For visitors to Lake Tahoe and Reno , one of the year’s most uplifting events takes place up the road a little ways, but is worth the drive because it can truly make your spirit of adventure soar. And that’s not just a lot of hot air.
The Great Reno Balloon Race (GRBR) is the world’s largest free hot-air balloon event. Over the course of three days, you can look up to the skies and see a rainbow of hot-air balloons. From its humble beginnings in 1982 with just 20 balloons, the event has taken flight – now fielding up to 100 balloons each year – and become a world-renowned spectacular, as well as a beloved community tradition.
Taking place just a few miles north of downtown Reno, the event enchants both young and old with its vibrant colors and inspiring music. The Balloon Race has won many awards over the years including “Best Special Event in Reno” and “Best Special Event in Northern Nevada.” With an average of 125,000 spectators attending the event each year, the number of lives touched by the beautiful spectacle continues to rise just like the balloons themselves. Highlights of the event include:
- Glow Shows – Beginning at 5 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday, a handful of glowing balloons will act as a beacon to those sleepy spectators making their way to the launch field. Friday morning only is the Super Glow Show starting at 5:15 a.m. This new feature showcases 20+ balloons glowing and twinkling to music across the field.
- Dawn Patrol – A trademark of GRBR, worth the early rise; the show features a handful of balloons that are qualified to fly in the dark. This is a dangerous task as atmospheric conditions change drastically as the sun begins to rise. Balloonists glow, twinkle and fly along with choreographed music across a darkened sky, leaving the crowd awe struck. Saturday and Sunday only starting at 5:30 a.m.
- Mass Ascension Launch – Starting at 6:45 a.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, nearly 100 balloons will launch from Rancho San Rafael Park. The splendor of these unique and beautiful balloons thrills the crowd as they enjoy the multitude of vibrant sights and sounds in the early morning light.
- Balloon Boulevard – Crafts, souvenirs, food and warm drinks await spectators at the concession line. Official posters may also be purchased here along with official Balloon Race clothing and memorabilia. We encourage you to visit and support our vendors as they are part of the reason this event continues to be free.
- Tethered Rides – After Mass Ascension, the RE/MAX balloon provides tethered rides for children. These rides are available to the general public for a $5.00 donation to the “Children’s Miracle Network.”
Thanks to the generous support of the Wilbur May Foundation, the Children’s Cabinet is able to provide tethered rides to disadvantaged children. These rides are not available to the general public.
- E. L. Cord Tissue Paper Balloon Launch – This special event is held on Friday of the event at 9:30 a.m. on the launch field. Up to 2,000 young students from Washoe County School District and surrounding areas will make their way down to the field to launch colorful hand-made hot-air balloons that they created in their classrooms as part of their curriculum. The students will discover the wonder and excitement of lighter-than-air flight as they launch their model hot-air balloons off of mini-burners with the help of dedicated volunteers from the community. This special program is made possible by a generous donation from the E.L. Cord Foundation and the support of the Washoe County School District.
The mission of the Great Reno Balloon Race is to provide a premier, safe, family-oriented/tourist-attractive, visually dramatic event that celebrates the joy of flight while remaining free to the public. To get a glimpse of the awesome display, check out the video below from the 2014 festival. To book your trip to Lake Tahoe or Reno in time to enjoy the race, or to take off for any of our other fantastic destinations, give us a call at (888) 269-0182, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.