The Best Way to Watch the Annular Eclipse Is at This Hot Air Balloon Festival

It’s the view of a lifetime.

A. Messerschmidt/Getty Images
A. Messerschmidt/Getty Images

It’s sweater weather in Albuquerque, and nothing marks the change of the season than the city’s marquee event: the International Balloon Fiesta, where from October 7 - 15 more than 600 hot air balloons take to the sky for a dazzling display of colors. This year, city visitors are in for an unexpected treat. Albuquerque is in the annular eclipse’s direct path, making the city one of the best cities to view it from.

The hot air balloon festival kicks off on Saturday, October 7 where every day, twice a day, beginning at 7 am (weather permitting) more than 600 gigantic hot air balloons lift off to pepper the sky with a dizzying array of colors and design. Near to the close of the festival on Saturday, October 14, the annular eclipse takes place. A ring of fire will form around the moon as it passes between us and the sun. The celestial experience begins at 9:13 am MDT with the annularity starting at 10:34 am MDT (and lasting four minutes and 48 seconds). The whole process is set to take more than three hours so whatever your plans, prepare to be comfortable and sit around.

From now until Friday, October 13, people can pick up a free solar eclipse viewer at UNM’s Physics, Astronomy, and Interdisciplinary Science building. The department is hosting a solar eclipse watch party open to the public on the day of the eclipse beginning at 8:30 am where staff and students will provide a play-by-play of the celestial moment, and local vendors such as Suenos Coffee, Castaneda’s Kitchen, Black Iron Catering, and Love Waffles will be on hand for anyone looking to purchase snacks. Telescopes for safe solar viewing will be set up throughout the field. Details here. For those looking for something a bit more casual, consider Flyby Provisions parking lot watch party which will then segway into a local artisans market featuring more than 20 local makers.

Those preferring more solitude in their nature experience should plan to hit the Sandia Mountain trails which are ideal for hiking or biking and provide options for beginner to advanced levels. The Petroglyph National Monument hiking trails are ideal for anyone looking for a historical hike that speaks to the city’s Native American culture. Pino Trail is just outside of the city and is considered an easy trail. Expect hikers, horseback riders, runners and dogs are welcome but they must be leashed.

A. Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Drive Time:

6.75 hours from Denver
8.5 hours from Las Vegas
7.75 hours from Houston

More Things to Do in Albuquerque

Coinciding with the Fiesta, the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center hosts the Albuquerque American Indian Arts Festival with more than 50 artists giving visitors the opportunity to meet, talk with, and shop directly from Native artists selling handcrafted art and jewelry during Balloon Fiesta’s opening weekend October 7 - 8 from 9 am - 4 pm. Visitors can enjoy delicious Indigenous food at the Indian Pueblo Kitchen, Native dances will be performed throughout the 10 day festival, which includes a number of guest speakers.

New Mexico’s 23 Native American pueblos, tribes, and nations have influenced nearly every aspect of life within Albuquerque. The culture is reflected in its food, art and architecture. No stop is complete without a visit to the IPCC. Complete programming here.

The Balloon Fiesta is a non-stop party for the city. The historical Old Town district will showcase live music and feature local cultural performances everyday of the festival.

Where to Eat and Drink in Albuquerque

VARA Winery and Distillery, a craft producer of New Mexican wines and spirits, will be extending hours and offering special menus for grab-and-go options for picnics (as well as offering picnic space on their property during the balloon fiesta). Adding to the week-long lineup of festivities, Vara will also host a barbecue pop-up with Grillmaster Calvin Evans, an Alb on October 11 at the Albuquerque tasting room. Tickets are $100 per person (a $45 vegetarian option is available) with the option to add on a $25 VARA wine pairing.

Watch balloons on the patio at Steel Bender Brewyard beginning at 7 am during the Balloon Fiesta. Craft beer, cider and housemade hot cocoa are on the menu alongside breakfast burritos and local pastries.

Where to Stay in Albuquerque

Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm is one of the city's most popular choices due to it sitting on a lavender farm where alpacas and peacocks roam the grounds freely. An on-site restaurant, bar, and spa make it easy to say yes too. But if that wasn’t enough, the property has a panoramic view of the Sandia mountains which turn pink as the sunsets due to the light refracting off the pink granite. Balloons are visible throughout the day even when it’s not Balloon Fiesta. If you prefer something off the beaten path, book a room at El Vado Motel off of historic Route 66. Rooms are modern and cozy and the property is located steps away from Old Town, ABQ BioPark Zoo, and there is a pool on-site. A number of local restaurants and shops are also located on property. For a spot somewhere in between these two there’s Hotel Zazz. Dr. Sharmin Dharas purchased the hotel from her parents and has focused on revitalizing the property and surrounding community while also promoting women of color in the hospitality industry.

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Ximena N. Beltran Quan Kiu is a Thrillist contributor.