A whole LOT about RVing at the Balloon Fiesta!
Updated: Dec 1, 2022
I'll just park at the Balloon Fiesta with my RV so I'm close to the fun… Sounds simple, right?
Oh NO! Simple is not the word we would use to describe RVing at the ABQ Balloon Fiesta. We learned a whole LOT about RVing at the Balloon Fiesta this first year. Things to consider when booking your RV lot spot for the Fiesta should include: location, dates, transportation, and capability of your RV. Please note that every year of the Fiesta is slightly different but this is what we learned about RVing from our RV experience at the 50th Balloon Fiesta in 2022.
There are 4 different RV lots at the Fiesta: Each has its pros and cons.
For the 50th Balloon Fiesta we stayed in the South RV lot at the Fiesta. The South lot also has different options: Premium, Standard and Box View. Waking up to hot air balloons flying over you is one of those moments in life that you'll never forget! It's magical!
So as we discovered, the balloons may not fly over your spot every morning so the longer you stay the greater chance you will have for favorable winds to fly the balloons over you.
HIGHLY RECOMMEND: If you are up for it bring your breakfast to the roof and get the best morning show you can imagine! We brought chorizo breakfast burritos from Stripes, a local burrito must!
See map above for more clarification about site locations and kinds of spots in South lot. The box view are sites in the South RV lot that surround a field that balloons often land in or use for touch and go practice, it is a very active area.
Even though we did not stay in these other RV lots, here are some pros and cons we observed:
VIP WEST AND SOUTH have the most balloon flyovers because the ABQ box pushes the balloons from the launch field directly over these lots. Viewing the morning launch from our RV roof in the South lot was a special treat!
VIP North is closest to the fireworks launch area which if you have animals in your RV, this spot can be very noisy! We were glad for our animals sake that we were located in the South lot which is as far away from fireworks as possible, but you can still see part of the show.
Presidents Compound and VIP EAST both have a commanding side view of the field which is great to see inflation, lift, glows. These lots are super close to the field and you pay for that. They are the most expensive lots at the Fiesta. Occasionally winds launch balloons in this direction to fly over these lots, but it is not the normal.
To give you some perspective on the variety of cost options for staying in a RV spot at the Fiesta: the cost for staying the whole Fiesta at the Presidential RV lot (which is the most expensive) versus the South lot (which is the least expensive) is $2500 vs. $420.
As a reference, the Fiesta sold out of South RV lot spots in 45 minutes for the 50th! Booking these RV spots is in early January and it is just as competitive as getting tickets to a popular concert. We recommend talking with your group and creating first, second and third preference (including dates) going into the booking season, because your available choices change fast! We learned this firsthand as we booked our South RV lot spot: Within 1 minute of checking for availability on different dates we lost our box view spot and had to immediately turn to our next choice grabbing a standard option in the South RV lot. We ended up loving our standard spot so in our opinion, the experience is usually a positive one even if you don't get your first choice. But fair warning, until you click the reserve and pay button, all sites are up for grabs. Booking RV sites occurs in January but actual dates vary year to year. Check out this years dates on the official Balloon Fiesta page.
Date of arrival will affect your assigned site because the RV lots are rally style parking, which means first come first serve. If you are traveling with a group, you need to arrive together to be parked together. Large sections of the lot are booked for travel groups such as Fantasy RV tours who will be put in a general area together.
Arriving as early as possible will affect your site location. The sooner you arrive, the easier the parking situation and the better spot you will be assigned. If you want to stay the entire time the lots are open, you book 15 days. The earliest you can arrive is the Monday prior to the Fiesta kicking off. The lots are open for a total of 15 days, 14 nights, which is 5 days before the Fiesta and 1 day after the Fiesta. Monday - Thursday bookings prior to the Fiesta are half price on all RV lots.
Those arriving in a fifth wheel as close to South RV lots opening can request a spot on what is unofficially known as fifth wheel row. Fifth Wheel Row is located just north of the box view sites in the row between the box view sites and the cemetery. The perk of fifth wheel row is you get many more balloon flyovers since lots of pilots aim to to touchdowns or land in the box in the South RV lot. In other words it is a VERY active area! If you get one of these sites many people end up staying at their site more and only go to a select few Fiesta Events because the Fiesta is basically coming to you.
Once the Fiesta starts transportation in and out can be difficult, especially leading into a morning or evening session. Understandably, Balloon Chase crews and emergency vehicles have priority. So don't think you'll run out for a quick bite to eat or coffee. If you prefer to have an exit, note that the South lot has a side entrance where you can cut through the industrial area.
There are a lot of transportation options for the Fiesta: simply walking, catching a ride on a cart, biking, hopping on a bus and for those coming from outside the festival grounds you could take your own vehicle and pay for parking or take a park and ride. If you'd like to know more about all of these transportation options you can read about them in detail in our blog,
The BIG SHARE: TOP 6 things we learned from our first year at the Balloon Fiesta!
Here we are going to highlight the top 3 modes of transport for those in the RV lots: walking, bikes, and buses. We mainly walked and while the mileage can add up going back and forth, it honestly doesn't feel like that far of a walk when you are walking among all those buzzing with fiesta excitement. Bicycles are also a great option and there is a free bike valet just outside the Fiesta gates. Your bike will be stored behind a fence in an open air forum and you will be handed a ticket to redeem your bike later, just like a parking valet or a coat check. Do not lose you ticket and note that bikes not picked up upon the bike valet closing for the day will be put in reclaim storage. The bike valet is a great option but be advised the line can get very long, especially in the evening while the valets are hunting to match tickets to bikes in the dark. From about an hour before to an hour after each session there are buses that circle the RV lots. This is a free service and a great way to get to and from the RV lots. There are designated pick up points in the lots but as we were told and experienced if you hail the bus they will stop and pick you up.
Capability of your RV
Knowing the capability of your RV while dry camping (which means no hookups) will help you understand how long you want to stay at the Fiesta. The question you should ask yourself: How long can my tanks and power last when I am completely unplugged? The Fiesta offers tank services for an additional cost at the RV lots. Once you park your RV you cannot move your RV until you are leaving. You can and will probably need to schedule a fill and dump if you stay for long enough. The water fill and tank dump were each $30. We dumped and filled once for a bill of $60, CASH ONLY! RECOMMENDATION: We stayed at a local RV park just before and after the Balloon Fiesta in order to top off our batteries, grocery shop, empty tanks and fill up on fresh water before entering and the Fiesta lot.
Generators are allowed but be mindful of generator hours. We ended up putting our generator on between morning and evening sessions, which worked out well for us. Also note that the wind can blow the exhaust into your neighbors area, so try to find a good spot to put your generator so you don't make too much noise and pollution for your neighbors. We moved our generator to near our kitchen slide and it was the best for us and our neighbors. Your location for your generator will vary but be generator aware so you can be a good neighbor. Also note, as per the rules generators must be elevated two feet off of the ground, so bring a small table to give your generator lift!
Checking in / Arrival:
Most people will tell you to arrive early in the day, but that was not our experience. We were prepared to sit in line because we got a late start but arriving early afternoon worked out in our favor. We arrived on a Thursday afternoon before the Fiesta about 1:30 pm and there was absolutely no one in line! We saw a major line develop on the Friday before the Fiesta so we highly recommend arriving before the Friday rush!
For More on the Balloon Fiesta:
Please note these additional blogs and video contain information about our experience at the 50th Balloon Fiesta in 2022, note every year of the Fiesta is slightly different.