Bristol International Balloon Fiesta is one of the most popular and striking outdoor events on the calendar. This year, the world-renowned free Fiesta takes place at Ashton Court between 8 – 11 August. Make the most of the weekend’s ballooning extravaganza with these top tips, including what special additions to watch out for at 2019’s event.

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! Already Saturday evening flights have nearly all been snapped up and the rest of the slots will soon go.

It is truly amazing to fly with up to 150 other hot air balloons - even the most seasoned pilots are awe stuck 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. Breakfast with balloons

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.

It’s even easier to make it to Ashton Court in time for early morning start this year, as for the first time ever First Bus will be running their shuttle bus service from 4.30am. After watching the mesmerising dawn ascent, you’ve then got the choice of making a full day of it at the Fiesta, right through until the Night Glow ascents on Friday and Saturday, or having the rest of the day to explore the city.

Balloons over bristol

Image - Balloons over Bristol, credit Angharad Paull

3. Get ready to celebrate Bristol icons

Some of Bristol’s greatest icons will be weaved into the displays, coinciding with momentous anniversaries. Aardman duo and much-loved Bristol stars Wallace & Gromit turn 30 this year and BBC Radio Bristol have an extra special soundtrack in their honour planned for the Night Glow events. There will also be the chance to win a hot air balloon ride with another classic Aardman character – Morph.

2019 also marks 50 years since the maiden flight of Concorde, one of aviation’s most inspiring creations, from Filton in Bristol. Look out for ‘the only bit of Concorde that still flies’ at the Fiesta, as former pilot of the supersonic airliner and balloonist Captain Tim Orchard will be bringing along his hopper balloon. It is made from the original seats of the 1980s Concorde he used to pilot! The team from Aerospace Bristol will also have a marquee at the event, bringing a brand new exhibition of Concorde images and objects to the Fiesta.

A crowd funder to bring another Bristol icon to the Fiesta is also underway. The Darth Vader hot air balloon was made in the city, which is also the hometown of Vader actor David Prowse, by Cameron Balloons. It’s toured the world from the US to Malaysia, yet has never flown over Bristol. Make a pledge if you want to see the Darth Vader balloon come home and you can receive unique rewards in return.

4. Plan your journey and car parking 

Bristol Balloon giesta

Image - Bristol Balloon Fiesta Nightglow, credit Plaster

Over half a million visitors are expected to visit Ashton Court during the course of the four-day long Balloon Fiesta, so make the most of every minute by planning your journey in advance and leaving plenty of time. Our mini guide to getting to the Fiesta has all the details completely covered, whether you’re travelling by car, foot, bike, bus or coach.

If you’re driving, don’t forget to book and pay for parking in advance on the website too - it's essential to ensure you have a space on the day. Disabled and privileged access spaces are also available online.

5. Make the most of the other family-friendly events

Balloon fiesta

Image - family entertainment at Bristol International Balloon Fiesta

In between balloon ascents, spend time discovering the tremendous variety of family-friendly entertainment and activities on offer. Aerial displays, children’s activities and entertainment, fairground rides, delicious food stalls and bars, balloon tethering and demonstrations and model aircraft displays will all be happening onsite – there’s definitely no chance of running out of things to do.

Aardman is running ticketed Model Making Workshops on Sunday afternoon that will see visitors get creative with clay. Look out for thrilling displays by the Lightning Bolt Army Parachute Display Team, and Eat Natural's Makery on the Move, which will allow you to create your very own breakfast bar. Fab will be bringing a free FabLand experience, home to confetti sprinkle geysers, huge Fab lolly mazes, ball pit moats and supersized slides.

As well as providing the Night Glow soundtrack, BBC Radio Bristol are hosting a stage featuring live acoustic performances from acts who have appeared on BBC Upload. They also have Q&A sessions with BBC presenters and the Aardman team lined up, and you’ll be able to give presenting the weather in front of a green screen a go too.

Keep an eye on the Bristol International Fiesta website and social media feeds (TwitterInstagramFacebook) for all up-to-date information and news about the mass ascents. You can also download the new 'Bristol Balloon Fiesta' app from Apple and Android app stores for the entertainment programme, what’s on guide, travel information and much more.

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