Hot Air Balloon Rides at the New Smyrna Beach Balloon Fest

hot air balloon ride, new smyrna beach
Floating through the skies in hot air balloon is on everyone’s bucket list, right? When I saw the ad in the newspaper for the New Smyrna Beach Balloon and Sky Fest, I knew my family had to check out the action.


The weather looked iffy—I’d read hot air balloons can only inflate if the winds stay below eight miles per hour. The festival site was just minutes from the beach, where winds gusted stronger than that daily.  AND the weather forecast warned of a storm front moving through the area over the weekend.

We set up camp at the In-laws house for the weekend, because I knew if we picked Friday OR Saturday to hit the balloon fest, the show would not go on that night. (Murphy hates our guts.)

hot air balloon fesitval

Friday night the hubby, kiddo, and I stuffed ourselves silly at our favorite local diner (technically, it’s an open air surf shack serving the best dang tacos in three counties) and then met up with friends and family at the  local airfield hosting the festivities. The place was crazy packed. Normally, New Smyrna is a sleepy little beach town — I think the city by-laws state you must be retired or a surfer to live there. Half of Central Florida tromped the muddy parking lot that evening.

Vintage planes sat parked along the runways, displays for the airshows taking over the skies all weekend. Nearly a hundred vendor booths took up far too much space, and of course Kiddo talked his grandmother into buying him a souvenir. People jammed the obligatory greasy food court, eating anything imaginable that could be fried or stuck on a stick (or both). But we discovered REALLY cheap beer — win!  A giant Ferris wheel and a bustling, overpriced carnival lit up the evening sky.

But I didn’t care about any of that. I bee-lined it straight for Balloon Island.
New smyrna beach balloon fest
Withered nylon bags lay strewn across a field, their colors and shapes not clear in the twilight. Handlers tugged wicker baskets from the backs of vans and trailers. The baskets were so much smaller than I had imagined, only 4 x 5 or so— barely big enough for four people to squeeze into and small enough to easily fit into the back of a pick-up truck.

The winds gusted faster than the allowed eight miles per hour, but a few brave crews tried to get their balloons inflated. Each basket and balloon started on the ground lying on its side while the mouth was held open to capture the wind. Once enough air filled the nylon balloon, the flames turned on, sporadic bursts lighting up the sky.
inflating hot air balloon, new smyrna balloon and air fest

balloon monster

But the balloons never left the ground that night. It was just too windy. We watched jets flare like sparklers across the sky, parachutes fall with flaming trails, and a jet-engine-rigged school bus roar past at 200+ mph instead.

We skipped the full airshow Saturday afternoon, but as we sat on the beach, we caught glimpses of jets and biplanes cruising by in tight formation above the sand and sea.

A storm threatened to cancel all the night’s activities; rain chances went up as the day grew long. The afternoon brought a few brief showers, but a few of us decided to brave it anyway.

I could see the outlines of balloons as soon as we neared the entrance.  We raced through the crowds, eager to get in line for a ride.  My wonderful Hubby joined the queue while a friend and I took our boys to explore — but not before we enjoyed a smuggled-in champagne toast {shhh}.

tethered ballon rides

While we would LOVE to go for the hour-long ride gliding high above the Florida countryside, we didn’t have the $200 bucks a person to shell out.  I’ll save that luxury for a ride over wine country or some foreign destination, thanks. We went the tethered balloon ride route. Heavy ropes connected the balloons to trucks and vans. I would have loved to have ours break free, escaping above the crowds, but that wasn’t going to happen.trucks tethered to hot air balloon

Tickets in hand, we let Kiddo select our balloon. He was impatient, dying to get into the sky—so was I.  To climb into the basket, we had to find the foothold low on the wicker, and I was barely able to swing my leg over the top. Inside, there wasn’t any room to maneuver, and I thanked the stars that I vetoed my skirt at the last minute.

The three of us just barely fit in there with the captain.
  balloon flame
The flames burned hot against my slight sunburn—they were close, bright, and blinding as the sun.
The inside of the nylon dome was huge, a brilliant hollow Easter egg holding us suspended in the air.


Storm clouds closed in on us, and lightening flickered in the distance. Our time up in the air was far too brief, but the lines snaked across the field, others waiting (some rather impatiently) for their time in the sky.  Kiddo scored a second ride with our friends, and not minutes after they descended the rains came.

We grabbed a cheap beer and stood in the drizle watching the balloons deflate. There were going to be many disappointed people that night, but we would not be amongst them. We had a blast.

magic balloon

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Hooking up with Mama Kat—a post inspired by the word ‘balloon’


10 thoughts on “Hot Air Balloon Rides at the New Smyrna Beach Balloon Fest

  1. piperpunches

    That looks like so much fun! Your pictures are great, too. We have balloon race in our town and balloon glow in my city and it is always so much fun to watch the balloons all lit up. But, I am with Carol, not sure I could take actually going up in one.

  2. Michelle

    Gorgeous pictures!! I will only go in a tethered hot air balloon. That’s about as high as I can tolerate.

    By the way the new site is looking good! Congrats on making the switch.

  3. Peggy

    That sounds like so much fun (except I hate heights). Your pictures made it seem so real and colorful. What a great time for the family. I love that image of the balloon tethered to the truck.

  4. Dolores Saul

    Hi, I found your wonderful photo in web. May I have the one for print it on the birthday t-shirt of my husband? He will be 50. years old in june and our friend and I will present him a ballonride in Germany. All is ready but my daughter will present her daddy a t-shirt with a ballon,wich he can wear on this wonderful day. Is it possible to get the right to use the photo for this t-shirt? I know aubout copyrights and respect them, so I tell you this question today.
    Great regards
    Dolores Saul

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