Set your alarm clock, get up before dawn and watch the balloons rise with the sun. The wide open spaces and blue skies of Texas are the perfect backdrop for these colorful, six-story flying ships. Here are four not-to-miss Texas balloon events including the prestigious U.S. Hot Air Balloon Championship.
Take to the Skies Airfest (formerly Dallas Fort Worth Summer Balloon Classic)
Airfest features a traditional evening balloon glow and much more. Helicopters, vintage airplanes, sky divers and powered gliders all perform in this unique combination air show and balloon festival. Don’t miss the Trojan Phlyers. These daredevils pilot T-28 Navy aircraft entertaining crowds with their formation and acrobatic flying.
Great Texas Balloon Race in Longview
Longview, home of the Great Texas Balloon Race, will host the U.S. Hot Air Balloon National Championship for the next three years. This is serious sport and a boon for the east Texas town. Balloonists begin practicing and training months in advance of the competition. Teams battle for a $50,000 purse and the opportunity to compete in the World Balloon Championship.
Lion’s Club Balloon Fest and Fair at Highland Village
The Highland Village Balloon Fest may be small but it provides some of the season’s best photographic moments. Festival attendees can come within feet of the balloons as they inflate and lift off. Breathtakingly beautiful, the flight path takes the hot air balloons over the park’s tree line and Lake Lewisville. It’s not uncommon for wicker baskets to skim the water in flight.
Plano Balloon Festival
Over 90,000 flock to the north Dallas suburb the annual Plano Balloon Festival. The festival draws 70 plus balloonists and is the second largest balloon festival in Texas. Kids love the festival, especially its character balloons. Past festival participants include balloon notables like Airabelle the flying Schepps cow and the pink Energizer bunny.
Plano expanded the scope of its festival and now hosts a half marathon, and 5k and 1k runs as part of the festivities.
Take to the Skies Airfest is held over Memorial Day weekend at the Mesquite Metro Airport (1340 Airport Blvd., Mesquite). Admission is $5 and free to children. Vintage plane rides are available for a fee.
U.S. Hot Air Balloon National Championship week long competition begins July 23 at the East Texas Regional Airport (269 Terminal Circle, Longview). Advance tickets can be purchased online for $12 or for $15 at the gate.
The Highland Village Balloon Festival is held from Friday to Sunday on the third weekend in August at Copperas Branch Park (I-35, exit 454B). There is no admission fee, though a $5 parking fee is charged for each vehicle. All proceeds support Lion’s Club vision saving charities.
The Plano Balloon Festival will be held September 22 – 24 at Oak Point Park (2801 E Spring Creek Parkway, Plano). Tickets are $5 with proceeds benefiting Plano community organizations. The half marathon, and 1k and 5k runs will be held Sunday.