Bristol International Balloon Fiesta is one of the most popular and striking outdoor events on the calendar. Make the most of the weekend’s ballooning extravaganza with these top tips:

1. Book your balloon flight in advance

Balloon Fiesta

Image - Hot air balloon flight, Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, credit Paul Box

If you want to take part in the mass hot air balloon ascents, sign up in advance as the balloon flights will all be fully booked by the time the Fiesta opens its gates! It is truly amazing to fly with up to 150 other hot air balloons, even the most seasoned pilots are awestruck by the experience. If you hurry you can get one of the last few spaces available with Bailey Balloons, Bristol Balloons or Elite Air

2. Don't miss the colourful big top, Cbeebies and big wheel

Twirlywoos

Image - Cbeebies Twirlywoos

While the balloons are obviously the headline act, there's loads on for families throughout the weekend. You’ll find all the fun of the circus under the colourful big top - Happy’s Circus, a troupe of skilled, acrobatic humans, are the first circus ever to take up residence at the Fiesta. Expect awe-inspiring performances and clown comedy in four shows each day over the weekend. Shows in the big top will be ticketed and cost £5 per person or £18 for a family of four. Also new to the Fiesta for 2017 is a big wheel, offering visitors a unique perspective of the mass ascents and event goings-on. Cbeebies stars, the Twirlywoos, will be entertaining the toddling crowd at the Victoria Bandstand each day, so head on over for games and songs.

3. Breakfast with balloons

Balloons over bristol

Image - Balloons over Bristol, credit Angharad Paull

Start your day with a magical morning ascent. Meeting at around 6am, the site is much less busy at this time of day, the winds tend to be calmer and so the balloons drift more slowly - it's breath-taking to watch them soar over the waking city. This year, the mass hot air balloon lift on Saturday morning will be set to music in association with Classic FM, so why not bring your own picnic, disposable BBQ or pick something up from the food stalls on site and kick back and watch this amazing spectacle.

4. Plan your journey in advance

Bristol Balloon giesta

Image - Bristol Balloon Fiesta Nightglow, credit Plaster

Over half a million visitors are expected to visit the Balloon Fiesta, so make the most of every minute by planning your journey in advance and leaving plenty of time. Read our mini guide on getting to the Fiesta here - it covers car parking, shuttle buses, cycling, walking and Clifton Suspension Bridge closure times.

5. Book a car parking space in advance  

balloon fiesta

Image - Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, credit Paul Box

The Fiesta is free, which is fantastic for such a world-renowned event, but you must book and pay in advance for parking on the website. Disabled and privileged access spaces are also available online. Last entry to the car parks is 5pm.

6. Get involved in the other family-friendly events

Balloon fiesta

Image - family entertainment at Bristol International Balloon Fiesta

As well as watching the mass balloons ascents, there's plenty more family fun to enjoy. My Little Pony nuts will adore hopping aboard an eye-catching pink double decker bus to explore the magical world Equestria. Transformers, Optimus Prime and Bumblebee will also be making an appearance and letting fans try the latest toys. There’ll also be live music from local musicians on the Fiesta’s Victorian Bandstand.

Watch the crowd-pleasing Parabatix Flying Display team perform remarkable twists and turns in their engine-powered paragliders, flying just above the ground at speeds of up to 45 miles per hour.

The Pitts Special Aerobatic Aeroplane Display will be taking to the skies once again. Pilot Rich Goodwin took a Pitts Special biplane and added some revolutionary modifications that make it capable of performing daring feats at high speed.

Hold your breath whilst watching the Exit Parachute Display Team. These fearless parachutists have leap from helicopters, performing jaw-dropping moves while gliding down towards the arena to land on marked spot. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Exit Parachute Team’s involvement with the Fiesta. 

You will scarcely believe your eyes when you see Breitling Wingwalkers - the world’s only aerobatic formation wingwalking team - strapped to the top wings of Boeing Stearman biplanes performing handstands and acrobatics while flying hundreds of feet in the air at speeds of up to 150mph and with ‘G’ forces of up to 4G.

There’ll be miniature, remote-controlled model balloons flying around the main arena with room for your favourite cuddly toy in the basket!

Friday afternoon at the Fiesta, visitors will be granted the special opportunity to get up close and personal with the hot air balloons to see how they work. This unique view behind the basket offers the chance to see how these incredible aircraft work.

On Thursday and Saturday, late night visitors to the festival can marvel at the famous Night Glows, a stunning sight of thirty balloons with burners roaring bright in the darkness.

Keep an eye on the Bristol International Fiesta website and social media feeds for all up-to-date information and news about the mass ascents @Bristolballoon (twitterinstagramfacebook).

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