Bristol International Balloon Fiesta is one of the most visually spectacular outdoor events on Bristol’s events calendar and the iconic images of the balloons have become synonymous with the city. Celebrating its 40th birthday this year, there are some extra special things planned... Here’s what you need to know about the 2018 ballooning extravaganza before you go:

40 special shapes for 40 years

Bristol International Balloon Fiesta has been wowing people with hot air balloons for a whopping four decades! What started as a small gathering of 27 balloons in Bristol has become Europe’s largest annual hot air balloon festival and one of the UK’s top five outdoor events. As a fitting celebration of this milestone anniversary, there will be a crowd-pleasing display of 40 special shapes in the arena each day. Well-loved favourites Simbaloo the Longleat Lion and the Belvoir Balloon will join Fiesta classics like Peanut Man, the Michelin Man, Owlbert Einstein and Superbike. Bertie Bassett returns to the festival for the first time since 2003, while Birthday Cake Balloon will make an apt debut appearance!

Birthday cake

Image - Birthday Cake balloon

Fly up, up and away

This year, Bristol International Balloon Fiesta has partnered with Bristol Energy. Be sure to wear your lucky pants to the Fiesta, as hot air balloon lovers will have the chance to win a flight in Bristol Energy’s Solar Hybrid Balloon over the course of the Fiesta Weekend.

Can’t wait that long? Enter Visit Bristol’s fantastic competition to win a hot air balloon flight with Bailey Balloons, a stay at The Bristol hotel and dinner for two at Prince Street Social here (closing date 8 August).

Treble your chances of winning a hot air balloon flight by entering the Official Fiesta Charity St Peter’s Hospice raffle, in collaboration with Bailey Balloons here.

Or if you don’t want to leave it to chance, make sure you book a balloon flight in advance. It is truly breath-taking to fly with over 100 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 BalloonsBristol Balloons or Elite Air

Balloon fiesta launch

Image - flying in a hot air balloon over Clifton Suspension Bridge, credit Angharad Paull

Camp in Ashton Court Estate for the first time ever

For the first time ever, you can pitch a tent and stay a stone’s throw from the Fiesta, in the grounds of Ashton Court Estate. The camp ground provides quick access to the Fiesta site to get the best spot for early morning ascents, afternoon launch field activity, evening ascents and the popular Nightglow with Firework Finale. Fees are charged for the entire Fiesta weekend, per pitch, no matter how many nights you attend and toilet, shower and café facilities are provided. All pitches are without electricity and there is limited Motorhome space available. Click here to buy camping tickets.

Picnic, breakfast and balloons

There aren’t many sights quite so magical as watching hundreds of hot air balloons take to the sky as the sun rises above Bristol. Taking place at 6am on Friday (10 August), Saturday (11 August) and Sunday (12 August), the morning balloon lifts are a great time for families (especially with young kids, because let’s be honest – they’re awake anyway right?!). The site is much quieter at this time of day and the winds tend to be calmer so the balloons drift more slowly. Make like the pros and bring a disposable BBQ to cook up your own fresh bacon sandwiches (or you can grab one from the food stalls on site) and listen to the dulcet tones of Classic FM play the balloons off on their morning flight.

Bristol balloon fiesta

Image - Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, credit Bristol City Council

Plan your journey to the Fiesta in advance

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

Book a car parking space in advance

While the Fiesta is free, 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.

More than just balloons

As well as watching the mass balloons ascents, there's lots more family fun to enjoy over the four days, from live music to amazing live shows and fairground rides!

Bristol international balloon fiesta

Image - Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, credit Paul Box

Keep an eye on up-to-date information

With morning and afternoon ascents being weather dependent, make sure you keep an eye on the Bristol International Fiesta website and @Bristolballoon social media feeds (TwitterInstagramFacebook) for all up-to-date information and news.

Nightglow Bristol international balloon fiesta

Image - Nightglow, Bristol International Balloon Fiesta

Let us know how your #SummerInBristol is going!

Join in the conversation with Visit Bristol on social media (TwitterFacebook and Instagram) and tag your posts, photos and videos of you having fun in the city this season with #SummerInBristol.  

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