Up, Up & Away in Hot Springs – Fall River Hot Air Balloon Festival | Black Hills Travel Blog

Up, Up & Away in Hot Springs – Fall River Hot Air Balloon Festival

  • Up, Up & Away in Hot Springs – Fall River Hot Air Balloon Festival
    Up, Up & Away in Hot Springs – Fall River Hot Air Balloon Festival
Wednesday, December 22, 2021
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For many people, like me, riding in a hot air balloon is a bucket list activity. I recently had the opportunity to cross that item off my list.

I was fascinated with the feeling of floating on air. As the ties of gravity seemed to slip away, I stood in the gondola, entranced as the ground receded. Below me were all shades of green and abundant wildlife.

If the thought of flying in a hot air balloon is just too scary, we have a solution for you – right here in Hot Springs, South Dakota. Be mesmerized at the fifth annual Fall River Hot Air Balloon Festival, Aug. 28 and 29, 2021. The breathtaking sight of over 20 brightly colored hot air balloons lifting off and floating up, up and away into the wild blue yonder will amaze and inspire you.

My pilot, Petra Wilson of Western Horizons Hot Air Balloons, started the festival with a trial run in 2016. That first year, she flew just a few balloons from the Hot Springs airport. Only using word-of-mouth, 80 folks turned out to watch the launch. Realizing this would be an incredible event for the community, Petra brought the Hot Springs Chamber on board. The second year, they launched over 10 balloons and drew a crowd of over 1,000 people to the airport. With the help of business sponsors, the Chamber adds additional elements to the festival each year, and the event continues to grow.

New to the launch this year is the Freedom Flight, also known as the POW/MIA balloon. Hot Springs is home to the South Dakota State Veterans Home and Battle Mountain National Historic Landmark and is aptly named the “Veterans Town.” You will want to see this patriotic tribute.

The day starts at sunrise when conditions are best for flight. Wind currents play the most significant part of operating a balloon, and they blow different directions at different altitudes. There is quite a bit of science involved, but you would never know. It looks effortless.

Plan to arrive in Hot Springs a couple of days before the event begins. This way, you will be well-rested and can get up bright and early on the morning of liftoff. Book a few nights at any of the comfortable hotels, bed and breakfasts, cabins or campgrounds in town.

I love Hot Springs! Whether you visit before the festival or explore after the morning launch, there is so much to do. Discover the largest concentration of mammoth bones in the world at The Mammoth Site, take a plunge into the warm waters of Evans Plunge Mineral Springs, enjoy the beauty of Southern Hills Golf Course as you play a round, and relax in the rejuvenating waters of Moccasin Springs Natural Mineral Spa. Or, explore Hot Springs’ quaint boutique stores, amazing sandstone buildings, pretty parks, refreshing lakes, and countless outdoor recreation opportunities. Hot Springs makes a great “home base” while taking day trips to thrilling attractions, like Rush Mountain Adventure Park.

Of course, there is a lot to do during the festival itself. Saturday and Sunday morning, the balloons are scheduled to launch around 6 a.m. from the Hot Springs Airport (weather permitting). Vendors will be on-site early, offering food and drink.

You can:

Pre-book a flight during the festival with Black Hills Balloons on their website.

Experience the magic of being inside a hot air balloon. Western Horizon Balloons will station a walk-in balloon outside of The Mammoth Site from 9 to 11 a.m.

Visit the free Kid Zone in Centennial Park downtown from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., featuring giant inflatables and more. Wander through town and participate in the Art Walk & Chalk, where you can purchase local art and let your creativity flow by drawing on the sidewalks.

I’d suggest taking the rest of the afternoon at your own pace. Soak in all the wonderful sights that Hot Springs has to offer. Then, make your way back to the airport at dusk for the Night Glow (weather permitting). Watch as hot air balloons inflate and gently lift off. Tethered to the ground, they will float and glow like giant lanterns to music by Yoko. It’s magical.

You will create memories to last a lifetime as you watch the balloons fly at the Fall River Hot Air Balloon Festival. For details and updates, visit fallriverballoonfest.com and their Facebook page.

Reconnect with life and adventure in Hot Springs, South Dakota.

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