There are few activities more intimate and serene than a hot air balloon ride with a special someone. But there’s no rule against sharing your love of ballooning with a crowd, right? That’s why so many cities across the U.S. host hot air balloon festivals every year, drawing adventurers and admirers alike for food, fun, and of course, the magic of flying through the air.
Here’s a quick guide to five of the most popular hot air balloon festivals around the country, in no particular order (although we think you’ll be able to guess our favorite):
Temecula Valley Balloon & Wine Festival
The Temecula Valley Balloon & Wine Festival has something for everyone, not just balloon enthusiasts: top-name entertainment, commercial exhibits, tons of food options, a Kids Faire, and because this is Temecula, wine tasting plays a starring role of course.
Balloon launches at the festival start at sunrise, and for those new to ballooning, there’s a tethered ride that ascends 50-75 feet for an amazing view of the festival grounds. And after sunset, the popular Evening Balloon Glow is quite a sight to behold for spectators cozied up with a glass of local wine.
Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
Albuquerque claims its annual festival is the largest ballooning event in the world, and they might be right. From modest beginnings in 1972 with 13 balloons in a mall parking lot, Balloon Fiesta now features over 500 balloons and multiple events at the custom-designed, 365-acre Balloon Fiesta Park.
In addition to dozens of balloon-specific events, the festival features live entertainment on the Main Stage, wandering performers along Main Street, a juried art show, and a chainsaw carving competition because, well… why not?
U.S. Bank Kentucky Derby Festival Great BalloonFest
Every year during the month-long Kentucky Derby Festival, hot air balloons show off their own racing skills before the horses take the spotlight. The Great Balloon Race and Rush-Hour Race are thrilling to watch, and the Charity Race—in a traditional Hare & Hound format—involves local celebrities dropping bags filled with bluegrass seed as close to an “X” marked on the ground as possible.
The Great Balloon Glow is also popular, as spectators watch glowing balloons “dance” in synchronized fashion to a special musical score, and the Great Balloon Glimmer—also known as a “mini-glow”—lights up the Great Lawn of Louisville’s Waterfront Park with spectacular colors.
The Quechee Hot Air Balloon Craft and Music Festival
The longest-running hot air balloon festival in New England, this festival blends the bright colors of over 20 balloons with music, entertainment, commercial vendors and craft artisans. Kids can be kept busy with Euro Bungee, a rock climbing wall, a bounce house, and other activities while their parents relax in the beer and wine garden.
But the must-do activity of the festival is a 40-minute ascension ride that offers stunning views of the 164-foot-deep Quechee Gorge and ends with a glass of champagne, in “keeping with ballooning tradition,” according to festival info.
Sonoma County Hot Air Balloon Classic
Ideal for balloon fans and morning people, the gates at this weekend festival open at 4 a.m. with two separate launches, although the first, at 5 a.m., is technically a “balloon glow” because it will still be mostly dark outside.
Other activities include five- or ten-minute tethered balloon rides with excellent views of Windsor, California’s old downtown and lush parks, plus food, craft booths, and a kid’s play area. Then again, it might be best to leave the kiddos at home—the Sonoma County Hot Air Balloon Classic would make an excellent side trip for a wine-tasting tour through California’s second-most-famous wine region, with over 400 wineries to choose from!
Can’t wait until the next festival to get your hot air balloon fix?
At Compass Balloons, we offer two ride locations for a range of stunning views: Temecula, where you’ll glide over the gorgeous vineyards; and Del Mar, where epic views of the Pacific rival the majestic mountains to the east. If you’re looking to book an unforgettable event for you and your special someone (or a group of special someones—we can accommodate up to 8 people per basket), give us a call at 760-704-7407.