The Austin Chronicle

Day Trips

Up, up and away, my beautiful balloon!

By Gerald E. McLeod, October 4, 2013, Columns

The Albuquerque Interna­tional Balloon Fiesta should be on everyone's life list. To see the scores of colorful and oddly shaped hot air balloons glowing across the New Mexico sky is nothing short of amazing.

The early morning hours are the best time to catch the skyscraper-sized hot air-filled pillows just as they launch into the blue darkness as the sun peeks over the Sandia Mountains. The dawn patrol ascent begins at 5:45am and by 8am the colorful tear drops are sailing across blue skies.

In the evenings, the roar of hundreds of gas burners fills an area the size of 56 football fields. Walking among the towering lanterns is like navigating a land of giants bobbing in the breeze. Most of the rainbow-colored balloons are almond-shaped, but the special shapes are becoming more elaborate and imaginative every year.

During the day, between the gravity-defying balloon ballets and after a nap, there are ample things to do in Albuquerque. This is a very special city with lots of history, culture, and good food to explore.

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta began in 1972 as a local radio station promotion and has grown into the largest hot air event in the world. Happening over two weeks, Oct. 5-13, the citywide party includes lots of other special events. For more info on the balloon festival and things to do in Albuquerque, go to

1,157th in a series. Collect them all. Day Trips, Vol. 2, a book of "Day Trips," is available for $8.95, plus $3.05 for shipping, handling, and tax. Mail to: Day Trips, PO Box 33284, South Austin, TX 78704.

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