada rest area. There will only be one lane going north and south weekdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. But no work is scheduled on the weekends of Oct. 4-5 and Oct. 11-12 due to the Balloon Fiesta.
Park and ride service also is available. Garrity said the stop at Intel, 1600 Rio Rancho Blvd. SE, or Cliff’s Amusement Park, 4800 Osuna Road NE, would be the most convenient for those coming from Santa Fe. The shuttles start running at 4:30 a.m. and continue until 7 a.m. The last shuttle leaves Balloon Fiesta Park at 11 a.m.
For the afternoon session, bus service starts at 3:30 p.m. with the last bus leaving for Balloon Fiesta Park at 6:30 p.m. Return service begins at 7:30 p.m. and ends at 9:30 p.m., although there is limited bus service until all guests have departed.
Only credit cards are accepted for payment at the remote sites.
Park and ride prices, which include admission to the Balloon Fiesta, vary according to when you buy the tickets. Advanced purchase is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and $6 for children ages 6 to 12. Children 5 and under are free. Tickets purchased at the bus stops are $20 for adults and seniors, and $10 for children ages 6 to 12.
Contact Chris Quintana at 986-3093 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @CQuintanaSF.
Where: Balloon Fiesta Park, 4401 Alameda Blvd. NE, Albuquerque
Cost: Parking $10, admission $8. Park and rise also available.