Nothing quite compares to witnessing a mass ascension at dawn, when hundreds of colorful hot air balloons lift off the ground and fill the sky above. But the fun of hot air balloon festivals doesn’t stop there: Many of these events feature a variety of exciting ventures, such as skydiving shows, fireworks, music performances and night glows, where grounded balloons twinkle in the dark. From New Mexico to Japan and everywhere in between, hot air balloon festivals offer spectacular sights and plenty of family-friendly activities.
Whether you’re watching hot air balloons take off, flying in one yourself or enjoying other festival entertainment, these 14 top hot air balloons festivals are sure to impress.
Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, New Mexico: Oct. 1-9
(Bennie Bos/Courtesy of Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta)
The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta has come a long way since the launch of just 13 balloons in 1972. Now the largest balloon festival in the world, the Balloon Fiesta welcomes hundreds of thousands of guests during the first nine days of October – when the climate is ideal for piloting these vessels – to watch around 600 balloons fill the Albuquerque sky. This renowned fall festival, considered one of the top things to do in New Mexico, even boasts the title of “the world’s most photographed event,” with an estimated 25 million photographs captured.
Beyond ballooning, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta features a chainsaw carving exhibition, skydiving shows, music performances, fireworks and more on its 350-acre site, Balloon Fiesta Park, which also offers glamping options for overnight attendees. Other nearby lodging options include Embassy Suites by Hilton Albuquerque and Sheraton Albuquerque Uptown.
Address: Balloon Fiesta Park, Albuquerque, NM 87121
New Jersey Lottery Festival of Ballooning in Readington, New Jersey: July 29-31
(Courtesy of New Jersey Lottery Festival of Ballooning)
The New Jersey Lottery Festival of Ballooning is the largest summertime hot air balloon festival in North America, with up to 100 balloons taking flight during the last weekend of July. Held at Solberg Airport in Readington, New Jersey, this festival features family-friendly entertainment, concerts, fireworks and a unique way to watch the mass ascension: by joining nearly 1,000 participants on the Running with Balloons 5K, which ends at the center of the festival. This one-of-a-kind race starts not with a pistol shot or air horn, but with a human cannonball stunt, where record-holding Davis “The Bullet” Smith launches out of a cannon 75 feet into the air and over the crowd.
Address: 39 Thor Solberg Road, Whitehouse Station, NJ 08889
Carolina BalloonFest in Statesville, North Carolina: Oct. 14-16
Established more than 45 years ago, the Carolina BalloonFest is one of the longest-running hot air balloon events in the U.S. and a big source of pride for the community of Statesville, located about 40 miles north of Charlotte, North Carolina. This community event keeps attendees entertained all day long with three mass ascensions, hot air balloon competitions, tethered rides and a skydiving exhibition. Thrill-seekers can attempt a run on a “Ninja Warrior” obstacle course, while those looking to relax can enjoy a drink at the wine and craft beer garden. Kid-friendly activities include free magic shows and inflatables, or bungee jumping and walk-in balloons for a small fee.
Single-day tickets, weekend passes and VIP experiences are available for advance purchase online. Nearby hotels include Hampton Inn & Suites Mooresville / Lake Norman, Wingate by Wyndham Mooresville and Hilton Garden Inn Charlotte Mooresville.
Address: 260 Hangar Drive, Statesville, NC 28677
New York State Festival of Balloons in Dansville, New York: Sept. 2-5
Join an anticipated 30,000 attendees over Labor Day weekend at the New York State Festival of Balloons, which is situated about 75 miles east of Buffalo and has been in operation for more than 40 years. Originally known as the Greit Balloon Rallye, this Dansville festival earned its designation as the New York State Festival of Balloons by the State Legislature in 1997. Activities include tethered rides for a fee, music, arts and crafts vendors, an international food court, a car show, and rides and games for children. Camping is available for a fee as well.
Address: Dansville Municipal Airport, Dansville, NY 14437
Colorado Springs Labor Day Lift Off in Colorado Springs, Colorado: Sept. 3-5
(Courtesy of Colorado Springs Labor Day Lift Off)
There’s no shortage of activities both on the ground and in the air at the Colorado Springs Labor Day Lift Off. About 70 balloons soar over Colorado Springs during the festival, with balloon occupants taking in stunning views of Pikes Peak, Garden of the Gods and more. Other festivities include running a 5K, paddleboarding on Prospect Lake, listening to live music, and watching a skydiving show and aerial acrobats. While admission is free, attendees may want to purchase a parking pass.
Address: 1605 E. Pikes Peak Ave., Colorado Springs, CO 80910
Annual Cathedral City Hot Air Balloon Festival & Food Truck Fiesta in Cathedral City, California: Nov. 18-20
(Courtesy of Cathedral City Hot Air Balloon Festival)
Located just 7 miles from Palm Springs, Cathedral City is home to the Annual Cathedral City Hot Air Balloon Festival & Food Truck Fiesta, presented by Agua Caliente Casinos. Though the festival is newer than others at less than 10 years old, the 2021 iteration of this spectacle saw thousands of attendees and nearly 30 hot air balloons in mid-November. This year, spectators can look forward to gourmet food trucks, tethered rides, night glows, music performances, family-friendly activities and more. Accommodation options include Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage and The Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa.
