Looking to be taken to new heights with some of the best 2024 hot air balloon festivals in the US? Then you’ve come to the right place.
The USA is renowned for hosting tons of great music festivals, but have you ever considered attending a hot air balloon festival?
Watching a hot air balloon ascend into the sky is quite a spectacular sight, but it’s even more magical when hundreds of them take off and fill the blue sky simultaneously. Hot air balloon festivals celebrate this unique mode of transport and bring together people of all ages.
You may be wondering, which hot air balloon fiesta is near me? Keep reading to discover the best ones in your state or a state near you with this list of the best hot air balloon festivals in the US.
1) Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
When: October 5-13, 2024
Where: Albuquerque, New Mexico
Bringing together more than 900 000 visitors over nine days, the Albuquerque International Music Fiesta is the biggest hot air balloon festival in the USA. This exciting festival features over 600 balloons in all sorts of special shapes, themes, and characters. The backdrop of this thrilling event is the incredible Sandia Mountains and New Mexico desert. With a history that dates back to 1972, it’s arguably the best hot air balloon festival in USA history, as it’s popular to this day.
The first balloon launches at around 6 am, and if you’re an early bird, you can watch as the sun rises and fills up with hundreds of balloons. If early mornings are not your thing, you can always watch as the balloons take to the air at sunset. Both occasions will provide you with excellent photo opportunities. Throughout the day, the festival is lined up with an exciting array of activities, from flying competitions to public balloon rides. While most do take to the sky, there are tethered rides for those with a serious fear of heights. There are also a ton of vendors selling all sorts of tasty foods, gifts, and clothing. This New Mexico hot air balloon festival also features live entertainment, car shows, and a firework show.
2) Colorado Springs Labor Day Lift Off
When: August 31-September 2, 2024
Where: Colorado Springs, Colorado
Taking place in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, the Colorado Springs Labor Day Lift Off is a hot air balloon event you don’t want to miss. Each year during Labor Day weekend, around 70 balloons take to the sky between 7 and 9 am in majestic fashion. This event has taken place in Colorado Springs for the past 40 years and draws thousands of visitors to its ground each year. Compared to other hot air balloon festivals in the USA, this one is relatively small.
But that doesn’t mean that it lacks entertainment and beautiful scenery. Watching the balloons fly over the Rocky Mountains and its surrounding area is really quite a spectacle to behold. So don’t forget to pack in your camera to capture some unforgettable memories. Its additional events include a hot air balloon race, a donut-eating competition, and a skydiving contest. Since Colorado Springs is a popular outdoor destination, visitors can also enjoy stand-up paddleboarding and wakeboarding in the nearby Prospect Lake. There are also numerous biking and hiking trails. After a full day of fun, you can stand back and watch as the balloons take to the sky again or join in on the fun of hot air ballooning with a ride.
3) Teton Valley Balloon Rally
When: July 4-7, 2024
Where: Driggs, Idaho
There’s no better place to spend Independence Day than at the Teton Valley Balloon Rally, one of the best balloon festivals in the US. With the amazing Teton Mountains as the backdrop, this hot air balloon festival takes place over three days and provides top-class entertainment. This festival has been taking place for about 40 years and features about 15 to 20 balloons. Each day begins with an early morning ascent. You can watch as the pilots and crew prepare the balloons for take-off, then watch them ascend into the sky as the first rays of light appear.
What’s great about this festival is that you can camp on the grounds where the balloon festival will be held, so you’ll be close to all the exciting action. Start the day off by grabbing some pancakes and other delicious food and prepare to be blown away. If you’re keen on some thrilling action, you can pre-book tickets to enjoy a hot air balloon ride. If you’re lucky, you may find walk-in flights and tethered balloon rides available in person during the festival. Throughout the day, you’ll enjoy various activities on the Driggs grounds, like parades, a fiddlers contest, and much more. To end off the weekend, you can catch the exciting 4th of July fireworks display to celebrate Independence Day.
4) New Jersey Lottering Festival of Ballooning
When: Hiatus in 2024, returning 2025
Where: Reading, New Jersey
This epic event in New Jersey is highly regarded as one of the best hot air balloon festivals in USA history — yes, it’s an all-timer. Running for nearly 40 years, it attracts over 100 000 people each year. It takes place every year on the 744-acre grounds of the Solberg Airport in Readington. This festival is one of the biggest events in New Jersey, taking place during the summer and featuring over 100 balloons. Here, you’ll find all sorts of balloons, including giant pandas, astronauts, and emoji-themed ones.
