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The 10 most spectacular hot air balloon festivals in the U.S.

Get in on the romance with the best hot air balloon festivals in the U.S. floating above New Mexico, New Jersey and beyond

Written by
Sucheta Rawal

Hot air balloons represent romance, joy, luxury and wonderment and for many a hot air balloon ride is a bucket list item because there’s something magical—almost hypnotic—about watching hundreds of colorful balloons gently rise into the skies. 

If you're interested in this magical form of transportation, hot air balloon festivals across the U.S. allow attendees to take affordable rides, meet the pilots, and learn more about the intricacies of flying the impressive inflatable nylons. The fests also allow you to enjoy the beautiful scenery and be outdoors with family-friendly festivities that include food, music, competitions and fanfare. 

Whether you are watching a morning candlelight glow, a visually dramatic sunrise ascension, or simply wandering through inflated works of art, you will find these hot-air balloon festivals around the U.S. are as impressive as they are memorable.

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Best hot air balloon festivals in the U.S.

Drawing over 900,000 visitors and 600 pilots from seven countries over a nine-day period, this is the largest and longest-running balloon festival in the country. It is a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle to watch over 500 hot air and gas-filled balloons shaped as animals, characters and cultural symbols ascend over the Sandia Mountains and New Mexico deserts.

The ideal October climate and wind pattern known as the Albuquerque Box offers perfect weather conditions to take off and land balloons, often from the same location. In October 2023, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta will be celebrating its 51st anniversary.

With a stunning backdrop of the glorious Teton Mountains Range, The Teton Valley Balloon Rally in eastern Idaho is one of the best places to celebrate the July 4 holiday. Spectators can camp at the balloon field in Driggs for the entire duration of the festival. No need to drive early morning, as you can walk from your camp site to your hot air balloon at dawn. Then return to the rally for country style pancake breakfast, watch an Oldtime Fiddlers’ contest, participate in the parades, and end the day with the Fourth of July fireworks.


Celebrate Labor Day weekend in Colorado, where you can see approximately 70 balloons against the panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains. Visitors from all around the state come to enjoy the festivities that include live entertainment, demonstrations by the USAFA Wings of Blue skydive jumpers, aerial acrobats, model balloon displays, and chainsaw carving and donut-eating competitions. Because Colorado Springs is a popular outdoor adventure destination, the festival also offers gusts to get together for stand-up paddle board, hiking, biking and other activities.

The world’s largest free hot air ballooning event takes place for four days in early September over the skies of Reno, in northern Nevada, drawing over 140,000 people each year. Similar to other balloon festivals around the country, you can watch illuminated balloons on cool early mornings during the Dawn Patrol, and sign up for a hot air balloon ride. But quirky competitions such as the airborne gaming Balloon Blackjack, E.L Cord tissue paper hot air balloon launch, and the world’s largest pajama party fest (where you are encouraged to show off your best "bed head") make Reno a fun and unique experience.


The largest summertime hot air ballooning and music festival in North America is an amazing spectacle where you can see Grammy Award-winning artists against a backdrop of balloons in every color of the rainbow. At the 744-acre site of Solberg Airport, families can witness ascensions of colorful 100 sport and special shaped hot air balloons twice daily, including iconic New Jersey Lottery Sunny Days, unicorn, giant sloth, and 110ft tall Unique Photo panda bear. But the biggest draw to this festival is the live concert lineup where legendary bands like Barenaked Ladies, the Jonas Brothers and KC and the Sunshine Band have played in previous years. 

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.


The longest-running hot air balloon festival in New England takes place at the Quechee Green in Vermont every June. Up to 20 hot air balloons soar the skies over Quechee and the Upper Valley of Vermont and New Hampshire, while craft artisans, live music and kids entertainment make up the festival grounds. If you are afraid of heights, you can experience what it’s like to be in a hot air balloon by going on a 50ft high tethered ride, for as little as $20.

This is the largest and oldest balloon rally in the state, that takes place every Memorial Day weekend. Here you can watch over 60 creatively designed balloons from around the country, some as high as seven stories tall. Along with competitive balloon races, the event also features antique car and antique tractors and engine shows. Located on the Tennessee River, the city of Decatur in North Alabama, is easily accessible, within a day’s drive from nearly half of the nation’s population.


Picture yourself in a red strawberry-shaped balloon sipping on California wines, while watching the sun rise over a vineyard. The romantic three-day long festival combines hot air ballooning with the best of California food and wine. Located at the picturesque hilly oasis surrounded by vineyards, Lake Skinner Recreation Area in Southern California is ideally located for a summer getaway. While at the festival, you can taste wines from over 20 California wineries, sample local craft beers, food and wine pairings, and delicious international cuisine served by more than 100 vendors. Even those who don’t drink or fly, can enjoy wine barrel races and live concerts at the Wine Stage.

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. The recently added, Desert Winds kite festival displays premier kite designs, show kites, candy canons, paper rocket making and launching and parachute ground racing. The balloon festival always has a community tie, donating a portion of ticket and beverage proceeds to a local non-profit.


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