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When thinking of visiting Albuquerque, New Mexico, most people probably think of the hit series Breaking Bad or the famous Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. If you’re a Breaking Bad fan, they have some tours you can go on—we’re not. And while the hot air balloon festival usually happens the first week of October, you can still take a hot air balloon ride in Albuquerque if you visit during another time of year.
Since you can take a hot air balloon ride almost any day of the year, it’s the perfect thing to do when visiting Albuquerque. This is especially true because riding in a hot air balloon isn’t something you can do in most places in the US or around the world.
Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Companies
There are a few companies that do hot air balloon rides in Albuquerque, but honestly, most of them are exactly the same other than a small price difference.
The main companies for hot air balloon rides in Albuquerque are Rainbow Ryders, World Balloon, and Aerogelic Ballooning.
All 3 of these hot air balloon ride companies offer a group sunrise ride—the most popular one—that is between $150 and $175 per person. These rides get more expensive during the Hot Air Balloon Festival.
The sunrise rides, no matter which company you choose, begin around 6:30 am, include an hour of air time, and champagne after the ride.
Rainbow Ryders is the largest company with the most balloon rides happening daily, but they are the most expensive.
We chose the $150 option based on reviews and price point and went with World Balloon. They were outstanding and we highly recommend them if you are looking for a hot air balloon ride in Albuquerque.
All of the hot air balloon ride companies leave from the northwest side of the city and take you up above Albuquerque. The actual flight path is up to the individual pilot.
When your hot air balloon takes off, you will see plenty of others doing the same from the other hot air balloon companies. Some will fly in the same direction, and others will go in the opposite direction. Some balloons will fly lower, others will fly higher up. Again, it all depends on the pilot, wind conditions, how they like to fly, and what they think is best and safest for the passengers.
Overall, you will generally have the same experience on your hot air balloon ride over Albuquerque, New Mexico no matter which company you go with.
The Hot Air Balloon Ride Experience
While choosing which hot air balloon operator to pick is important, hearing about what it’s like flying in a hot air balloon is probably why you started reading this in the first place, so let’s get to it!
You will arrive to the launch area, aka a small vacant lot, early in the morning and watch the crew unpack and inflate the hot air balloon. While it takes a little bit to do, it is a pretty cool process to watch.
The hot air balloon is blown up with a few huge fans before they start the burner system and flame. Once this gets going, the balloon part quickly starts to rise off the ground and the entire hot air balloon gets upright.
Once it’s upright, everyone quickly piles in—about 8 people and the pilot. As soon as everyone is in, your hot air balloon ride begins!
As an aside note, Mike was pretty nervous about flying in it since you are basically in a basket, but once we started, he was fine and said it was really relaxing.
The pilot continues to ignite the burner and flame and the basket slowly, and smoothly, lifts off the ground. Before you know it, you’re flying!
The hot air balloon gently rises as it fills with hot air and glides across the sky and over nearby buildings as the pilot begins to point out areas of interest and talk about the history of Albuquerque.
From there, the hot air balloon ride over Albuquerque is a gentle, smooth ride that takes you over the Rio Grande as the sun rises over the Sandia Mountains and glistens over the city and Petroglyphs National Monument.
Your balloon will glide comfortably up and down and you float through the sky taking in all the surroundings at sunrise. The pilot brings you up to about 2500 feet above the ground at the highest point, but the rise and fall of the balloon is very gradual and smooth making it a peaceful ride and a wonderful way to start your day.
As your New Mexico hot air balloon ride comes to an end, your pilot will guide the balloon down into an open field for landing. It won’t be where you started, but there will be a crew there to assist in landing.
The landing was relatively smooth. They just ask that everyone puts their cameras away, holds the handles on the sides, and bends their knees to brace for the small impact for landing.
Once the balloon has safely landed, the passengers get out and wait for the crew to deflate and pack up the balloon and basket. It takes about 20 minutes. They then drive you back to where you took off from. There you have champagne with the other riders and crew.
Is a Hot Air Balloon Ride in Albuquerque Worth It?
In case you cannot already tell, splurging on the hot air balloon ride is absolutely worth it, especially if you are a sucker for views like we are.
Plus, how often do you get to ride in a hot air balloon?
$150 per person for the group hot air balloon rides is definitely on the expensive side and might break your travel budget, but remember that you can always save money in other ways when traveling to afford some splurge activities.
Hot Air Balloon Recommendations
Overall, the hot air balloon companies provide almost everything for you, but you should come prepared with a few things.
First off, get there on time and dress appropriately for the weather. The desert cools off a lot at night, and because of its elevation, Albuquerque is a lot colder than Phoenix.
This means you should wear layers! It’s easier to take off a layer because you’re hot than it is to be cold.
Now we sound like our elementary school teachers preparing us for a field trip…
You will also want to bring a camera, be it your phone, GoPro, or DSLR, to capture the experience. However, make sure that you don’t drop it over the edge!
Our pilot said that people do it quite often, so be careful! Or at least don’t hold your phone over the edge, or have your camera looped over your neck or wrist so it won’t fall.
Lastly, use the bathroom beforehand. There are no bathrooms in the hot air balloon basket.
Overall, the hot air balloon ride in Albuquerque was an outstanding experience and something we are very glad we did!
It was safe, smooth, and felt like a once in a lifetime experience being able to see Albuquerque from above!
Although, we would love to do a hot air ballon ride in Cappadocia, Turkey someday—check out Kara & Nate’s video and Anywhere We Roam’s blog post on it!
Very good explanation. I am also travel buff and will follow your recommendation. I have booked in rainbow riders and planning on 31st Dec:-)
Wow! That will be an incredible ride on New Year’s Eve! We’re so jealous, and thank you for the kind words!