Top tips for getting to Balloon Fiesta Park

A balloon party visitor watches balloons inflate in the field while stuck in a line of traffic during a morning mass ascent. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

There’s no way to avoid it.

Traffic to the massive lifts and balloon glow of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta can be a nightmare. And this year’s 50th Balloon Fiesta celebration could bring even more visitors.

Balloon Fiesta officials cite a number of construction projects and changes intended to speed up arrivals and departures from Balloon Fiesta Park during this year’s event, which runs from Oct. 1-9.

And they offer the following tips: use park-and-ride buses, ride a bike, or consider ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft. Otherwise leave early, very early if you plan on driving yourself.

Here are some changes you will see this year:

• More buses to park and ride. More than 200 buses will be available to serve in two waves, providing about 9,500 bus seats per session.

Buses will be available from Hoffmantown Church and Coronado Center on the east side, and Cottonwood Mall on the west side. Buses will depart for the park between 4:30 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. Return trips will be available from 8:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at 9:30 p.m.

Remember to buy tickets online and in advance, they will not be sold at boarding stations. Tickets purchased online and before midnight for morning sessions, or before noon for afternoon and evening sessions, are $22 for adults; $20 for seniors 62 and older; $10 for children ages 6-12; and they are free for children under 5 years old. Same-day tickets will cost slightly more, if available. The cost of a ticket includes admission to Balloon Fiesta Park.

• A new park-and-ride depot has been added near the park’s south entrance, which will serve buses coming from Cottonwood Mall on the west side.

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• Those with more energy and a desire to ride a bike can take advantage of the festival’s free and secure bike valet service, which has been expanded this year to accommodate up to 1,000 bikes, including a section for electric bikes.

• Rideshare services Uber and Lyft will have a drop-off/pick-up location at Alameda and Horizon, just west of Balloon Museum Drive, where a new traffic light has been installed. Fiesta courtesy buses will be available to transport passengers between the carpool location and the ticket/admission gates.

• For those who prefer to drive and park, a $20 parking fee will be charged, cash only. But instead of attendees taking the money as cars enter the park on back roads, slowing down and backing up traffic, attendees will collect parking fees at the respective lots.

• A common situation faced by those who drive to the park, particularly when it’s dark outside, is losing track of where they parked when it’s time to leave. Parking lots are now designated with signs containing the color-coded names and images of Looney Tunes characters, including Elmer Fudd, Bugs Bunny, Road Runner, or Wile E. Coyote. Once inside the park, signs at entry and exit points will display quick response, or “QR” codes, which visitors can download to receive walking directions back to the lot where they parked.

• Traffic leaving Balloon Fiesta Park via the Balloon Fiesta Parkway at the north end of the launch field will now find a more efficient route to southbound I-25 through the construction of a permanent ramp in Pasadena NE. Previously, police rerouted drivers to head north on the southbound frontage road, where they exited on the Tramway and made a U-turn to get onto I-25 south.

• There will be improved access to a city-owned parking lot at the north end of Balloon Fiesta Park and adjacent to Sandia Pueblo as a result of a new road off Balloon Fiesta Parkway. The lot has capacity for about 500 vehicles. Fiesta courtesy buses will help those who need assistance traversing the distance between the lot and the park.