Soaring high above the Reno skyline in early September, upwards of 100 beautiful hot-air balloons take flight for the Great Reno Balloon Race. It has been one of Reno’s most colorful and spectacular events for more than three decades and is a world-renowned and locally beloved community tradition. Sure, it might mean setting your alarm clock for a bit earlier than you’re used to, but it’s worth the wake!
The Great Reno Balloon Race is the largest free hot-air balloon event in the world, enchanting those of all ages with its vibrant colors and crowd-pleasing events. With an average of 120,000 spectators attending, the number of lives touched by the beautiful spectacle continues to rise just like the balloons themselves. Highlights include the Mass Ascension, Glow Show, Dawn Patrol, vendors and a VIP tent for spectators who want to upgrade their experience.
Mornings at the Great Reno Balloon Races begin with the Glow Show (or Super Glow Show if you attend on Friday morning!). This trademark event draws visitors before the sun rises to view a handful of balloons light to the tune of choreographed music, complete with ever-popular dueling banjos. Following the Glow Show is the Dawn Patrol, during which a group of balloons that are qualified to fly in the dark rise into the pre-dawn sky, creating an unforgettable experience.
Once the sun starts to rise, nearly 100 balloons will launch for what is known as Mass Ascension. Make sure to keep a look out for some of the popular special-shaped balloons that have made appearances in past years including Smokey Bear, Gus T. Guppy, Soccer Ball and Puddy Cat. This is one of a kind experiences as the balloons rise over the Virginia range and float off into the distance. Many locals will tell stories of balloons landing in a variety of places, including football fields, parking lots and residential streets as they drift back to land.
During the time that the Mass Ascension is taking place, you will want to make a stop by Balloon Boulevard, a place for crafts, souvenirs, food and drinks. Here you snag one of the collectible Great Reno Balloon Race posters or some clothing and memorabilia! Other features that typically take place during the event weekend include pajama parties and kid-friendly activities like tethered balloon rides.
Most of the events that the Great Reno Balloon Race offers happen before dawn, so make sure to set that alarm! Find the most up-to-date Great Reno Balloon Race schedule of events for this year.
Each year, the Great Reno Balloon Race is held at Rancho San Rafael Park, located just 1.5 miles north of downtown Reno. For spectators and participants, there is limited parking available at Rancho San Rafael and across the street at the University of Nevada. Much of the street parking in the surrounding areas is blocked off, so if you are planning on parking, get to the event early!
If you are staying or parking in downtown Reno, you can walk, but keep in mind that it is uphill on the way to the park. A great option to access the Reno balloon races is RTC RIDE service which offers shuttle service from pickup points in Reno and Sparks. Find the most up to date Great Reno Balloon Race parking and transportation.
For more tips to help you make the most of this event, including how to dress and what you can bring into Rancho San Rafael Park, visit the Great Reno Balloon Race’s official site.