Free tethered hot air balloon rides at Illumifest in West Des Moines! (2023)

Saturday, September 23rd is IllumiFest, a fall festival of light, held at the City Campus in West Des Moines, Iowa. The festival includes free family activities, including free tethered hot air balloon rides.

When: Saturday, Sept 23rd, 4pm to 9pm

Where: 4200 Mills Civic Parkway, West Des Moines, Iowa

Website with more info:

What is a tethered hot air 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.  

Will there be long lines waiting for the tethered hot air balloon rides?

This year, they are changing the process to help reduce waiting lines. Starting at 5:30pm, you can register for the free tethered hot air balloon ride in the lawn at the City Hall. Reservations are first come, first served. You’ll leave your cell phone number as your reservation and they will text you when your time is ready – and you’ll have 15 minutes to show up in person.

Are the tethered balloon rides dependent on the weather?

Yes, all hot air balloon events are subject to weather. Be sure to check the WDM Parks & Rec 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 canceled.  Ideal conditions are winds of 4 to 6 miles per hour. Balloons will never fly in winds higher than 12 mph. 
  • Rain: Balloons do not launch in rain. 
  • Thunderstorms: There must be NO thunderstorms within 100 miles of the launch point for a balloon launch. 

If the tethered hot air balloons are canceled – is the entire event canceled?

No. IllumiFest will take place regardless of whether the hot air balloons are able to fly.

What other activities will be taking place?

YouTube video
A timelapse video showcasing the many activities from prior Illumifests. Video by Wil Abeling

There’s a large number of other free family activities besides the hot air balloons, including:

  • Inflatables and Games: including some that are specific for toddlers and others that cater to older children.
  • Free Paper Lantern Painting
  • Free Airbrush Tattoos
  • Free Balloon Art Creations

Performance by: Cirque Wonderland, Breakdancing by DM Breakerz, and Magicomedy by Lee Cole.

West Des Moines Public Services will also have all their large trucks and moving equipment on hand for children to touch a truck.

At the end of the evening, there’s a free concert by the Faculty Lounge Band at the Hurd Amphitheater and fireworks at 9pm

The event will end at 9pm with fireworks over the City Campus.

Is there food available at IllumiFest?

Yes, multiple food trucks will be on hand

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