Best Hot Air Balloon Festivals in Iowa (2023)

As summer approaches, so does the hot air balloon festival season.  Iowa is known for hosting the Midwest’s largest hot air balloon festival, the National Balloon Classic in Indianola.  However, did you know that there are other balloon events and festivals?  We’ve compiled a list of the events and festivals featuring hot air balloons for 2023

2023 Hot Air Balloon Events / Festivals in Iowa

Brian Abeling / Abeling Photo

Freedom Fest Balloon Glow, Cedar Rapids

Date: June 17th,  4pm to 10pm
Location: Jones Park, 201 Wilson Ave, Cedar Rapids, Iowa 
Cost: At the door $10 per person,  free for kids 5 and under
Website: https://www.freedomfestival.com/event/balloon-glow-2

This is the one event on our list that really isn’t a hot air balloon festival –  it’s a music concert with hot air balloons.  But we’re listing it because it’s popular, especially because of the night glow event.   For $10 per person at the door, there are multiple live music concerts taking place.  The concerts happen regardless of the weather –  however, the balloons are not guaranteed and depend on the weather.  As the sun sets, if the weather is calm, there will be a balloon glow.  This means the balloons will be anchored to the ground and their thrusters will be firing hot air to keep the balloon lifted and will light the area.  Depending on the weather, there may be caution tape surrounding the balloons.  However, if the weather conditions are right, the caution tape will be lifted and the crowd will be able to get up to balloons.  

Brian Abeling / Abeling Photo

Ottumwa Pro Balloon Race

Date: June 21st thru June 25th, 2023
Location: Greater Ottumwa Park, 1 Joe Lord Memorial Dr, Ottumwa, Iowa
Cost: Free
Website:https://www.ottumwaproballoonraces.com

The 2023 schedule is now available on their website. It includes Thursday night balloon glow, Friday 6pm flights and balloon glow at dusk. Saturday has 6pm flights and another balloon glow at dusk.

Brian Abeling / Abeling Photo

Lake Red Rock Balloonfest

Date: July 7, 8 and 8, 2023
Location: North Overlook Beach on Lake Red Rock, 1007 Hwy T15, Pella, Iowa  
Cost: Free
Website: Lake Red Rock Balloonfest

Lake Red Rock Balloon Fest is a 3-day event at the North Overlook Beach along Lake Red Rock.  The schedule for 2023 is available on their website. Here’s a quick overview:  

Friday:  6:30pm opening launch,  with 9pm night glow

Saturday:  6:30am morning launch.  6:30pm evening launch,  9pm balloon glow and lighted boat parade

Sunday,  6:30am  morning balloon launch

Carrie Abeling / Abeling Photo

National Balloon Classic, Indianola

Date: July 28th – August 5th, 2023
Location: Indianola Balloon Field, 15335 Jewell Street, Indianola, Iowa 50125
Cost: $10 per person, Kids under 5 are free
Website: https://www.nationalballoonclassic.com

This is the largest and most comprehensive hot balloon festival in the Midwest.  Each morning features competitive flights where over 100 balloons compete at dropping markers onto targets at various locations in Warren County.  However, one of the targets is always the balloon field in Indianola, so you’re assured of seeing the 100+ balloons each morning flying over the balloon field (of course, assuming weather isn’t an issue).  They also hold other events including; 

Dawn Patrol where a small group of balloons take off during darkness and land after sunrise.  

Mass Ascension:  An evening event where 100+ balloons launch from the same field in a short time period

Nite Glow:  An after-sunset event where balloons and anchored to the ground and then pilots light up the balloons.  If the weather is calm, the gates are opened and the crowd gets to walk up to the balloons and visit the pilots!

The festival also has live music and food vendors as well. 

Brian Abeling / Abeling Photo

Quad Cities Balloon Festival

Date: Aug 11th and 12, 2023
Location: Rhythm City Casino Resort, 7077 Elmore Avenue, Davenport, Iowa 52807
Cost: Free
Website: http://www.quadcitiesballoonfestival.com

At the time this was posted, the 2023 schedule wasn’t available. However, if it follows the 2022 schedule, it will consist of:  Thursday night balloon glow,  Friday 6pm balloon flights, evening night glow, followed by fireworks.  Saturday 6am balloon flights, 6pm balloon flights, evening night glow.  They also have tethered balloon rides available between the evening flights and the evening nite glows, but check the final schedule for specific dates.