Address: 68526 Avenida Lalo Guerrero, Cathedral City, CA 92234
The Great Reno Balloon Race in Reno, Nevada: Sept. 9-11
(Courtesy of The Great Reno Balloon Race)
Festival-seekers looking to save money should plan a trip to see The Great Reno Balloon Race, which claims the title of the largest free hot air ballooning event. Each year, revelers can watch up to 100 balloons fill the sky – a much larger gathering than the Reno festival’s start in 1981, when just 20 balloons took flight. An immense 120,000 spectators now attend this festival – set the weekend after Labor Day – and participate in a variety of activities intended for all ages to enjoy. Early risers can watch the Super Glow Show at around 5 a.m. each morning, when more than 30 balloons twinkle along to music; students from regional school districts can take part in the Tissue Paper Balloon Launch. All attendees of The Great Reno Balloon Race can show their respects at the 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony taking place before the last mass ascension. There are a plethora of Reno hotels and casino resorts for attendees to spend the night, such as Atlantis Casino Resort and Spa.
Address: 1595 N. Sierra St., Reno, NV 89503
International Balloon Festival of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, Canada: Aug. 13-21
The nine-day International Balloon Festival of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu is the largest gathering of balloons in Canada. Celebrated in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, a city within the province of Quebec, the festival features mass ascensions, rides, games and music performances with popular headliners such as Jason Derulo. This event is designed to be a complete pop-up city, with facilities spanning food stations and relaxation areas. Admission is pricier than at other balloon festivals, but a nine-day discounted passport can help keep costs down. Camping is available, and nearby hotel properties include AloBerge, Auberge Harris and Auberge du Lac Champlain.
Address: 5 Chemin de l’Aéroport, Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, QC J3B 7B5
Bristol International Balloon Fiesta in Bristol, England: Aug. 11-14
(Courtesy of Bristol International Balloon Fiesta)
Every August, the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta welcomes more than 100 hot air balloons from around the globe to Bristol, an English city about 120 miles west of London. With a plethora of trade stands and food stalls, you’ll have no problem staying busy during the day – and at night, 20 balloons light up to a specialized soundtrack from BBC Radio Bristol, followed by a spectacular fireworks display. While admission is free, visitors with a car must purchase a parking ticket. There are no official campsites at this fiesta located at Ashton Court, but you can seek out camping options nearby or find hotels like The Bristol Hotel and Bristol Marriott Royal Hotel.
Address: Ashton Court Estate, Bristol, BS41 9JN, UK
International Hot Air Balloon Festival in Château-d’Oex, Switzerland: Jan. 21-29, 2023
Less than 90 miles from Geneva, Château-d’Oex – known as the hot air balloon capital – plays an important role in ballooning history: In 1999, this beautiful Alps municipality was the launch site of the first hot air balloon tour around the world. Visitors can learn more about the balloon – named Breitling Orbiter and piloted by Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones – at the unique hot air balloon museum, Espace Ballon, located at the center of the town. Château-d’Oex celebrates ballooning with the nine-day International Hot Air Balloon Festival in January, featuring 60 balloons and pilots from 15 different countries. Tickets are available on-site at the event, which boasts glowing night shows and balloon flights in addition to sporting competitions and a children’s day. Lodging options include Hotel Roc et Neige and Hotel de Ville.
Address: Place du Village 6, CH-1660 Chateau-d’Oex, Switzerland
European Balloon Festival in Igualada, Spain: July 7-10
As the largest balloon festival in Spain, this Igualada celebration expects more than 25,000 guests and 50 balloons in July 2022. The European Balloon Festival includes balloon competitions, live music, kids’ activities, a night glow event and fireworks. Located about 40 miles northwest of Barcelona, Igualada is home to several properties perfect for a weekend stay, such as Cal Roure Boutique Hotel.
Address: Igualada Parc Central, 08700 Igualada, Barcelona, Spain
Saga International Balloon Fiesta in Saga, Japan: Nov. 2-6
Despite the challenge of volcanic mountains, large rice farms and wind direction changes, the Saga International Balloon Festival is the largest hot air ballooning event in Asia, drawing in a staggering 800,000 spectators and many international balloonists. The festival fosters a competitive spirit, having hosted the World Hot Air Balloon Championships three separate times. This free balloon extravaganza takes place in early November. Though the city of Saga sits in a rural part of southwestern Japan, you can find many options for accommodations, including ryokans (traditional Japanese-style inns) and hotels around the center of downtown Saga.
Address: Ogino Kasemachi, Saga, 840-0864, Japan
Taiwan International Balloon Festival in Taitung, Taiwan: July 2-Aug. 15
The Taiwan International Balloon Festival has brought global attention to the country, with the celebration welcoming more than 7.5 million visitors in its first 10 years. This festival boasts a number of unique accomplishments, such as setting the world record for longest-running balloon festival in 2013 at 66 days. Located in southeastern Taiwan in the remote city of Taitung, the event has helped Taitung’s tourism industry thrive. When the time comes to unwind after fun-filled days admiring themed balloons or going for a tethered ride, attendees of this summer festival can find accommodation at Sheraton Taitung Hotel.
Address: No. 276, Zhongshan Road, Taitung City 95001, Taiwan (R.O.C.)
Canberra Balloon Spectacular in Canberra, Australia: March 2023
(Courtesy of Events ACT)
Held for up to two weeks in the middle of March in Australia’s capital city, the Canberra Balloon Spectacular at Enlighten Festival highlights more than 25 balloons, including a featured balloon (which was Tico the Sloth at the 2022 festival). This community event is free to attend and also presents live music and hot breakfast at dawn. Canberra hotels include Deco Hotel, Pavilion on Northbourne and Avenue Hotel Canberra.
Address: Patrick White Lawns, Queen Elizabeth Terrace, Parkes ACT 2600, Australia