There’s nothing quite as magical as seeing a mass ascension of brightly colored balloons as they take to the skies – it especially fun when special shapes are involved. Who doesn’t want to see unicorns, tigers, ice cream cones, and other unique shapes soaring overhead? If you want to experience hot air ballooning at its best, check out these hot air balloon festivals.
California Hot Air Balloon Festivals
Lake Skinner, CA – May
In southern California, the Temecula Valley Balloon & Wine Festival is one of the biggest hot air balloon festivals to attend. Held every year at Lake Skinner near Temecula, this three day event features hot air balloon flights in the mornings, balloon glow flights in the evening, wine tastings, food and drink vendors, and musical performances throughout the weekend by a variety of acts including headliners like REO Speedwagon, Brad Paisley, and more. They even have camping as an option for those that just don’t want to leave!
Cathedral City, CA – November
The Cathedral City Hot Air Balloon Festival and Food Truck Fiesta has been voted one of the best balloon festivals in the world. The 3-day festival includes fun family activities with a kids zone, balloon tether rides, nighttime balloon glows, live entertainment and musical performances, gourmet food, vendors, an art show and much more.
Old Town Clovis, CA – September
Held at the Clovis Rodeo Grounds, you’ll see hot air balloons lift off after sunrise to kick off this 2-day event. Explore 12 blocks of event space with craft and commercial booths, live entertainment, an International Village, beer garden, and family friendly activities.
Santa Rosa, CA – July
This 2-day event features live music and hot air balloons, plus a balloon field, glow show, kids zone, tethered balloon rides, vendors, and family activities.
Nationwide Hot Air Balloon Festivals
Albuquerque, New Mexico – October
This 9-day event is a spectacular festival with a special shape balloon rodeo, twilight balloon glows, morning glows, chainsaw carving, skydiving demonstrations, fireworks displays, live musical performances, dancing, and of course, plenty of food. This event gets thousands of attendees from all over the world to see hundreds of balloons floating through the sky. The festival grounds are a custom designed 365 acre park and is the largest ballooning event in the world. While here, visit the PNC Bank Balloon Discovery Center to learn about the science and sport of ballooning with hands-on activities and a behind the scenes look at event operations.
Phoenix, Arizona – January
The Arizona Balloon Classic features many beautiful hot air balloons with morning launches and evening glows. Plus food and vendors, music, and fun family activities. While you’re here, take a tethered balloon ride in a tethered balloon that lifts up to 75 feet in the air.
Angel Fire, New Mexico – June
Generally held for three days over Father’s Day weekend, and is one of the few high-mountain balloon events. Watch an early morning mass ascension at the Angel Fire airport, talk to the balloon pilots, learn how hot air balloons work, and explore the Angel Fire grounds.
Bluff, Utah – January
This 3-day event in Bluff, Utah is a beautiful display of hot air balloons floating over the red rocks and nearby Valley Of The Gods. The event includes an art fair, live music, tethered balloon rides, and more.
Colorado Springs, Colorado – Labor Day Weekend
This 3-day balloon event over Labor Day Weekend includes morning and evening sessions with balloon lift offs, remote control balloon displays, skydive jumpers, beer and mimosa garden, aerial acrobats, live musical performances, Warbird flyover, family activities, and more.
Readington, New Jersey – July
Held at the Solberg Airport, this 3-day balloon festival includes musical performances by popular acts, over 100 balloons, family entertainment, crafts and vendors, and a fireworks show. There is also a Running With The Balloons 5K. Enjoy sport balloons and special shapes as they take to the sky.
Prosser, Washington – September
The Great Prosser Balloon Rally sunrise launches are held at the Prosser Washington Airport during this 3-day event. Spectators may even be invited to participate in inflating and recovering the hot air balloons. There are family activities all weekend long, a night glow, harvest festival, farmers market, and a painting festival.
