|by JD Rinne||New Mexico, Albuquerque||5|
Every year, one of the most photographed events on Earth is the annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.
With more than 700 balloons, this year's festival offers a ton of activities over nine days. Expect to get up early: Opening ceremonies start at 6:45 a.m.(!) this Saturday, when the "Dawn Patrol" balloonists take to the skies to test the wind. Around 7:15 a.m., the Mass Ascension sees more balloons launch while the National Anthem plays. There's also a Special Shape Rodeo (bring on Mr. Potato Head!) and various competitions, including one modeled after Texas Hold 'Em poker.
Expect to stay up late: Evening events include Balloon Glows, where tethered balloons are lit from within (the effect is something like a Christmas ornament) and fireworks.
See the full schedule for details.
Can't make it? The Fiesta website offers live Balloon Cams during festival days—so that you can enjoy these airborne monoliths, even from afar.
Balloon Fiesta Park, 4401 Alameda Blvd NE. Tickets are $6 per adult per day; kids 12 and under are free. Parking is $10 per car. To order advance ticket packages, call 888/422-7277.
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