Each day starts with a morning take-off and ends with an evening ascent and descent. There are also plenty of other activities to enjoy, including a 5k race, a thrill show, and food and craft stalls to explore. What makes this festival unique is that you can book a VIP experience. This will include perks like front seats to balloon take-offs, access to private parties, and a sunrise brunch.
During the day, it also doubles as a music festival where artists from different genres take to the stage. You can end the day off by watching the balloons take off into the night sky, followed by a grand fireworks show.
5) Temecula Valley Balloon & Wine Festival
When: May 17-19, 2024
Where: Lake Skinner, California
Picture this. You’re staying in a luxurious Airbnb in Temecula Valley, California’s wine country. You’re about to attend one of the most romantic festivals in the valley and have a good time.
No, it’s not a dream. This could be you having the time of your life on one of the Temecula Valley Balloon and Wine Festival 2024 dates. It is one of the coolest hot air balloon festivals in California and should definitely not be missed. The festival takes place in the picturesque landscapes of the Lake Skinner Recreation Area and a number of stunning vineyards. This epic three-day festival combines the best hot air balloon experiences with some of the best food and wine in California.
In the morning, you can enjoy a balloon ride or watch as the balloons take off. Then, throughout the day, you can enjoy wine tasting and sample wines and craft beers from over 20 wineries. Pair your wine tasting with an array of delicious cuisine from over 100 vendors. If you’re not keen on drinking or taking to the sky, you can always enjoy some of the wine barrel races or live concerts. Or just soak in the atmosphere.
In the evening, you can watch the balloon glow show as a number of hot air balloons take to the sky just before sunset.
6) Great Forest Park Balloon Race
When: September, 2024
Where: St. Louis, Missouri
The Great Forest Park Festival is the second-oldest hot air balloon festival in the USA and will celebrate its 52nd edition in September 2024. For the last 50 years, it has been attracting over 100 000 people to St. Louis for a weekend of fun.
And the best part? Due to the event’s generous main sponsor, PNC Bank, it is completely free to attend. The only thing you’ll need to pay for is your food and drinks, with food trucks and festival food tents available. You can also bring your own refreshments, but you can’t bring cooking appliances or glasses. The event usually starts on Friday evening when thousands gather to enjoy live entertainment. Shortly after opening, the balloon glow starts just before sunset, when the balloons light up like fireflies.
The final day features hot air balloon races, an exciting skydiving performance, and an air race between over 70 experienced pilots. The day ends with crowning the winner and more entertainment.
7) Great Reno Balloon Race
When: September 6-8, 2024
Where: Reno, Nevada
The Great Reno Balloon Race is the largest hot air balloon festival in the US when it comes to free festivals. It attracts over 140 000 people a year from all around the globe. If you love hot air balloons, then you’ll enjoy this event. The event has humble beginnings starting off with a mere 20 balloons in 1982. Today more than 100 balloons can be viewed over the three-day event. Each day starts off bright and early when a few balloons rise up into the dark just before sunrise.
You can sign up for an early morning ride or just stand back and watch this marvelous display. Throughout the day, there are numerous activities that can be enjoyed by everyone. Some highlights of the Great Reno Race include the world’s biggest pajama party, the Balloon Blackjack competition, and the tissue paper hot air balloon launch. The toilet paper launch is the perfect event for kids, as they can show off their creative side. It features a number of balloon creations in all shapes, sizes, and colors made completely out of toilet paper. There’s also Balloon Boulevard, where you’ll find numerous food vendors and stalls selling gifts and souvenirs.
8) National Balloon Classic
When: July 26 – August 3, 2024
Where: Indianola, Iowa
The National Balloon Classic is one of the longest hot air balloon shows in the USA, taking place over a nine-day period. It’s been one of the most exciting Indianola events for the past 40 years. The opening night starts off with an evening take-off followed by a fireworks show.
Every day, over 100 colorful balloons paint a majestic picture in the sky as they float around the Indianola area. There’s also plenty to enjoy on the ground, where you can watch balloon races, skydiving demonstrations, and even a 5k race. There’s a stage featuring various live performances and food vendors serving up tasty treats. While you’re here, check out the National Balloon Museum, where you can learn more about the history of hot air balloons and view artifacts and exhibitions. In the evenings, you can watch as the balloons prepare to take off for the balloon glow. On the final night, this exciting event will be closed off with a cracking firework display.
