Do you think you ever grow out of getting excited whenever you see a hot air balloon?
There’s just something about seeing a balloon, majestically travelling across the sky, trusting the weather and conditions to get there safely. And hot air balloon festivals show that off in multiple beauty.
If you do, I’m definitely not there yet. They’re so fun to see and if you’re lucky enough to have been on a ride, you’ll know they’re incredibly fun to experience too. Floating thousands of meters above ground, you really feel like you’re straight out of a Disney movie (ahem Up) and it makes for such a magical experience.
What’s even more magical is seeing not one balloon but hundreds. And every year people have that same idea and host hot air balloon festivals across the globe to celebrate the art of hot air balloon riding that’s been going strong since 1783. Pulling in the craziest designs along with their trusty pilots and the general public for a mutual appreciation situation, these are just some of the best fests around for flying aficionados.
1. Bristol International Balloon Fiesta
Keeping it nice and local for you, the Bristol balloon fiesta is an annual balloon bash kicking off at the start of August for four days. Going strong since 1979, the event is now known as the biggest hot air balloon festival in Europe.
Over 130 balloons turn up to blow up and even more people stop by to see the morning rises, afternoon lifts and night glows. Stealing a little bit of the attention, the RAF’s Red Arrows and the EXIT parachute team also squeeze in a sky performance just to keep things interesting.
And best of all, the entire event is free. Although, they do charge a premium for parking close by (totally worth it).
2. Albuquerque Balloon Festival
And I thought Bristol Balloon Festival was big…
Starting off with just 13 balloons in 1972, this 9 day-long October event now pulls in 550 balloons. That makes Albuquerque, New Mexico, home to the biggest hot air balloon festival in the world.
While you can jump in a basket any day of the week, take part in the photo contest or listen to live music, Mass Ascension days are the best ones to drop by. These are the mornings all balloons and their crews gather just before sunrise so that as the sun comes up, so do they. Then there’s the Special Shape Rodeo, which showcases all the inventive balloon shapes, the various competitions and the balloon glows where balloons stay tethered but their fires are lit at night for a really cool effect.
Tickets for this one cost just $10.
3. Palm Beach Balloon Festival
The Palm Beach Balloon Festival takes place in Wellington, Florida.
Like the other balloon festivals there’s a Glow, tethered rides, actual rides, and some great street food and drinks to try. There are vendors, DJs and a great picnic vibe too. Seeing all the colourful balloons in the blue skies is definitely an experience to remember.
If you’re travelling out of Florida and need Fort Lauderdale airport parking to leave your car safely and securely, check out the link. You can park from just $5.09 per day, and, book through Parkos and you can even cancel upto 24 hours before your reservation too.
4. QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning
It seems America’s love for the balloon never burns out because further north at the Solberg Airport in Readington, New Jersey, you’ll find another ballooning celebration, the QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning (QuickChek are the sponsor).
Over the last weekend in July, it runs a schedule of twice a day mass ascensions, live music and special shape gatherings. But not just about the balloon, this fest helps you blow off your own steam with sessions of sunrise yoga, stretch classes and a 5k run alongside the balloons too. I feel like I know where I’d rather be for that race.
READ MORE: 40 World Festivals for Your Bucket List
5. International Balloon Festival of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu
Giving the US a run for its money when it comes to hosting the most impressive of North America’s ballooning events, Quebec puts on a week-long hot air balloon festival in mid August. There’s an extensive list of shows that has you snapping away at the pretty views, but then a full list of activities that’ll give you a new appreciation for the flame behind the flight.
There’s the balloon interpretation centre, virtual reality rides and competitions that test your ability to balloon pedal. This all comes with a side of live music across multiple stages, the optional balloon rides and a pilot meet and greet.
6. International Hot Air Balloon Festival
As if just flying high among the clouds wasn’t cool enough, try doing it in about the Alps. Hello breathtaking views.
Each year around 100 balloons and their crews park up in Switzerland’s Chateau-d’Oex for the 9-day event at the end of January into February. Err hello frostbite. The cold weather doesn’t seem to stop the pilots though with dozens of balloons taking part in numerous competitions and night-glow shows. These all pay homage to the first attempt at a round the world hot air balloon flight which set off from the same location back in 1999.
If you’d rather keep your feet firmly on the ground, you can still get your balloon fix with a visit to the Château-d’Oex Hot Air Balloon Museum. Tickets for the fest cost around £12 and the museum fee is included.
7. Saga International Balloon Fiesta
If you’re in Japan in early November, I’d make a pitstop in Saga in the south. Here, by the Kase River, over a million people and 100 balloons touchdown for the Saga International Balloon Fiesta. Going strong for over 40 years, it’s an annual showcase of the best balloon creations and a chance to pit balloons against one another in a series of sky high competitions.
For spectators, the event is entirely free and includes access to the Hot Air Balloon School where you can learn what it takes to run a balloon, a meeting of the most unique balloons at Balloon Fantasia and the night time mooring where you can see these beauties up close and all lit up.
8. Canberra Balloon Spectacular – Enlighten Festival
Rise and shine in the Australian city to the site of hundreds of balloons dotting the sky. Held over 9 days in March, people can sign up to join one of the many morning rides made by about 30 balloons or simply watch from below. While its all eyes to the sky during the day, at night the area around Old Parliament House comes alive with a market, food stands, and concerts.
Then there’s the Enlighten Illuminations which see the area all decked out in quirky lights at night. All of this provides the perfect backdrop for Canberra Day celebrations which usually falls mid festival on the second Monday in March.
Balloon festivals around the world
Bet you didn’t realise there were so many balloon festivals hey? Well, this is just an introduction to the hundreds out there. Have you ever been to a balloon festival? Let me know how you got on in the comments below.