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7-Eleven Balloon Discovery Center

How do balloons fly? How are they designed? How does the weather affect them? What’s the difference between a sport balloon and a gas balloon?

Visit the Balloon Discovery Center at Balloon Fiesta Park!

Admission is free once inside Balloon Fiesta gates.


6:00-11:00 a.m.
3:30-7:00 p.m.

If you’ve ever wondered any of these things, then the Balloon Discovery Center is the place to come.

Each year at Balloon Fiesta® balloon enthusiasts can get hands-on experience to learn about the sport and science of ballooning, and a behind-the-scenes look at Balloon Fiesta event operations. Located at the north end of Balloon Fiesta Park, the Balloon Discovery Center draws more than 30,000 visitors of all ages each year.

Interactive exhibits illustrate the principles of lighter-than-air flight, the history of the sport, and safety aspects of ballooning. A hot air balloon exhibit has a basket in which kids can "burn" the burners and simulate a balloon flight. Another exhibit demonstrates the "Albuquerque Box" effect.  Twice-daily speakers bring insight into the choreography of the event. And an Arts & Crafts area tickles the imagination of youngsters about the beauty of balloons.

These are just a few of the exhibits you’ll find inside the BDC.


How is a balloon made and constructed? If you don’t know the parts of the balloon, this is the perfect exhibit. Press the button by the name of a component, and a light by a picture of the component will light up. Larger-than-life graphics highlight the critical components for each balloon to safely take flight and return to earth.


What makes Albuquerque the Balloon Capital of the world? The Albuquerque Box and it’s unique weather and wind patterns make our city unlike any other – and perfect for flying balloons. This display shows how the “box effect” sits over Balloon Fiesta Park and surrounding areas. Press the button and see the balloons in action.


Some aspects of ballooning remains low-tech, and the basket – or gondola – is one of them. Most gondolas are made from wicker, to minimize the additional weight that the balloon must lift. This exhibit allows you to try your hand at weaving large-radius rattan into a gondola. When the wicker is soaked in water, it becomes pliable.  It is woven in a pattern in and out of the vertical supports.  As it dries it becomes rigid.


Weather conditions are critical in determining if a balloon can fly. The Weather Station is a working weather station used by our meteorologists to actually determine if balloons will fly or not.


How much do you think you know about ballooning? Let’s test your knowledge with quiz tables. If your answer is correct, a light will come on!

NASA at the BDC

"People will have an opportunity to learn about the many exciting things NASA is working on right now, such as the X-57 distributed electric propulsion aircraft and other New Aviation Horizons initiative proposed aircraft that will lead to reduced aircraft noise and emissions and maximize fuel economy," said Tony Springer, director of the Integration and Management Office at NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate.

NASA's aeronautics efforts are conducted at four field centers across the nation including Ames Research Center and Armstrong Flight Research Center in California; Glenn Research Center in Cleveland and Langley Research Center in Virginia.

A motor and propeller from a 31-foot-span, carbon-composite wing section called the Hybrid-Electric Integrated Systems Testbed will be on display. That research project was a step toward the distributed electric propulsion system developed for the X-57 Maxwell, NASA’s first human piloted experimental aircraft in decades.

Under NASA's Transformative Aeronautics Concepts program, the wing of an Italian-built Tecnam P2006T is being enhanced to feature an electric system. Eventually a special high aspect ratio wing with a distributed propulsion system will be used. Starting with an existing airframe, engineers will be able to compare the performance of the X-plane with the original aircraft. The project, which involves multiple NASA centers and industry partners, also could lead to improved aircraft efficiency, safety and economic benefits.

Another NASA exhibit attraction is a demonstration-sized scientific balloon from NASA's Balloon Program Office, which is based and managed at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Staff members will be on-site at the fiesta to welcome visitors and answer questions about the balloon program’s mission.

Other aspects of NASA's exhibit at the balloon fiesta include:

• Former NASA astronaut Mike Mullane, a veteran of three space shuttle missions, offers a view from above at two presentations. He is scheduled to speak about the Space Shuttle Program and life as an astronaut Wednesday, Oct. 5, at 8:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. MDT at the 7-Eleven Balloon Discovery Center. An aeronautics book give away also is planned for the same day.

• The Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy is a combination of the world’s largest airborne infrared telescope integrated into a NASA 747SP aircraft. An infrared camera display is used to show attendees how that type of imaging works.

• Former NASA Armstrong aerospace engineering technician Jim Sokolik will demonstrate a high-altitude pressure suit used by pilots of the retired Mach 3 SR-71 and the high-altitude ER-2 Earth resources aircraft.

• A tabletop pressure chamber will explain the requirements for high-altitude pressure suits with water boiling at low temperatures and marshmallow Peeps expanding and contracting.

• An F-15 cockpit simulator gives visitors the chance to picture themselves in the pilot's seat of the high-performance jet.

• A no-cost photo kiosk allows visitors to take a picture in a virtual environment that places them in a spacesuit. Nearby will be a machine that will turn a penny into a NASA souvenir.

STEM Flights at the BDC

Near Space Challenge: The 2016 Near Space Challenge is an inaugural event at the 45th Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. During this event, students from middle and high schools from New Mexico will compete in one of three competitions: The Scientific Engineering Challenge, The High Altitude Challenge and the Landing Accuracy Challenge. These events highlight student scientific and engineering work, while allowing them to compete for awards as well as high altitude and landing accuracy records. The six Scientific Engineering Challenge flights will launch on Oct 3rd, and three High Altitude Challenge and three Landing Accuracy Challenge flights will launch on Oct 4th. Elementary schools may also participate as part of "First Flight," similar to the Balloon Fiesta Dawn Patrol.

Balloon Fiesta Park

(For GPS planning only)
5000 Balloon Fiesta Pkwy NE

Mailing address

4401 Alameda NE
Albuquerque, NM 87113


Local: (505) 821-1000