Unlike the famous fall hot-air balloon festival in Albuquerque, where free-floating craft crowd the sky with a riot of colors, the inflatable sculptures at the city's Balloon Fiesta Park this month won't lift off the ground. Instead, the tethered balloons will light up the winter night in a synchronized glow as propane flames illuminate them from within.
You can drive or walk past the 12-foot-high inflatables of storybook characters like Winnie the Pooh and Frosty the Snowman, then stroll along luminaria-lined walkways for a close-up look at two-story light sculptures of dancing polar bears, ice-skating penguins, a whale-riding Santa ― each made of hundreds of colored lightbulbs. Warm up at Mrs. Claus's Kitchen with hot cocoa, sweet bizcochitos, and green-chile stew, but be sure to stay for the fireworks display around 8.
Holiday Fiesta at Balloon Fiesta Park (6–9 Fri–Sun Dec 3–24; $5; Alameda Blvd. at Balloon Museum Dr.; www.balloonfiesta.com or 505/821-1000).