Up, up and away at 6 top hot air balloon festivals
Monday, October 07, 2019
Few man-made sights are as colossal and colorful as hundreds of hot air balloons ascending from a picturesque natural setting into a clear blue sky.
It’s an awe-inspiring spectacle that draws millions of attendees to hot air balloon festivals across the United States each year.
Balloons may be the big attraction — but these festivals offer plenty more, including live music, food and other forms of family entertainment. So, if you’re ready for a truly uplifting experience — check out one or more of these top-notch hot air balloon festivals.
Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, New Mexico
You really have to see it to believe it. The world’s largest balloon celebration features more than 500 multicolored balloons rising in a vibrant tapestry against the rugged natural beauty of New Mexico’s high-desert landscape.
In addition to the twilight balloon glows, mass ascensions and special-shape rodeos made famous over the 48-year history of this nine-day event, visitors can enjoy a host of other activities including laser shows, chainsaw carving events, and music spectaculars that have hosted the likes of Three Dog Night, the Marshall Tucker Band and Justin Moore. Always in October, this year’s event started Oct. 5 and runs through Oct. 13.
National Balloon Classic, Iowa
For nine days every summer, the skies above Indianola, Iowa come alive with as many as 120 hot air balloons painting the horizon in a kaleidoscopic blaze of color. For nearly fifty years, talented pilots have competed for prizes at dawn and again at dusk at the National Balloon Classic, all the while dazzling thousands of guests below.
Fireworks, a gala parade, music events, a cornucopia of fattening foods and balloon rides combine to make this one of Iowa’s most popular summer events. 2020 dates: July 24 to Aug. 1.
Great Reno Balloon Race, Nevada
One of the best things about the Great Reno Balloon Race is that it’s completely free. Throughout the three-day event, festivalgoers at San Raphael Regional Park, just a few miles from downtown Reno, can enjoy the spectacle of a hundred or more vividly decorated balloons levitating above the city skyline.
This is, in fact, the world’s largest free hot air ballooning event. It all began in 1982 as an event designed to keep visitors in town between the Nevada State Fair and the famous Reno Air Races — and 38 years later it has become a nationally recognized event and a beloved community tradition. The visual drama of ballooning competitions, combined with plenty of food and family-oriented entertainment, has led to numerous awards, including “Best Special Event in Northern Nevada.” 2020 dates: September 11-13.
Teton Valley Balloon Rally, Idaho
The dramatic peaks of the Tetons make quite a backdrop for this four-day balloon fest — now in its 39th year — staged over the July 4 weekend at the Teton County Fairgrounds in Diggs. This is one of those location-location-location situations, what with Diggs being situated in the midst of a scenic and recreation paradise just minutes from Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.
Visitors experience the usual roster of ballooning events (early morning launches are the thing here), but also a fiddling contest, an Independence Day parade and public balloon rides. On-site RV camping is available. 2020 dates: July 2-5.
QuickChek Festival of Ballooning, New Jersey
Billed as the largest summertime hot air balloon and music festival in North America, the QuickChek Festival of Ballooning has been taking to the skies over Readington, New Jersey, for the last 38 years.
Featuring more than 100 balloons of all shapes and colors and big-name entertainment (like the Beach Boys and The Band Perry in 2019), the event also has been designated a ‘’Top 100 Festival in North America’’ for the sixth consecutive year by the American Bus Association. In addition to ballooning and music, QuickCheck’s 175,000 annual visitors can take part in a non-stop roster of activities, ranging from a 5K run to a fireworks spectacular.
FYI, QuickChek is a New Jersey-based convenience store chain that sponsors the event. 2020 dates: July 24-26.
Adirondack Balloon Festival, New York
Hot air balloonists from across the country and around the world have assembled each September in Glens Falls and the Lake George area of upper New York State for 47 years. The reason is obvious — a once-a-year opportunity to float high above the majestic Adirondack Mountains just as autumn colors emerge.
The main events of the festival take place on Saturday and Sunday at the Floyd Bennett Memorial Airport, beginning with a Big Balloon Breakfast in the airport hangar. Dawn and dusk lift-offs showcase the various shapes and colors of nearly 100 balloons — and that’s just part of the show.
Tethered balloon flights, kite flying, live music, dozens of food vendors and a big craft show featuring more than 40 artists round out this popular fall festival. Free admission is a bonus. 2020 dates: TBD.
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