Sept  SW Iowa Hot Air Balloon Days, Creston

Date: Sept 15 – Sept 17, 2023  
Location: Creston Airport, 1945 S Cherry Stree, Creston, Iowa 
Website: https://www.traveliowa.com/calendar/creston-southwest-iowa-hot-air-balloon-days/1613070/

Balloon Days is a multi-day event with music, food, a parade, and of course, hot air balloons.  They feature morning and evening balloon launches and even tethered balloon rides, along with night glows. 

Brian Abeling /Abeling Photo

Great Des Moines Hot Air Balloon Hunt 

Location: Downtown Des Moines
Cost: Free
Website: https://www.dsmpartnership.com/downtowndsmusa/about-downtown/downtown-DSM-events-and-installations-portfolio/great-dsm-hot-air-balloon-hunt

The Great DSM Balloon Hunt is technically NOT a balloon festival, however, it is a really unique event focusing on hot air balloons in an urban setting.   They schedule the event randomly at various times of the year  – and use social media to send out notifications of when the balloon hunts will be.   During a balloon hunt, the date and time are known (although they are only published a few weeks ahead) – but the exact locations of the balloons are not published until right at the start of the event.  The balloons are scattered and stationed at various locations (like at the state capitol, Principal Park, all places with lots of space and parking).  Individuals and families are then encouraged to drive throughout downtown Des Moines to catch as many of the balloons as possible.  In fact, during the last balloon hunt, they asked participants to post photos on social media of each balloon they visited and it would enter them into a contest for a prize!

Brian Abeling / Abeling Photo

What is a Tethered Balloon Ride?

The hot air balloon is tethered to the ground by using ropes.  The balloon is then only allowed to rise to a certain level as the rope allows.  

For this event, you’ll climb into the basket and the pilot will light the burners. The balloon will ascend to approximately 40 or 50 feet, depending on the length of the rope.  The pilot will let the balloon hover for a short time and then descend back down to the ground.  It’s an opportunity to get a quick feel for what it’s like to be in a balloon without having to take the full experience.  

Tethered balloon rides are NOT available at all festivals.  If they are available, tickets are probably NOT sold ahead of time, since the event is dependent on weather.  This also could mean that you may be waiting in line for your turn at the experience.  

What is a Balloon Launch?

It’s an event where multiple balloons are taking off or launching in a certain time period.  

What is a Balloon Glow?

Balloon Glow or Nite Glows take place at dusk.  Pilots will hold or anchor their balloons to the ground and will then inflate the balloon.   If the weather is calm, the crowd is typically invited onto the field for an up-close experience with the balloons and the pilots.   

What weather conditions will cancel a hot air balloon event/festival?

All hot air balloon events are very much subject to weather. Most events encourage you to check their social media accounts for the most up-to-date information.  Sometimes, the call to cancel an event is made at the very last moment due to changes in weather.  However, here’s a list of weather-related situations that you would be looking for that could cancel a hot air balloon event: 

  • Winds: Winds are the number one reason hot air balloon events get cancelled.  Ideal conditions are winds of 4 to 6 miles per hour. Balloons will never fly in winds higher than 12 mph. 
  • Winds Aloft: Winds aloft (or winds at higher altitudes) can also cause a flight to be canceled. Even if there are no winds at the ground, there can still be strong winds aloft and that can cause events to be canceled. 
  • Rain: Balloons do not launch in rain. 
  • Thunderstorms: There must be NO thunderstorms within 100 miles of the launch point for a balloon launch. 

Are there companies in Iowa that sell hot air balloon rides?

Yes, here’s a quick list of companies that sell hot air balloon rides over Iowa: 

Balloon Travels Unlimited, Marion 
Website: http://www.balloontravels.com

Diamondjake Ballooning, Newton
Website: http://www.diamondjake.com/Welcome.html

TEC Visions, Central Iowa
Website: https://tecvisions.org

Z-Balloon Adventures, Des Moines & Indianola Areas
Website: http://www.zballoon.com

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3 Comments

  1. Great article. I think you may have quad citys description and ottumwas switched. We do not sell any balloon rides or tether rides during event in ottumwa. Thank you for the mention in the article.