Hot air balloon festivals attract loads of people, but if a fear of heights is keeping you from going, don’t fret—these events are mostly experienced by spectators on the ground. Whether you’re soaring through the clouds or watching from below, these six hot air balloon festivals from around the world are sure to get your blood pumping.
Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta – Albuquerque, New Mexico
During a nine-day stretch in October, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta transforms the sky into an enchanted world. Close to 1 million people attend each year with over 500 different balloons soaring into the desert sky. Patrons and pilots from all over the globe take part in a variety of hot air balloon competitions, live entertainment, a night-time balloon glow and even chainsaw carvings (yikes!). One of the most exciting things for visitors to experience is the festival-wide photo contest hosted by Canon.
Saga International Balloon Fiesta - Saga, Japan
In early November, the banks of the Kase River in Japan teem with nearly a million visitors for the Saga International Balloon Fiesta. Nearly 100 balloons are positioned along the riverside, creating a stunning display of flight that showcases balloons of all different shapes and sizes. The Balloon Fantasia is a popular attraction for children, featuring famous cartoon characters and funny animals in vibrant colors. Another main focus of the event is the Hot Air Balloon School that invites guests to learn the fundamentals of balloon aeronautics. Pilots put on interactive demonstrations and anyone interested is welcome to touch the balloons and snap a few memorable selfies.
Teton Valley Balloon Rally – Teton Valley, Idaho
Celebrate Independence Day weekend under technicolored skies at the Teton Valley Balloon Rally. The organizer of the event is a nonprofit that’s dedicated to preserving the beauty and allure of hot air ballooning for everyone around the world. The three-day event showcases a balloon launch every morning, along with tether rides, a walk-in balloon and a hot breakfast prepared by local volunteers. It’s the ultimate way to honor community and the American spirit, so after you have your pancakes, hop in a balloon and enjoy the countryside.
International Hot Air Balloon Festival – Chateau-d'Oex, Switzerland
Late January may not seem like an ideal time to float around, but in Switzerland the International Hot Air Balloon Festival at Chateau-d’Oex attracts visitors come snow or shine. More than 100 balloons with pilots from 20 different countries gather at the base of the Vaudois Alps to celebrate the New Year and pay homage to the area’s adventurous roots over nine days. The very first attempt to travel the world by hot air balloon in 1999 started in Chateau-d’Oex, so enthusiasts love to honor the tradition with a commemorative ascent into the skies. There’s also a hot air balloon museum for warming up after touchdown.
International Balloon Festival of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu – Quebec, Canada
The International Balloon Festival of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu in Quebec is the perfect vacation spot to end the season. With over 450,000 visitors annually, the festival is the nation’s most popular balloon event, featuring around 100 balloons in various colors and figures. After a long day of soaring, visitors can take their pick of a huge variety of events. Businesses from around Quebec all join together to make the weeklong festival one to remember.
Mondial Air Balloons – Lorraine, France
Started in 1989 to honor the bicentennial of the French Revolution, Mondial Air Balloons has emerged as one of the premier hot air balloon celebrations in Europe. Taking place every other year at the Chambley-Bussières Air Base, the event features over 400,000 visitors. In 2017, it set the world record for the most balloons taking off in a single ascent when 456 balloons took to the skies over the course of an hour.