Lift your spirits with hot-air ballooning on your next vacation

Robbert van Bloemendaal, Blue Ribbon News special contributor and world traveler

Each October, visitors flock to the world’s most-photographed event: the International Balloon Festival in Albuquerque, N.M. This year marks the 40th anniversary of this celebration of the beauty and thrill of hot-air ballooning.

During this year’s event, Oct. 1-9, there are mass ascensions of hundreds of beautiful balloons from Balloon Festival Park on the mornings of Oct. 1, 2, 5, 8 and 9. On the evenings of Oct. 1, 2, 6, 7 and 8, balloons that are tethered to the ground will fire up their burners, creating a wonderland of huge, colorful lanterns during the event’s signature Balloon Glows.

Beginning Oct. 3, competitive balloon pilots will take part in a series of races to claim a $100,000 prize. Nearly 100 special “shape” balloons – everything from pigs to a giant butterfly – will be on display during special ascensions and evening Balloon Glows on Oct. 6 and 7.

Throughout the event, visitors will also enjoy the Balloon Discovery Center, live entertainment, mouthwatering food and fireworks. You could even take your own balloon ride with an experienced crew.

If a visit to the International Balloon Festival ignites a love of hot-air ballooning in you, there are many other places around the world that you can soar above the landscape in a balloon. For example, you can sail above the vineyards of Napa Valley, landing in time for brunch with a glass of local wine.

For a bird’s-eye view of the spectacular migration of more than one million wildebeests, take a balloon safari over Kenya’s Masai Mara wildlife refuge during July or October. You’re also likely to see zebra, Thomson’s gazelle, elephants, and possibly some big cats.

Ballooning is a wonderful way to see the vast Australian Outback, including the striking red mountain Uluru (formerly known as Ayer’s Rock).

For the ultimate in romance, you can float above the city where hot-air ballooning was invented: Paris. Balloon rides are available in many other regions of France, including the Loire Valley, Provence and Burgundy.

To include a hot-air balloon experience in your next vacation, talk with your travel professional.

This travel column was written by special contributor Robbert van Bloemendaal, an experienced world traveler, native of Australia, an Ambassador with the Rowlett Chamber of Commerce, and president of  Travel Leaders of Rowlett.

To submit your news and events or a guest column on a topic of your area of expertise, email