If I asked you if you’d want to stand and watch hot air balloons fly through the sky, you’d probably scratch your head. I did. Until I decided to visit the world-renowned Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, which takes place for nine days every October in New Mexico.
It’s the world’s largest hot air balloon event, where thousands fill the city to watch over 500 hot air balloons soar through the skies each morning at dawn above the Sandia Mountains. The moment had my bucket list written all over it.
From the moment I touched down in Albuquerque, I was welcomed by lot of pre-festival hoopla and greeted by wide smiles from other enthusiastic Fiesta goers that were seriously pumped for all of the action.
Before the Fiesta kicked off, I took a small tour through downtown Albuquerque. From the clear skies and beautiful open deserts and plains, the unique scenery that the town had to offer was seriously Instaram-friendly. And, there was much more beauty to come.
Starting our day at 4:30am, the field that the Fiesta was located on — which is 54 football fields long — was already packed (and I mean packed!) with people lining up to get in formation for what I soon learned was a true feast for the eye—and one of the best subjects your smartphone camera will ever see.
There's no moment better than the one you're in to live your best life. 👑🏆💫#BalloonFiesta #HotelsDotCom #KDaysInTheA #ExposeYourQueen #DomesticDestinations #MelaninMagic #BlackGirlMagic #BlackGirlsTravel #iphonephotooftheday #balloons #FlyHigh
A photo posted by Ni'Kesia Pannell (@kesi_p) on Oct 1, 2016 at 10:00am PDT
The Fiesta attracts people from all over the world and is the city’s greatest tourist attraction. While most of them were strangers, I did spot one familiar face in the crowd: Hotels.com’s official mascot Captain Obvious. My extraordinary day continued, and it was filled with surprises and experiences I can’t say I’ll ever have again.
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As the sun began to rise and the brisk air flew in, the field filled up with different shapes, colors, and character-themed hot air balloons. It was fascinating and exciting to watch the giant that hot air balloons glide through the air and to hear the crowd cheer them on. Close to 300 of the 550 balloons filled the beautiful blue skies of Albuquerque—it’s truly a sight to see.
After observing the skies fill with every type of hot air balloon imaginable, I couldn’t wait to see what else the Fiesta had to offer. The balloon frenzy was already the highlight of the week. After lift off, what would Fiesta-goers be left doing? Carnival style games, food vendors, photo booths, and exclusive tents with all you can eat buffets, open bars and premiere seating were waiting for us. Later that night, the beauty expanded as Fiesta-goers stood in amazement to witness the field overflow with lively colors during the official lighting ceremony.
If that wasn’t enough to convince me that Albuquerque’s widely popularized event would make it on to my list of annual festivals to attend, being granted the opportunity to take flight in an actual hot air balloon sealed the deal. The moment was magical.
We fly high - no lie - and you know this! Hanging out in the @hotelsdotcomna hot air balloon this morning! Beautiful scene of Albuquerque, for sure! #BalloonFiesta #HotAirBalloon #Travel #ABQ #NewMexico #BalloonFiesta2016 #BlackGirlsTravel #BlackGirlMagic #MelaninMagic #ExposeYourQueen #ClearView #BeautifulSky #BlackGirlFly
A photo posted by Ni'Kesia Pannell (@kesi_p) on Oct 2, 2016 at 3:51pm PDT
I traveled solo, but Albuquerque’s International Balloon Fiesta can be a moment for lovers, girlfriends or a family. The experience overall was liberating in a way that all wanderlusts spirits should feel, and I didn’t have to leave the country to enjoy it. I underestimated Albuquerque’s ability to inspire me, refill me, and divvy out a type of welcoming love that can only be felt and never explained.
Signing off from one of my best travel experiences to date.
To read more about my inaugural visit to the Fiesta and see more shots, visit www.nikesiapannell.com.