Albuquerque From Above: A Hot Air Balloon Adventure On A New Mexico Road Trip

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My fingers were probably crossed for good weather from the moment we booked our hot air balloon flight.  I’m talking a week of crossed fingers. This is serious business.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved hot air balloons and wanted to ride in one.  When we started planning the southwest road trip, it was one of the first things I looked up.  I then crossed my fingers it would be in my budget.  I did a lot of finger-crossing for this adventure. 

Turns out it was one of the best things to do in Albuquerque and it was in my budget!  Can’t beat that.  If this isn’t already on your bucket list, it absolutely should be!

It was still dark out when we packed up from our hotel before 5:30 AM.  Too early!  Was it worth it?  Of course!  I would do it again any day!  We were flying in a hot air balloon in 45 minutes!  I wasn’t nervous at all.  Just excited.  Excited enough to volunteer and hold onto stuff while they inflated it.


It was tougher than I imagined and had a hard time keeping my feet on the ground.  It didn’t help that I’m not all that tall.  I had a lot of reaching to do.

There were ten of us in the basket, including our pilot and a group of friendly Australians.  It was time for lift-off!  The only worry that I ran into was my hair staring on fire.  It didn’t.  My head was just very warm.  Again, worth it.


First, we dipped and dashed in the Rio Grande River, then soared above the peaks of the Sandia Mountains.  We watched twenty other balloons launch from the air.  We waved to countless strangers on the ground.  We asked every ridiculous question we could think of.

Have you ever gotten stuck in a tree?  Nope!

Have you landed on anyone’s roof?  It’s happened before, gotta land where you can!

What if you hit powerlines?  Just keep going!

What’s the craziest place you’ve landed?  A friendly nudist colony


The daylight grew the longer we were in the air, which was just under an hour.  We had a gentle landing in a lovely neighborhood park followed by a traditional champagne toast and lesson on the beginning of hot air ballooning.  It was everything I was hoping it would be.  Now maybe I’ll go to Fiesta, the hot air balloon festival, someday.  Maybe I’ll go to one in some other country.  Maybe I’ll try it at home.

This was what I was looking forward to most on the trip and I was not let down.  I would do it again in a heartbeat.  On our way back to the office out driver asked where we were going next and we told him: Roswell.  He thought that was just ridiculous and said we need to go to Carlsbad Caverns instead, so we did both!  This was a great way to start the day and I would definitely like to start a lot of days like this.


How much is a hot air balloon ride in Albuquerque?

It varies by company and the type of ride you want.  It can be anywhere from $159-$350.  We flew with Rainbow Ryders for a sunrise flight and it was $159.  If you’re doing a flight during the Balloon Fiesta in the fall, it will cost more as well, but I can imagine it’s totally worth it.  I would absolutely love to go back for Fiesta.

Who offers hot air balloon rides in Albuquerque?


What should I bring on a hot air balloon ride?

Water bottle – It’ll be hot and humid and you’ll need to stay hydrated.  A Hydro Flask will keep your water ice cold all day long.

Sunscreen – If you plan on being outside, you’ll want sunscreen.  I like the Neutrogena a lot, but if you’ll be visiting a beach soon, you’ll want a reef-safe sunscreen.

Hat – You’ll want some kind of hat to keep the sun out of your eyes.  A baseball hat should be fine but a bucket hat or sun hat could help keep the sun off your neck.

Sunglasses – This is a must, especially with the strong desert sun.  Sunglasses are best paired with a hat on those really bright days.

Light Jacket – Because you just never know.  If you’re going at sunrise, especially, it will be chilly since you’ll be up higher.  I usually use my rain jacket for this but a sweatshirt could work as well.  Or both.


Other important things to know:

  • If the weather or wind is bad, the flight could be canceled.  They won’t fly in unsafe conditions.
  • They usually fly at sunrise, so it’s going to be an early morning, like,5 or 6 AM.  It’s totally worth it and that’s coming from me, a committed night owl.  There are some sunset rides, too, if you would prefer that.
  • When you land you’ll most likely be celebrating with a champagne toast.  It’s a tradition dating back to the first flights in the 1780s.
  • If you’re really afraid of heights, this might not be the best activity for you.  My friend is but he still went.  He was pretty nervous at first but enjoyed it more as we were up there longer.
  • The number of people in the basket can vary.  If you want it to yourself, you’ll want to book a private flight, which will cost more.
  • Even in July, a sunrise flight will be chilly, so bring layers for that.

Have you ever gone hot air ballooning?  Where did you go?  Do you want to do it?

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