Southern California has something very bright for travelers — the Cathedral City Hot Air Balloon Festival.
Eight years ago, a pretty cool new thing started right in my own state, in Cathedral City, which is next to Palm Springs, in Southern California. It’s small but it sounds beautiful. Just under 2 hours drive from Los Angeles.
Once a year, over 30 hot air balloons — the Wizard of Oz or Around the World in 80 Days type that people ride in — give us a patchwork artwork in against the sky and mountain backdrop. If you’re anywhere within sight of the balloons, it should be a sight to behold.
And if you’re visiting SoCal you might want to make the fairly quick drive and enjoy the sight and then the area.
I had my own ride-in-a-hot-air-balloon experience about 20 years earlier and have long been fascinated by them, so I sure went!
I’m told Cathedral City likes to hold festivals in this downtown civic center location with its new amphitheater and parks. (I’ll have my eyes open for other events, too.) The balloon pilots and crews travel from around the country to bring this spectacle to life for us.
So… the Festival location:
68700 Ave Lalo Guerrero
The official website, HotAirBalloonFest.com.
There are two or three promising balloon events and other fun. First, the balloons…
Balloon Launches — Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, 7-8 am FREE
These locations are far enough away from the mountains for the balloon pilots to have a great flight, usually towards the southeast and many open landing locations.
Friday and Sunday morning they launch from:
The Agua Caliente Casino Resort Rancho Mirage
32250 Bob Hope Drive
(I’ll be there Sunday!)
Saturday morning they launch from:
The Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa Driving Range
71333 Dinah Shore Drive
Balloon Glows, Friday and Saturday evenings. Free.
- Actually it’s the Balloon Glow and Dance. Friday evening, again at the Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa. 12 balloon will be glowing on the 18th Fairway. This is a ticketed event as part of their Grooves Jazz series. However, it is sold out. I don’t know the visibility of the balloons from outside of the Westin but I assume it’s visible for some distance.
- Saturday night Balloon Glow. 30 balloons will inflate, again at Agua Caliente Casino Cathedral City and at the parks in the festival area. (I’ll be watching it.)
Balloon Rides, Saturday and Sunday — although only tethered, due to the danger of flying within the Cathedral City parks area. This may be a fun experience if you’ve never been up in a Hot Air Balloon, and may actually feel safer to you. (I don’t understand why there aren’t untethered hot air balloon rides from Agua Caliente Casino Resort or the Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa.)
As I write this a week before the festival, there are some balloon flights still available in the mornings. They run $250 and may be reserved with Fantasy Balloon Flights 760-568-0997.
Other Friday events
- Friday evening Food Truck Fiesta. This features “the best U2 tribute band” Hollywood U2 in the amphitheater park. There is a $10 fee for this event. Tickets can be purchased on-site day-of. Cathedral City citizens get free entry. I am told by the organizer that there are plenty of tables, or places to sit so you can actually enjoy the food.
I’m also told that Food trucks are accessible for you whether you buy a ticket or not.
Other Saturday events
- The Food Truck Fiesta 11-9pm. There is a $10 fee – will be held in the amphitheater. It will feature:
- Beer & Wine Gardens
- Live music on the new main stage
- 12 gourmet food trucks
- Kids Zone & Vendor Village
- Bounce houses
- Classic Care Show 4-8pm
- Rooftop Balloon Lounge 4-8pm
- Access to the top floor of the parking structure to view the bands, Balloon Glow and car show is 4-8pm
- 40th Anniversary Balloon Glow to Music at 6pm
- Live music – 11-9. I don’t know if this is only seen/heard with the admission fee.
- An art show called Art Affaire at Town Square Park – I don’t know if it’s open to all
- Banana Balloon Candy Drop – FREE – for the kids at 11am. Children will be given bags to collect the candy in. The special shape bunch of bananas balloon will lift off (on tether ropes) with Disney princesses on board who will toss 10,000 pieces of candy from the balloon to the lawn below. Once they throw out all of the candy the balloon will land. That’s the cue for the kids to run onto the lawn and collect the candy.
- The city is celebrating their 40th anniversary with free cookies and ice cream, free crafts for kids, a scavenger hunt and mariachis. All free to residents, I believe, but I’m not sure about for others.
Other Sunday Events
Sunday Special Shape Breakfast and Balloons event
While some balloons are at the launch, others will inflate 10 special shape character balloons. The Big League Dreams Sports Park has 4 iconic baseball fields and fun stadium seating to watch the action on the fields. This includes a pancake breakfast with scrambled eggs, sausage and coffee or juice. Attendees get to go down to mingle with the balloons and pilots.
This is from 7:30-10:00am.
There is a fee for this event:
Adults $20/breakfast, $10/without
Children $15/breakfast, $5/without
Big League Dreams Sports Park
33700 Date Palm Drive
Cathedral City, CA 92234
I am unclear as to whether there are food trucks on Saturday and Sunday. There are also several restaurant surrounding the festival area.
Free parking is available at all of the venues.
I think, but can’t say for sure, that there will be seating in the various festival areas.
There are $100 VIP passes that include entry to all events (except Grooves Jazz), the pancake breakfast, a souvenir and a tethered balloon ride.
So… that’s what I know pre-event. I look forward to a somewhat magical experience and taking some excellent romantic and adventurous photos that show me what an iPhone 13 can do — and sharing them here.
One last thing….
There are several beautiful hot air balloon events around and a few amazing hot air balloon events in the world to know of in case you get near:
The spectacle of 500 Hot Air Balloons in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The beauty of Hot Air Balloons over snow-capped mountains in Tirol, Austria.
Colorful Hot Air Balloons over the crazy landscape of Cappadocia, Turkey.
There are a few more Hot Air Balloon Festivals in the Southern California area as well.
Temecula valley – June 3-5, 2022
Colorado River Crossing Balloon Festival Yuma, AZ – Nov 19-21, 2021
ClovisFest & Hot Air Balloon Fun Fly – in California’s Central Valley – Sept 2022 perhaps
And more thought the US…
Disclaimer: I’ve done my best sorting though the programs and descriptions I found and received but I can’t promise total accuracy. Additionally, weather may change events.