One of the best things about Reno that I look forward to year after year is the Great Reno Hot Air Balloon Festival!
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I really do love my hometown. Reno isn’t where most people would think of as the ideal place to purchase a home and raise a family, but it has sure won over my heart! (If you want to read more about my love for the Biggest Little City, check out our Home Tour feature on Design Mom).
We enjoyed it for the 6th year in the row last weekend, even just talking about it gives me all the butterflies, and after I go into detail, you’ll understand why.
So, hot air balloons are pretty cool in and of themselves. I mean, for one, they’re totally huge and not something you see every day just floating around outside. And, when there are literally a hundred of them flying through the sky at the exact same time, there is no other way to describe it than absolutely magical.
The Great Reno Hot Air Balloon Festival is an annual event in September, over the course of 3 days, that’s been a tradition since 1982. It also happens to be the largest free hot air ballooning event on the planet! According to the official website, 120,000 people attend the event each year.
Obviously this isn’t all locals; we get visitors from all over the world just to see these beautiful hot air balloons! Now go ahead and try to tell me that Reno isn’t amazing… ;)
Reno Hot Air Balloon Festival Tips
The event is so famous that Good Morning America has featured the race, CNN has provided coverage, and it’s even received worldwide media attention in Hong Kong, on Everyday with Rachael Ray, and in The History Channel Magazine.
Other fun facts: in 2008, the world’s largest PJ party took place at the Great Reno Balloon Race and in 2011! That’s how every hot air balloon party should be had in my book – cozy clothes and coco to share.
Favorite Hot Air Balloon Festival Events
There are lots of events within the festival that I just can’t stand to miss! The Super Glow Show kicks off the weekend with a few select balloons glowing and twinkling to choreographed music before they take off. Since the gates open at 3:30 am and the action starts at about 5, I’ve really learned to become a morning person over the years. Not that I’m enthusiastic to wake up that early every morning, but the hot air balloons make a few hours of lost sleep feel totally worth it! Plus, I always make sure to pack a giant thermos of coffee for me and the hubs and one of hot chocolate for the kids. Dawn Patrol is probably my favorite event the entire festival, as some of the most special balloons get to fly in the dark! They just look so beautiful glowing and floating in the few minutes before the break of dawn.
The crowd really starts to show up at 7 am for the Mass Ascension Launch where all of the balloons, nearly 100, fly at the same time. Because there’s so many, even if you can’t make it out to the field every day, you can still see the balloons floating in the sky from all over town. So neat!
Host A Hot Air Balloon Party
On top of all that, throughout the weekend there are various special events such as a tissue paper balloon launch, a Girl Scout scavenger hunt, a bed head competition (to go along with the PJ party), and tethered balloon rides, all great opportunities for kids to get in on the action.
This year we attended a little hot air balloon festival birthday party which seemed like just about the best idea ever for a birthday near September. To show up and have such a magical place to enjoy – bring coco, pop tarts and you’re basically done! Remind me to have my next baby in September.
Now, this is called the Great Reno Hot Air Balloon festival for a reason…there is an actual competition!
Participating pilots are all fighting for an $11,000 grand prize! On top of that, in the spirit of the great state of NV and all it’s gambling pleasures, a game of Balloon Blackjack takes place in the air as pilots enter the tournament from a thousand plus feet above ground! Pretty cool right? I’d be good with a simple ride in a hot air balloon being my only winnings ;) Have you ever been?
If after reading this post there’s no way you can stand to miss out on the fun (I sure don’t blame you!), the dates for the 2019 Great Reno Balloon Race are September 6-8. Me and my crew will be there partying it up for sure.
(Photography ©A Subtle Revelry by Ashlyn Savannah Photo).