There is no question that the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is a must-see for any bucket list, but what if you have kids? Will they enjoy it as much as you do? Why not? There’s something for everybody at the Balloon Fiesta, and the sight of hundreds of balloons lifting off into the morning sky is breathtaking, no matter what your age. If you think the colorful, larger-than-life balloons are cool, imagine how your kids will like them. Also, kids 12 and under are free, so what are you waiting for? Here are a few tips to make your trip with the family a successful one.
Check the Schedule
Make sure that the day you have scheduled for your visit is a mass ascension day, otherwise you’ll have some very disappointed kids to deal with. You’ll also want to arrive early. The park opens at 4:30 a.m. and the lines to enter the park grow longer by the hour. If that’s just too early for you, consider the evening balloon glows. The balloons won’t lift off, but it’s a surreal kind of beauty to see so many colorful balloons glowing in the dark.
You might also consider attending Kids Day, which tends to coincide with the special shapes rodeo. All those special shapes, like Sonic the Hedgehog, the Wells Fargo Stagecoach, Darth Vader, and many more, take to the sky in a spectacular display of dynamic synergy. The kids also get a goodie bag upon entering the park. Kids Day this year falls on Thursday, October 12.
Have a Plan B
The balloons can only take off if weather conditions are ideal. Which means if the meteorologists are wrong and it’s a bad weather day, no balloons. It’s never a bad idea to have a couple of alternative plans available, just in case. The Albuquerque Balloon Museum is a good option, or you could visit Meow Wolf, which your children will love just as much as you will.
If you’re arriving early, which you should definitely do, you’ll need to prepare for the cold. The day may be sunny and warm, but mornings are exactly the opposite. Bring jackets, sweaters, and maybe a scarf or two. For kids in strollers, a blanket is a good idea. You may also consider waterproof shoes for everybody in the family, too, as the grass can be very damp early in the morning. Pro tip: don’t forget the sunglasses, hats and sunscreen, for later in the day.
The organizers of the Balloon Fiesta know what it’s like to be on a budget, and as such allow coolers inside the park grounds, as long as you don’t bring glass or alcohol. Not only will you save a bundle on concessions and avoid long lines, but you can pack all your kid’s favorite snacks and drinks. But let’s face it, at some point you’re going to need something more substantial than goldfish and a juice box. Lucky you, there is a wide variety of foods available for those meals you just can’t miss, and some of them are even healthy.
Tag Your Tots
The New Mexico State Police RV is always on hand for you to register your kids, which in turn gets them a wristband. Should any of your brood get lost in the crowd, the wristband will help reunite them with your family. It also never hurts to have a meeting place, like a favorite booth, or landmark, or even the Police RV. If the kids know where to go when they lose you, they’re less likely to freak out, and because you registered them, it will make it much easier to find them.
Another good tip is to have them look for the balloon helpers wearing black and white striped shirts. Their job isn’t just to keep crowds moving and out of the way when balloons are inflating, they can also aid your kids should they lose you.
Okay, so now you’re ready for the day. Besides watching the balloons launch and slide across the brilliant morning sky, what else is there to do with the kids? Here are a few suggestions:
Check out the Balloon Discovery Center
At the north end of the field, the Balloon Discovery Center provides information and hands-on demonstrations for kids of all ages. Want to know how a basket is made? Or how the weather affects the balloons? Want to actually touch a balloon? All these things and more are available here.
Balloon Spotting with Kids
Kids love games, and the Balloon Fiesta allows for all kinds of family fun. Counting balloons is always a fun activity, but counting the special shapes, or certain colors, or just the balloons with faces, makes it even more so. The sky’s the limit for the parents who pay attention to what’s happening up there, to make the experience on the ground even better.
Kids Love Collecting Balloon Cards
This is something all die-hard balloon aficionados do, and kids are no exception. Most pilots have cards featuring their balloons, along with the name of the balloon, where they’re from, and other information that make collecting them fun. They’re not only a wonderful souvenir of the day, they give the kids something to do during those hours when nothing seems to be happening. Pro tip: If you really want to make your kids really happy, consider buying them balloon pins, which are also collectable.
The possibilities are endless when it comes to entertaining young and old at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Don’t let the fact that you’ve got youngsters deter you. With a little preparation, and an eye on finding the right kind of fun for each age, you’ll bestow upon your family the adventure of a lifetime. For more information on the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, visit the website.
Out of town visitors to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta will find plenty to do during their stay, here. Check out some of the other balloon festivals taking place throughout New Mexico, here.