Great Reno Balloon Race
UP, Up and Away!
Its the world's largest free hot air balloon festival.

The Great Reno Balloon Race

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 more than 120,000 spectators attending over three days, 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.

The Great Reno Balloon Race Schedule of Events

Mornings at The Great Reno Balloon Race begin with the Super Glow Show at 5 a.m. This trademark event draws visitors before the sun rises to view several balloons light to the tune of choreographed music, complete with ever-popular dueling banjos. Following the Super 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 lookout for some of the popular special-shaped balloons that have made appearances in past years including Smokey Bear, Gus T. Guppy, Soccer Ball and even the Darth Vader balloon. This is a one-of-a-kind experience 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.

The Great Reno Balloon Race Location and Parking

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 information about  The Great Reno Balloon Race parking and transportation.

Enjoy the comfort of a heated seating area, 360-degree views of the balloons, breakfast and a hosted bar with a Cloud 9 VIP Club experience. Cloud 9 members also get a parking pass and a special edition champagne glass to take home.

Reno Balloon Race Souvenirs and Shopping

Balloon Boulevard is filled with everything you want on a chilly morning. You can find dozens of food vendors with everything from hot coffee to breakfast sandwiches to gourmet pastries. Of course, you’re free to bring your own food and beverages to cozy up on the field with, it just never hurts to grab a little something special to add to the mix. You’ll also find toys for the kids, gorgeous balloon memorabilia and the official GRBR merchandise tent.

Children’s Activities at The Reno Balloon Race

Children of all ages are drawn to the whimsical nature of the event, making for a family-friendly environment every year. Kids are free to run and play in the large regional park (but make sure to watch for other people and balloons!) and there is an entire section of Balloon Boulevard dedicated to kids. Designated balloons will be giving tethered rides (for a small donation) to anyone wanting to experience the joy of flight. Be sure to meet and greet the pilots, too! They will be handing out special trading cards so kids can try to collect as many as possible.

What You Can Bring to the Balloon Race

  • Be sure to wear layers. It can be very chilly in the morning, but once that sun comes up, the heat is on.
  • Bring a chair, blanket or sleeping bag so you can stay warm and comfortable while watching the Glow Show and Dawn Patrol.
  • Be ready to take lots of pictures! You are guaranteed to capture amazing and memorable moments at this event (that you can later enter into the official photo contest for the event!)
  • Bring cash. Some vendors will take cards but cash makes transactions much smoother.
  • Leave earlier than you think you should to arrive on time. Traffic can get extremely backed up and it can be quite a walk to the field depending on where you park. You won’t want to miss any part of the show!
  • A balloon launch may be cancelled due to wind. Just because you don’t feel it, doesn’t mean it isn’t dangerous 100 feet above you. This event takes safety very seriously and takes all precautions to keep pilots and their passengers safe. Your understanding is much appreciated!
  • Plan to get a seat in the Cloud 9 VIP tent. A perfect view, hot breakfast, mimosa bar and more await you!
  • Smoking is prohibited on the launch field due to the large amounts of propane in use. Cigarettes can also damage the balloon envelope if they get too close.
  • Dogs and other pets are not allowed at the event. The loud sounds from the burners combined with the crowds, especially in the dark, are not a good environment for your pup.
  • Please avoid bringing strollers onto the launch field. Pilots and crew members will be running around to inflate their balloons and strollers can be hard to maneuver out of the way. Feel free to push the little ones around at the south end of the park and shop balloon boulevard.
  • Do not use laser pointers and drones. It interrupts the beautiful show and drones can be a serious danger to the fabric of the balloons.
  • Avoid getting in the way of pilots and crew. Be aware of your surroundings and be prepared to move if in the way of a balloon.

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.

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