colorful HOT AIR BALLOON and People

7 Reasons Albuquerque is the Best Place for Hot Air Ballooning in the World

When you’re in Albuquerque, it’s common to look up into the sky and see colorful orbs floating their way toward the horizon.

This vibrant city in the heart of New Mexico is known as the Hot Air Balloon Capital of the World. Not of the state. Not of the country. Of the world.

So how did it come to hold that distinctive title?

There’s a number of reasons why Hot Air Balloon pilots, riders, photographers and admirers go to Albuquerque for all things Hot Air Balloon. With a deep history, lively annual events and perfect weather conditions, it’s no wonder why it’s the best place for these lighter-than-air aircraft to call home.


1.  Albuquerque is the Home of the World-Famous Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta™

With nearly a million visitors each year, Albuquerque’s International Balloon Fiesta™ may be the largest and best-known ballooning event in the world. In fact, it’s the largest annual international event of any kind held in the United States!

The festival takes place for 9 days in October each year and has been running for almost 50 years.

Hundreds of pilots from around the world come to Albuquerque to fly their balloons. Many have odd shapes and unique designs. It’s a photographer’s wonderland!


2.  It’s Also Home to a Bunch of Other Hot Air Balloon Festivals

But Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta™ is not the city’s only event.

In December, more than 200 balloons from across the country take to the skies for the Red Rock Balloon Rally. In September, pilots and boat captains come together for ​​“Splash-n-Dash” balloon-boat relay races over the lake for the Elephant Butte Balloon Regatta. And in June, more than  20 balloons take to the sky, set against the stunning backdrop of the Sangre de Cristo mountains for the Balloons Over Angel Fire event. And that’s just to name a few!


3.  Albuquerque Has Ideal Flying Conditions Year-Round

Hot Air Balloon pilots are always searching for the ideal condition called the “box”. This is where a balloon can take off and drift one direction at low altitude or drift another direction at high altitude.

Along with that, temperature and wind conditions play a role. Albuquerque checks all of the boxes, making it superb for year-round ballooning conditions.


4.  Sport ballooning has been practiced in Albuquerque since 1971

Sid Cutter, former Air Force pilot, accidentally started flying a balloon in 1971 when a crew member released a tether. Not long after, Cutter started flying the balloons for sport.

Cutter held a balloon racing event the next year at in the parking lot of Coronado Center Mall in Albuquerque. The humble event eventually grew into the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta™.


5.  Albuquerque Houses the Albuquerque International Balloon Museum

Albuquerque has so much hot air balloon history, it has a whole museum dedicated to it!

The Anderson Abruzzo International Balloon Museum shares the history, science, and adventure of ballooning with every visitor. The museum has exhibits with artifacts from hot air balloon use in war, the first trans-Atlantic flight and more.


6.  Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon History Dates Back More than 100 Years!

Before Sid Cutter accidentally went flying into the sky, a similar experience had already occurred much, much earlier.

More than a century ago in Albuquerque, “Professor” P.A. Van Tassell, a local bartender, piloted a “gas bag” to nearly 14,000 feet. He landed and survived, but hot air ballooning didn’t take off in Albuquerque until the 1970s.


7.  Albuquerqueans have been a part of Some of the sport’s greatest achievements

You’ve already heard about Sid Cutter and “Professor” P.A. Van Tassell’s feats. But they weren’t the only Albuquerqueans to make history in hot air ballooning.

The first successful nonstop hot air balloon crossings the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean and over the continental United States had Albuquerqueans on board: Ben Abruzzo, Maxie Anderson, Larry Newman and Ron Clark.

Albuquerque citizens have also broken records, with Troy Bradley attaining the highest ranking a balloonist can achieve, the Montgolfier Diploma.


Coming to Albuquerque for some Ballooning?

Stay with University Lodge. University Lodge offers guests a prime location from which to explore the wealth of attractions in Albuquerque.