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LIFT off



Hot air balloons are a finicky beast. To soar, they need perfect weather. And yet, Texas throws hot air balloon festivals every year. It’s almost as if the chance to see a balloon sail toward the clouds is worth dashed hopes if it does not work out. Several cities in the state boast such fests. Longview won a bid to host the National Hot Air Balloon Championships this year. They’ll welcome 50 of the best pilots in the United States for a week of early-morning balloon races around the city.

Spectators flock to these festivals, sometimes to watch them from afar and sometimes to ride about 30 feet up in a basket tethered to the ground. Most are happy to see the inflated balloons cluster, all aglow at dusk, still tethered.

Magic can happen, but nothing we say will prepare you for a hot air balloon festival more than this key phrase: Weather permitting. Bring your hopes, not your expectations. There are no refunds anyway.

Pilots need winds in the eight-mile-per-hour range to fly and use them to change direction as they ascend and descend. Races happen near predawn or very early in the morning, and while the early birds enjoy views from the ground, evening “glows” are a bigger crowd draw. That’s when all the balloons light up just after sunset, creating a spectacular view worth traveling to see.

We did our research on hot air balloon festivals in Texas for you, and here’s a little taste to help you take off.


For the next three years, little Longview will host national championships at the Great Texas Balloon Race. Texas State Champions are also selected in Longview this year, “so the competitions are a big deal,” said GTBR Chairman Dan Droege. He explained that racers compete Tuesday to Sunday morning, with the top ten from nationals qualifying for a world competition. Pilots aged 29 and younger compete as The Young Guns amongst themselves. Father’s Day weekend sees evening glows, skydivers, live music, and a whopping total of 81 flying balloons. A few unique shapes and remote-controlled balloons are planned, but no tethered rides. Pilots will offer trading cards to the kids.

Great Texas Balloon Race and U.S. Hot Air Balloon Championship Jun 12 - 18 |


At least 17 balloons fly in this Marble Falls resort event. Marketing Coordinator Dream Romero said Saturday morning is your best chance to see them. Head to a 6:30 AM ascension and 11 AM tethering, with an 8 PM glow the same day. Tons of extras entice you to book package stays, including BBQ, live music, mini safaris, and more. Visit the great hiking trails nearby while you’re there.

Balloons Over Horseshoe Bay Resort Apr 7 - 9 |


The “Official Hot Air Balloon Capital of Texas” boasts more than 30 colorful hot air balloons, parachutes, live music, fireworks, marathons and shorter runs, food, arts and crafts, and more. Kiddie areas make the fest especially family-friendly for this 42-year- old tradition.

Plano Balloon Festival Sep 21 - 24 |


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