I can’t recall the first time I heard of the International Balloon Fiesta, but all I know is that it has been on my list of things to see/do/check out for quite some time. Two years ago in October, it happened. I finally set up that trip to New Mexico! Not only did we go see the balloons, but we also drove all over New Mexico and took in the sights.

Balloon Fiesta

Summer may be in full swing now, but I’m sure those who love travel are already thinking of their next trips. The International Balloon Fiesta is every October. If New Mexico or the International Balloon Fiesta happen to be on your list, it’s time to get planning! Here were three ways we found that really helped us make the most of the International Balloon Fiesta experience:

1. Take the week off.

Balloon Fiesta

Seriously, spend an entire week there. Even if you don’t spend your entire trip at the Balloon Fiesta, it’s worth making yourself available all week long in case the day you were hoping to witness Mass Ascension or a Night Glow falls through. They really do try to take off each day, but sometimes Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate. On days like those, your ticket gets cancelled, and you can use it again another time during the week! During our trip, we visited the Balloon Fiesta Park a few times. Some days we wandered around wondering if anything would take off, and other days, we spent most of our time running from one balloon to the next as they took to the skies. Pretty amazing. And when we were tired of balloon chasing, we explored the rest of New Mexico. It’s a big state, but you can see a lot if you drive around.

2. Get up close and personal.

Balloon Fiesta

The best part of Balloon Fiesta is how close you can get up to each balloon. Don’t be shy. Run up there and see how it all works! Just make sure to get out of the way when they launch though.

Balloon Fiesta Watching balloons fill up on the field!

Each of the balloons and their crew have collectible cards that they hand out. While most of the people asking for cards were kids, I joined in the fun and collected a stack of my favorite balloons too. It adds to the fun of running up to the balloons from all the way across the field!

Balloon Fiesta

3. Ride a bike to Balloon Fiesta.

Beat the traffic in the parking lots and ride a bike to Balloon Fiesta! There’s a free Bike Valet service available, which provides a secure spot to park while you check out the festivities. Since we were staying with a friend and were not biking distance, we decided to join a bike tour on our first day. After a little search on the internet, we found Routes Bicycle Tours’ Bikes and Balloons tour.

Balloon Fiesta
Blurry phone photos!

The group meets in the early AM (still dark out!) at Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farm. The tour includes bike and helmet rental, Balloon Fiesta admission and more! Since we were with a tour, time spent on the field is limited, BUT it gives you a good taste of what to expect if you’re looking to go again on your own (which we totally did). When we returned from Balloon Fiesta Park, we got a tour of the inn and farm too!