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Great Reno Balloon Race

World's Largest Free Hot Air Balloon Event

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Reno, Great Reno Balloon Race, hot air balloons, events, recreation, Nevada

Reflections of the Great Reno Balloon Race at Rancho San Rafael Park.

Photo © Stan White

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. The 2013 Great Reno Balloon Race is the event's 32nd anniversary and will be held from Friday, September 6, through Sunday, September 8.

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, the Little Bees, the Energizer Bunny, and Darth Vader) punctuate the dozens of traditional hot air balloons, all floating lazily over northwest Reno. First timers for 2013 will include Hummingbird Jewel and Spider-Pig. 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 and Dawn Patrol. To get an idea of what you can see, go to my Great Reno Balloon Race pictures.

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 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 over 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 6
5:15 a.m. - Super Glow Show (new for 2013)
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 7
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 8
5 a.m. - Glow Show
5:30 a.m. - Dawn Patrol
6:45 a.m. - Mass Ascension
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 6, 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 7. 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 on Saturday and Sunday during The Great Reno Balloon Race. VIP Club members will receive breakfast catered by the Silver Legacy, VIP parking passes with transportation from the parking lot to the heated VIP tent, credit for the merchandise booth, Cloud 9 VIP badges for easy access, and more.

For Friday, September 6, VIP Club memberships are $75 for adults, $60 for children ages 4 to 10 (free for ages 3 and under). Corporate tables of 8 are available for $600.

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

Space is limited. 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

After Mass Ascension, The RE/MAX balloon will be providing tethered rides for children after the Mass Ascension. Rides are available to the public 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

At Reno's most visually spectacular event, taking pictures is a must. 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.

Learn More about the Great Reno Balloon Race

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

Balloon Race spectators can enjoy a free open house at the Wilbur D. May Museum as part of their visit to Rancho San Rafael Regional Park. The Museum will display balloon race posters from all years of the event. There will be art for sale from the Sierra Watercolor Society. Hours on Friday and Saturday, September 6 and 7, will be 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. On Sunday, September 8, hours will be 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Each day during the Balloon Race Open House, the Museum will have a special activity from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

  • Friday - Make your own hot air balloon.
  • Saturday - Screening of the Disney Pixar movie "Up" (PG) and popcorn.
  • Sunday - Paws 2 Read therapy dogs visit. Pick out a book to read to a friendly dog, then take it home (the book, not the dog).

For Visitors Coming to the Great Reno Balloon Race

If you are traveling to Reno for the Great Reno Balloon Race, you should make arrangements for accommodations ahead of time. This is a very popular event and last-minute rooms may be hard to find.

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...

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