9) Havasu Balloon Festival and Fair
When: January 18-21, 2024
Where: Lake Havasu City, Arizona
Voted as one of the best hot air balloon festivals in Arizona, the Havasu Balloon Festival and Fair is one of the best events that you can attend in the state. Set against the stunning scenery of Lake Havasu and the peaks of the rugged Mohave Mountains, this event is quite exciting. The festival takes place yearly over a weekend in late January. Every day starts off with an early morning ascension at around 6 am. After that, the funfair begins. Here you can enjoy live music, carnival rides, and all the delicious foods and treats associated with fairs. There are also numerous vendors selling cute arts and crafts. As evening approaches, enjoy basking in the glow of 100s of hot air balloons.
10) Red Rock Balloon Rally
When: December, 2024
Where: Gallup, New Mexico
“Get a bird’s-eye view of the red cliffs and valleys over Gallup. Each year in December, Gallup hosts the Red Rock Balloon Rally where over 200 colorful balloons can be seen at sunrise hovering above the beautiful red sandstone canyons and towering rock spires. Besides ballooning, the rally is a cultural event, where you can taste authentic New Mexican food, watch Native American dances, and shop for handcrafted Native arts and jewelry. Head to downtown Gallup for a Christmas parade and more celebrations. The best part is, admission is free to all events.”
11) Hot Air Balloon Festival
When: June 14-16, 2024
Where: Quechee Green, Vermont
“Once again, the skies over Quechee and the Upper Valley of Vermont and New Hampshire will be filled with hot air balloons ushering in the annual Quechee Hot Air Balloon, Craft & Music Festival, the longest running hot air balloon festival in New England. Don’t miss this exciting festival featuring up to 15+ hot air balloons with five flights scheduled throughout the festival and additional tethered rides during the day. Enjoy continuous music and entertainment for all ages, and over 50 craft artisans and commercial vendors and several interactive activities in our Free Kids Zone. And of course there will be festival food with local healthy options and a beer and wine garden, with more surprises on site!”
12) Alabama Jubilee Hot Air Balloon Classic
When: May 25-26, 2024
Where: Decatur, Alabama
“This is the main event! The hot air balloon activities of the Alabama Jubilee Hot Air Balloon Classic consist of four flight and event timeslots, the first is early Saturday morning (6:00am – 8:00am) and the second is late-afternoon Saturday (5:00pm – 8:00pm); then again in the morning and evening on Sunday (same times).
The mornings are reserved for aircraft competition tasks between pilots and their crews (sometimes called ‘races’…though this is no speed contest). Evenings consist of thirty balloons being allowed to ‘fun fly’ off the field or elsewhere in Decatur and thirty balloons stying on the Jubilee field giving a glow on Saturday and on Sunday giving tethers and static displays. Keep in mind we would love to have all 60 balloons on the field at-once, we just don’t have enough space!”
13) Arizona Balloon Classic
When: January 26-28, 2024
Where: Phoenix, Arizona
Arizona’s Premiere Hot Air Balloon Festival
“Held at the grassy fields of Goodyear Ballpark, located in the suburb of Phoenix, the Arizona Balloon Classic takes place every January. Festivities include a morning “Hare and Hound” competition, laser light shows, fireworks, and an all-day family fun zone.”
14) Sonoma County Hot Air Balloon Classic
When: July, 2024
Where: Santa Rosa, California
“The Sonoma County Hot Air Balloon Classic is an all-volunteer run non-profit organization. It’s because of you, our great volunteers that make our event so successful.”
15) Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival
When: May 2-4, 2024
Where: Foley, Alabama
“Foley is the spot for high-flying adventure and family fun at the Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival. Enjoy the entertainment, arts and crafts displays and more at the festival site daily. Balloon flights, glows and tethered rides (weather permitting) add to the fun at dawn and dusk. Admission is FREE!”
Am I missing any epic hot air balloon festivals?
There are a ton of hot air balloon festivals 2024 has in store for people who’re gaga about hot air balloons, including the ones I’ve listed above. However, I’m sure there are more that I haven’t mentioned here and I’d love to learn about them. So please do reach out if you know of any others.
Looking for more exciting festivals in the USA?
The USA is filled with a range of exciting things to do and places to stay. Check out some of my other articles to help you plan your next trip…
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