Reno, Nevada – September
One of the largest free hot air ballooning events, this 3-day festival features over 100 balloons taking to the skies of Reno. Held at San Rafael Regional Park, guest will enjoy spectacular balloons, live musical performances, super glow shows, Balloon Boulevard with crafts, shopping, food and beverages, tethered balloon rides, and a tissue paper balloon launch.
Longview, Texas – June
The Great Texas Balloon Race has earned Longview the title of The Balloon Capital of Texas, and for good reason. The annual event draws some of the best pilots to this hot air balloon competition with flights scheduled each morning from Friday through Sunday. Another fun fact, this is where Balloon Glows got their start! After the competition flights, attendees can enjoy inflations of special shape and other balloons, live music concerts, the Up & Away 5K, and other fun family activities.
Quechee, Vermont – June
The skies of Vermont and New Hampshire come alive with the sight of colorful balloons during this 3-day event. In addition to being a balloon festival, this is also a craft and music event, featuring music and entertainment, lots of craft artisans and vendors, a kids zone with interactive activities, beer and wine garden, festival food, and tethered balloon rides.
Decatur, Alabama – Memorial Day Weekend
This annual Memorial Day event takes place over two days with free admission and parking. Attendees can enjoy onstage ceremonies, live musical performances, a tractor show and car show, arts and crafts, plenty of food and drinks, vendors, and fun activities and games for the whole family.
Lancaster, Pennsylvania – September
This magical display of colorful balloons is a sight to see over the Lancaster landscape. Held in the villages of Bird-In-Hand, spectators can enjoy a mass launch, balloon flights, balloon glows, tethered rides, Hare & Hound Race, fireworks display, performers, live music, kids activities, family entertainment, and plenty of food and drinks!
Pahrump, Nevada – November
This 3-day event at Petrack Park includes balloon launches every morning at 7am, a Veteran’s Day Sunrise Service, balloon glows, music by DJs, food, vendors, a car show, horseshoe and cornhole tournaments, and kids activities.
Plano, Texas – September
The Plano Balloon Festival is a 4-day event featuring balloon glows, concerts all weekend long, parachuting exhibitions, fireworks, a kids zone, and of course balloon launches. Don’t miss out on the beautiful balloons at this exciting annual hot air balloon festival.
Gallup, New Mexico – December
This 3-day event is set among the gorgeous Red Rocks and features majestic mass ascensions, balloon glows, hand crafted Native American arts and crafts, Native American Dances, a balloominaria, vendors, a parade, art show, nightly balloon glows, and much more.
Boise, Idaho – August
One of Boise’s award-winning events, the Spirit Of Boise Classic gathers in Ann Morrison Park and features bright beautiful balloons, lots of music, free for kids tethered balloon rides, meet and greet with pilots, night glows, and much more. This event includes sport balloons and lots of special shapes as well.
Driggs, Idaho – July
This multi-day hot air balloon rally is one of Teton Valley’s best community events, and is generally held over 4th of July weekend. Spectators can drive in for a morning balloon launch, or camp at the balloon field. If it’s not enough to camp out and enjoy the sight of balloons soaring overhead, you can purchase your own hot air balloon ride during the rally.
Longview, Texas – June
The US National Hot Air Balloon Championship runs alongside the Great Texas Balloon Race Competition (see above). Don’t miss out on this exciting ballooning event in the Balloon Capital of Texas.
International Hot Air Balloon Festivals
There are hundreds of hot air balloon festivals that take place all over the world. Here are a few to experience for yourself if you’re traveling abroad!
- Bristol International Balloon Fiesta: Bristol, England – August
- Canberra Balloon Spectacular: Canberra, Australia – March
- European Balloon Festival: Igualada, Spain – July
- International Balloon Festival of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu: Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, Canada – August
- International Hot Air Balloon Festival: Chateau-d’Oex, Switzerland – January
- Mondial Air Balloons: Lorraine, France – July
- Saga International Balloon Fiesta: Saga, Japan – November
- Taiwan International Balloon Festival: Taitung City, Taiwan – June
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Heidi Deal is the author of the Newcomers Handbook to Living In Los Angeles & Orange County, and a children’s book author specializing in history and human rights.