The Colorado Springs Balloon Festival is one of the most anticipated events in not only the city, but in the state of Colorado, as well as the rest of the world. We have many people from all over the world that join us in this event every year.
Also called the Labor Day Lift Off, the Colorado Springs Balloon Festival is free to everyone!
For 2019, we had 78 balloons that participated in the event, which is more than any previous year.
No dogs are allowed at the Colorado Springs Balloon Festival, though I did still see 4 or 5 at the event. Only one was a labelled service animal.
No matter if you attend the balloon liftoff or the balloon glow, get there early. At least an hour early. You want to do this for parking reasons. Every year, more people attend the balloon festival, and the parking situation is getting worse and worse. You're stuck parking in residential areas nearby, and there are only so many street parking spots.
Take a picture of the cross streets you parks nearest so that you can find your car later.
What to Expect at the Colorado Springs Balloon Festival
When you park and enter Memorial Park, the roads are shut down, with "Road Closed" signs all over. You kind of have to make a path to get to the balloons, which means walking through the grass field, which means wear shoes that don't get wet easily, or stay on the street if you can.
Once you get there, you will be greeted by the smell of funnel cakes. Feel free to get something now, as the lines are shorter than they will be.
Find a grassy spot to park yourself and set up camp. Lawn chairs/camp chairs and blankets are welcome at the Labor Day balloon festival. You have the whole park to park at, which includes the area near Prospect Lake, which is further south (we arrived at the North end of Memorial Park).
Parking in the grass right next to the balloons guarantees you'll see them fill up and get really close, but parking at the lake means better photography, as you'll have both Pikes Peak and Prospect Lake for backgrounds for the Labor Day Lift Off.
You could opt for a hybrid also, which I did, which means we parked in the grass and watched a few balloons fill up and take off, and then we relocated to Prospect Lake for the rest of the event.
Riding in A Hot Air Balloon
If you'd like to take a ride in one of these balloons, you'll have to schedule in advance, and there is only one company that will actually give you rides on the balloons. The rest are for family and friends of the balloon operators.
Rainbow Ryders is the one company who will give rides at the balloon festival in Colorado Springs. The flight lasts 45 minutes to an hour, and costs $275 a person. Check in to the balloon ride is at 6AM.
Rainbow Ryders also offers tethered rides in the evening, where the balloon is held by ropes and are taken to 75 feet in the air. Not a full travel experience, but you still get to feel what it's like to ride in a balloon, and at only $25 a person. Starts at 6PM.
There is one other option for getting a hot air balloon ride, and that is by sponsoring a hot air balloon. Sponsorship packages range from $1,000 to $50,000.
Watching the Hot Air Balloons Lift Off
Balloons start filling up closer to 7AM. The trucks and trailers parked on the grass will need room to fill up, and for the rope handlers who keep the balloons steady as they fill, so make sure you give them room.
Notable Hot Air Balloons
Notable hot air balloons include:
The "Save the Storks" hot air balloon (pictured at the beginning)
The one man hot air balloon (see video)
The Pepsi Football balloon (pictured above)
Fun fact about RE/MAX: they own 110 hot air balloons, more than anyone else in the world. It is the largest fleet of hot air balloons in existence. They are here every year for this event!
RE/MAX's catchphrase for their balloons is "Above the Crowd," which refers to their balloons as well as their commitment to quality of service.
Toys at the Colorado Springs Balloon Festival
The toy tent at the Labor Day Lift Off has a lot of cool hot air balloon toys, and a few other odds and ends. The inflatable hot air balloons are classic!
In case you missed your souvenir, Amazon carries these inflatable hot air balloons, as well as my favorite wind catcher balloon and hot air balloon windchimes I saw at the Colorado Springs Balloon Festival (paid links):
Dunkin' Donuts Donut Eating Championships
I didn't snap any pictures of this part of the balloon fest, mostly because I don't care, and partly because I came here for the balloons, not for donuts.
Last year, 2018, my son and I waited in line for Dunkin' Donuts. We waited about a half hour for donuts. I learned my lesson, and the following year, I made a King Soopers run for donuts before we arrived. Just as tasty, without waiting for one.
If you want to join the championship, registration starts at 7AM on the Saturday and Sunday before Labor Day. There are two separate championships, one for adults (14 and up), and the other for kids (ages 5-13). The entry fee is $10 for each.
Right after all the Labor Day Lift Off is the skydiving event, put up by the Wings of Blue Demonstration Team, which represents the Air Force and the Armed Forces.
I missed getting a shot of the first skydiver, who had a huge American flag trailing behind, as I was at Prospect Lake getting some shots of the balloons over the lake, but again, like most people, I came here for the hot air balloon festival, and cared less about anything else. I mean, there were several large bounce houses at the event also, and I love bounce houses, and I didn't care, lol.
Though not a part of the official Colorado Springs Balloon Festival, you will occasionally meet a celebrity. I keep seeing images for Darth Vader on other sites, but I haven't spotted him yet. There were, however, a Darth Vader and a Yoda hot air balloons for the 2018 Labor Day Lift Off!
The Balloon Glow is on Saturday and Sunday evenings before Labor Day, at 7:30PM. Again, get there early to allow for parking time. The park closes at 10PM.
What time does the Balloon Glow start in Colorado Springs?
The balloon glow starts at 7:30PM on the Saturday and Sunday before Labor Day. For 2019, the balloon glow started at 7:30PM for Saturday, August 31, and Sunday, September 1st.
Where do you park for the balloon glow?
Anywhere you legally can! Memorial Park and Prospect Lake will be closed off to allow vendors and balloon operators to park and set up, so your parking options are within the city. There is no metered parking here, just in residential neighborhoods, so get there at least an hour early to find good parking, as parking goes fast.
Remember, you can't park within 15 feet of a fire hydrant, and you can't block anyone's driveway.
What time do the balloons take off?
The balloons take off at 7AM every morning of the festival. They will start filling up at 6:30-6:45AM.
Are drones allowed?
No, drones are not allowed. However, I did see one at Prospect Lake getting shots of the balloons (2019).
Are pets allowed?
No pets allowed, although again, I did see 4 or 5 dogs on leashes at the park, and only one of them was labeled a service dog.
Are coolers allowed?
Yes, coolers are allowed. No glass bottles or glassware though.
The Colorado Springs Balloon Festival is held at Memorial Park, 1605 E Pikes Peak Ave, Colorado Springs, CO 80910.
I'm Kevin James Bond, native to Colorado and author of this site, which exists to educate anyone who wants to hear a local's thoughts and experiences with Colorado Springs and the surrounding areas. I am also a Colorado Springs RE/MAX REALTOR®. You may learn more about my real estate services at Kevin James Bond, The Sufak Team, RE/MAX Real Estate Group.