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Unless you’re Luke Skywalker, it’s rare that you look to the sky and see Darth Vader looming overhead. Well, Jedi or not, now you can feast your eyes on some pretty sweet airborne eye candy. Were talking ginormous strawberries, pudgy panda bears and flying cows. Each year, a smattering of magical hot air balloon festivals take place around the globe, albeit the lack of trophies, prize money or bragging rights. So what’s the motivation for these skilled balloon-gurus? It’s the moment they find themselves slowly rising above the tree line, gaining a whole new perspective on the earth below.
Sometime after the first hot air balloon drifted lazily into flight waaay back in 1783, hot air balloons evolved from simple spherical shapes, to massive, mind-blowing creatures looming in the sky! Lucky for you, we tracked down the ten coolest hot air balloon festivals for you to experience during your travels (or you know, admire from your computer when your boss isn’t looking). Either way, when you combine brilliant design with the hot air balloon industry you get larger than life Vaders, soccer balls, light bulbs, and a master mix of colors and patterns that would make a kaleidoscope jealous. Talk about haute air balloons!
UK - The Bristol International Balloon Fiesta is held in Bristol in the United Kingdom each year. This massive four day festival draws in over 100,000 visitors each day with their colorful and artistic balloons! One of the favorite attractions during the festival is the annual night glow, where balloons are launched after dark and are choreographed to glow in time with specific music. Be on the look out for the specialty balloons designed by Seamstress Paula Caddick of Cameron Balloons, which is the world’s largest balloon maker!
Mexico – The International Balloon Festival in Leon, Mexico gets an audience of over 300,000 visitors! 200 spectacular balloons are on display during the festival which is known for a unique set of balloons such as this Darth Vader head balloon.
Burma – The historic region of Bagan is well-known for its massive collection of ancient temples, Balloons Over Bagan, takes travelers up in the air to see the magical structures from above. The religious structures were built between the 11th and 13th century, while many of the temples were damaged in a series of earthquakes that occurred in the 20th century, Bagan still presents some pretty impressive sights.
Canada – Don’t forget your coat for this ride, you’re gonna need it! Take a chilli ride over the icebergs in the Arctic Bay. As far as we know, this balloon ride is the highest latitude passenger flight on a hot air balloon ever. Passengers get to take in the sites of breaking ice bergs and the penguins with Arctic Kingdom Polar Expeditions! (© Michelle Valberg/National Geographic)
Germany – For an unforgettable experience, ride through the forested canyons and over the historic Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany. This balloon ride is best known for their collection of traditional shape and vibrant colorful patterns.
Africa – Over in Kenya, have a safari by air! Check out the wild life in it’s natural habitat while your balloon is barely scraping the treetops in the scenic beauty of Masai Mara.
USA – The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in New Mexico is the largest balloon festival in the entire world! Held each October, the event spans nine days and features over 750 incredible balloons. One of the most incredible event held during the festival is the Dawn Patrol, where special lights are used to allow a series of balloonists to launch their balloons well before sunrise. The most popular is the Mass Ascension, during which time all of the participating balloons launch in two or three carefully coordinated waves!
USA – The Colorado Balloon Classic was organized in 1977 and has grown to be the largest and the longest continuously running hot air balloon festival in the Rocky Mountain Region as well as the State of Colorado. Each year on labor day weekend, mass ascensions of approximately 90 balloons happen during the afternoon while a special event called Balloon Glo® happens after sunset.
France – In the late summer, the hills of the Chambley-Bussieres fill up with a colorful and unique display of hot air balloons as Europe’s largest balloon festival kicks into high gear! The Lorraine Mondial Air Balloon Rally consist of over 300 balloons that take off in a local airfield, then they drift over the stunnin french landscapes.
Switzerland - Chateau d’Oex, the Alpine capital of ballooning! Each year when the weather permits it, a joyous collection of bright balloons flutter through the skies of the Swiss Alps for the Festival International de Balloons in Château-d’Oex. From the launch point, riders get 360 degree views of the Alps, Mont Blanc to the Eiger via the Grand Combin, the Matterhorn, Jura, not to mention Lake Geneva and Fribourg regions.
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