Great Reno Balloon Race

World's Largest Free Hot Air Balloon Event

Great Reno Balloon Race at Rancho San Rafael Park in Reno, Nevada.
••• Great Reno Balloon Race at Rancho San Rafael Park in Reno, Nevada. Photo © Stan White

The 2014 Great Reno Balloon Race is the event's 33rd anniversary and will be held from Friday, September 5, through Sunday, September 7, 2014.

The Great Reno Balloon Race is the largest free hot air balloon event in the world. Each morning, around 100 hot air balloons rise in mass ascension from Rancho San Rafael Park, filling the dawn sky with blobs of color and flashes of light from the propane burners.

This is a very family friendly event and it's free.

What You'll See at the Great Reno Balloon Race

Numerous specialty balloons in a variety of shapes (such as Smokey Bear, the Wells Fargo Stagecoach, Darth Vader, a gold fish, and a lady bug) punctuate the dozens of traditional hot air balloons, all floating lazily over northwest Reno. After being absent for a year, Darth Vader and his crew of Storm Troopers will be back in 2014. The Great Reno Balloon Race is a delight for photographers and spectators, but you have to get up before the sun for the Glow Show, Super Glow Show, and Dawn Patrol.

Events at the Great Reno Balloon Race

Hot air ballooning is an early morning sport. You have to get up before dawn to enjoy the most spectacular events like the Glow Show, Super Glow Show, and Dawn Patrol. The Super Glow Show on Friday will be an expanded and even more spectacular version of this popular part of the event.

The mass ascension of nearly 100 hot air balloons takes place as the sun comes up over the Virginia Range, but even then it's pretty early. Balloon Boulevard of food, drink, and souvenir vendors operates during the morning activities, starting while it's still dark. Here is the schedule, but be sure to check the Great Reno Balloon Race official schedule for any last-minute changes.

You can also keep on top of the schedule with the new Great Reno Balloon Race mobile app available from Google Play and the Apple App Store.

Friday, September 5, 2014
5:15 a.m. - Super Glow Show
6:45 a.m. - Mass Ascension
9:30 a.m. - *E.L. Cord Foundation Tissue Paper Balloon Launch
4:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. - Shopping along Balloon Boulevard

Saturday, September 6, 2014
5 a.m. - Glow Show
5:30 a.m. - Dawn Patrol
6:45 a.m. - Mass Ascension
5 a.m. to 10 a.m. - Pajama Party
8 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. - Bed-Head competition judging
4:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. - Shopping along Balloon Boulevard

Sunday, September 7, 2014
5 a.m. - Glow Show
5:30 a.m. - Dawn Patrol
6:45 a.m. - Mass Ascension
6 a.m. to 8 a.m. - Sign up to be a Girl Scout
4:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. - Shopping along Balloon Boulevard

(*E.L. Cord Foundation Tissue Paper Balloon Launch - Around 2,000 elementary and middle school students will participate in the Tissue Paper Balloon Launch. This event is on Friday, September 5, at 9:30 a.m. on the launch field at Rancho San Rafael Park.)

To really get into it, register on site for the World's Largest Pajama Party and the Bed-Head Competition, both at the Pajama Party Tent. These events start at 5 a.m. on Saturday, September 6.

Having some fun will make it easier to beat the birds out of bed.

Each morning during the playing of the National Anthem, there will be a fly over of T-6 aircraft in formation. The fly over signifies the partnership between the Great Reno Balloon Race and the Reno National Championship Air Races and Air Show.

Cloud 9 VIP Club

The Cloud 9 VIP Club offers an exclusive, front-row luxury experience for businesses and individuals all three days of The Great Reno Balloon Race. VIP Club members will receive a catered breakfast, VIP parking passes with transportation from the parking lot to the heated VIP tent, $10 credit for the merchandise booth, Cloud 9 VIP badges for easy access, and more.

For Friday, September 5, VIP Club memberships are $75 for adults, $60 for children ages 4 to 10 (free for ages 3 and under).

Tables of 8 are available for $600.

For Saturday or Sunday, September 6 or 7, VIP Club memberships are $95 for adults, $80 for children ages 4 to 10 (free for ages 3 and under). Tables of 8 are available for $750.

Space is limited and seats frequently sell out. Make Cloud 9 VIP Club reservations online or call (775) 826-1181.

Spectating and Parking at the Great Reno Balloon Race

The thousands of people who arrive before dawn need to park. There is plenty of parking available, but you should read "Spectator Information for the Great Reno Balloon Race" to learn about the parking situation and what is expected of spectators in order to have fun and be safe at the event. You'll also learn about how to get to Rancho San Rafael Park without a car, thus avoiding the parking hassle all together.

Tethered Rides in a Hot Air Balloon

The RE/MAX balloon will be providing tethered rides for the general public after the Mass Ascension. Rides are available for a $5 donation to the Children's Miracle Network.

Hot Air Ballooning and the Weather

Hot air balloon flying is dependent on the weather. If it's too windy or there are other adverse conditions, some activities may be curtailed or even grounded. It's a good idea to check the weather forecast before heading out. This being Reno, the weather can change dramatically in a short period of time.

Photography at the Great Reno Balloon Race

Taking pictures is a must at Reno's most visually spectacular event. With the action starting in the dark well before dawn and continuing into the morning hours, it can be challenging to adapt your photography to the widely varying conditions. Learn more about capturing pictures of this event - check out the photography tips from the Great Reno Balloon Race as well as the "Night Photography in 5 Easy Steps" from About.com.

For a look at the kinds of pictures you might capture at the Great Reno Balloon Race, refer to my "Great Reno Balloon Race Pictures."

Learn More about the Great Reno Balloon Race

Free Balloon Race Open House at the Wilbur D. May Museum

Balloon Race spectators (and everyone else) can enjoy a free open house at the Wilbur D. May Museum as part of their visit to Rancho San Rafael Regional Park. In addition to the permanent exhibits, visitors can view the current summer exhibit titled "Rush to Reno: Millionaires in the One Sound State." Hours on Friday and Saturday, September 5 and 6, will be 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. On Sunday, September 7, hours will be 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.

More Hot Air Balloon Events

The Great Reno Balloon Race may be America's largest free hot air balloon event, but it is far from the only one. If you are interested in similar events around the country and around the world, here are some from which to choose...