I took my first hot air balloon ride in Albuquerque, with Rainbow Ryders. From the moment we arrived members of our tour group were an integral part of the action. We held the pulling and straining balloon as it filled with cold air, and then stepped back as small flames pushed heat waves towards its bulging crown.
Once aloft we crossed the Rio Grande, skirted treetops, and observed cars the size of ants. In the next hour we traveled three ground miles and up to 1,700 feet in elevation.
After we landed and the balloon was deflated and packed away, our guide read The Balloonist's Prayer aloud as we enjoyed a late-morning champagne toast:
The winds have welcomed you with softness.
The sun has blessed you with his warm hands.
You have flown so high and so well that
God has joined us together in laughter and set us
gently back into the loving arms of Mother Earth.
I became hooked on the experience within minutes and attended the decades-old Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta® with my husband, several years later.
VIP credentials even allowed us to visit the launch field just after sunrise, as balloons gradually filled and rose from the ground in an ever-changing kaleidoscope of neon patchwork, patriotic, pig-shaped, and saguaro-decorated designs.
The cobalt sky framed two more hours of magic. Balloons rose like popcorn on a stove, clustering closely and then drifting apart. Some flew low enough for passengers to converse with us, while others were only colorful blips on the horizon. Balloons finally landed again and shrank onto the grass, until the afternoon event began. After dark, lit balloons created a gorgeous, ghostly panorama.
A private birthday party with hot air balloons provided the impetus for the first Albuquerque Balloon Festival. Today, this city is considered ‘the ballooning capital of the world,’ drawing nearly one million people annually to Albuquerque's largest party. Balloonists harness a natural phenomenon in the Sandia Valley, known as ‘The Box’ - a cycle of wind currents that facilitates ballooning.
For other magnificent views of this singular, nine-day event, check out multi-story windows at the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum. The 52,000-square-foot structure-which resembles a hot air balloon lying on its side-depicts ballooning history while honoring early Albuquerque balloonists, Ben Abruzzo, and Maxie Anderson.
There's no place like Albuquerque to enjoy the magic of hot air ballooning.
Please note: As is common in the travel industry, I may have received accommodations and other compensation for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this post, the writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.
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