There’s a certain time of year in Bristol when, as soon as you open your eyes in the morning, you get that same excited feeling that you did as a kid on Christmas Day… You rush to the window and look outside but instead of a white world, it’s hundreds of colourful hot air balloons dotting the morning skies.
Yes – August marks the return of the annual Bristol International Balloon Fiesta and there’s no event quite like it to make locals and visitors, alike, fall head over heels in love with this beautiful city – a city that I’m lucky enough to call home.
Bristol is one of the best places in the world for spotting hot air balloons and the annual International Balloon Fiesta attracts more than half a million visitors every year.
People travel from all across the globe to watch, in wonder, as more than 130 hot air balloons take to the skies in a range of beautiful – and sometimes wacky – shapes and designs (it’s not uncommon to see a giant Minion floating past your house as you’re sitting down to dinner … )
As a proud – and rather besotted – Bristolian, I feel it is my duty to convince you that the International Balloon Fiesta is a spectacle worth seeing for yourself and something that should be on everyone’s bucket list.
Everything you need to know about Bristol International Balloon Fiesta:
1. Bristol International Balloon Fiesta normally takes place on the second weekend in August every year (*UPDATE: In 2018, it will take place from 9th-12th August).
2. The festivities run for four days from Thursday to Sunday.
3. The festival is completely FREE!
4. Mass balloon ascents take place at 6am (Friday to Sunday) and again at 6pm every day (weather dependent).
5. Every Thursday and Saturday, the balloons are tethered and lit up in a ‘Nightglow’ spectacular, closing with a dramatic fireworks display.
6. The festival is entirely weather dependent, so be prepared for one or two “no-shows” … this is British summertime after all!
7. The balloons ascend each day from Ashton Court Estate – a beautiful, historic park located just 10 minutes from the city centre. But there are plenty of great locations around the city for balloon-spotting. Clifton Observatory, Brandon Hill, Bedminster Down, Troopers Hill and Durdham Down are just a few of the best spots to watch as the balloons float past the city’s landmarks.
8. The official Twitter app will be your essential source for all live updates – this is the best way to find out about timings of the ascents and predicted flight paths, so that you don’t miss any of the action.
9. As well as balloon-spotting, there are loads of activities going on across the city throughout the weekend. From live music and arts and crafts to family activities and foodie stalls – and even an appearance from the Red Arrows, if you’re lucky!
10. If you’re more of the adventurous type, you can join the masses and take to the skies yourself – find out how to book up a once-in-a-lifetime balloon ride here!
Have you visited Bristol International Balloon Fiesta? Where else in the world have you spotted a spectacular balloon event? I’d love to hear about your experiences, tips and advice below!