Our Adventures RV'ing

Our Adventures RV'ing

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta "Desert Kaleidoscope" October 2016

October 1-4, 2016

This was on my bucket list and the timing was perfect for planning to attend the event during this RV trip. We were going to be in Pueblo, Colorado for the International Newmar Rally the week before the Balloon Fiesta and Albuquerque was close enough of a drive to go directly there from the rally. Major events are usually a learning experience not only for those hosting them, but also for those attending. I did my research, read many trip reports from RV bloggers and made reservations for our RV site as soon as our Pueblo trip was confirmed.

This is an event that draws close to 1 million people over the 9 day fiesta. There is ample RV parking within a mile of the balloon field with various levels of amenities and pricing but the weekends and some of the premium lots fill up early. http://www.balloonfiesta.com/guest-guide/rv-information

I recommend making reservations in advance especially if you want to stay over any of the weekends. Reservations open a year in advance and the closer lots book quickly. I booked in January, 9 months before the event, for 4 nights over the 1st weekend and all the premium sites were booked. I was able to get in the Standard/Premium lot with a box view site ($45/night). Standard site is $35/night. These are all dry camping (no electric or water), so make sure you are full on water and gray and black tanks are empty when you arrive. The Standard lot has some premium sites with 30amp and a water connection for $75/night. The Presidential lot has 30amp full hookups and is on a hill that overlooks the field but you pay a hefty price ($175/night). There are 2 VIP lots which go for $90/night, still no hookups but you are closer to the field. The standard/premium lot we were in was about 3/4 mile from the field but they provided free shuttles that could take you to the field and back. I felt lucky to be in the shuttle buses at the early hour of 5:00am with traffic at a standstill trying to get into the parking lots and we had a designated bus lane to get us to the drop off area.

I was very happy with our site and the box view had the added bonus of seeing balloons landing in front of you.

Our site-got lucky(end of the row)

Box view site-possible balloon landing site

Another view of our RV at our site

Looking down the row from our RV

Another option, if you are a member of Escapees, the Boomers have several sites reserved each year. I saw their sites which are Box View but in a nice private area opposite the field from where our site was.
Escapee Boomer's are the left group of RV's

They usually will have 50 spots and the cost is the same and are reserved directly through the Balloon reservation system once you sign up for the event with the Boomers. You have to be a member of Escapees 1st, but it's a reasonable $40 annual membership fee. I am told they have had spots available up until September. We met a couple at an Idaho rally who were there with the Boomers and they loved it. The Boomers have daily social gatherings and know some of the ballooners that are always looking for last minute volunteers for chase crews. I went to a wine tasting gathering with them Monday evening and had a great time meeting several of the Boomer members. Definitely a good option if you want to be in a chase crew.

We had different perspectives of the balloon events every day. There is an admission charge for access to the field sessions. There are 2 sessions, a morning and evening session, every day except on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday there are no evening sessions.  Each session is $10/person.  There is even a special shape balloon session. Planning is essential, check the schedule before you book the days you want to attend so you get a chance to see all sessions you may be interested in attending.
Saturday we went on the field for the morning session to see dawn patrol and mass ascension. You have to get up well before dawn to catch the shuttle from your lot that will take you to the field in time for the dawn patrol show.
Dawn Patrol morning glow

Dawn patrol is off
Early morning-balloons

The event draws over 500 balloons to the fiesta from all parts of the world and in all different shapes.

Darth and Yoda were there

Mass Ascension

Mass ascension from the field

 Sunday we went to the evening session for balloon glow and fireworks.

A different perspective inside the balloon

Balloon glow

The fireworks were impressive and worth the price of admission to an evening session. The best I have seen. I wish I knew more about using my camera to have taken some pictures but my photos didn't do it justice.

The other days we could watch everything from the RV. Balloons were landing in the morning right in front of our RV and we could see the fireworks from our RV at night.

Landing field in front of our RV

Great views from our RV site

Several balloons landing on the field- right in front of the RV
There is a Balloon museum near the launch area that is worth a visit. Beautiful displays and a wealth of knowledge about the science and history behind balloon flight.

Double Eagle II

Double Eagle II gondola https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double_Eagle_II

We had everything we could need for dry camping for 4 days I didn't feel we needed to spend the extra money for any of the premium sites. If you stay for the entire 9 days or longer and need to have tanks emptied, you can pay for an off-site service to come and empty tanks for $25.
Ballooning is totally weather and wind dependent. We got lucky and had perfect weather the entire time we were there, temperatures in the mornings were above normal (50's) and only one morning event was canceled due to wind. I read several RV blogs and many recommend attending the event for the entire 9 days for this reason. I followed the balloon fiesta after we left and the 2nd half was colder and had several sessions delayed or canceled.  So, a longer stay is advisable to ensure that there will be balloon launches during your stay.

The Balloon Fiesta was the highlight of our 10 week 2016 Fall RV adventure and something I would not hesitate to do again. I got lots of great photos for a lifetime of memories.

A must do event.

Room with a view

No comments:

Post a Comment