Fun takes flight at the National Balloon Classic, happening July 28 – August 5 in Indianola. More than 100 magnificent hot air balloons paint the sky each day (and night) with brilliant colors. It’s an event like no other, with concerts, fireworks, skydivers, balloon rides, and fabulous food. Here are five things to look for at this year’s festival, where the sky is the limit when it comes to fun.

1. Morning Competitions and Evening Flights  

Get a first look at the balloons during the morning competitions flights starting at 6:30 a.m., with gates opening at 6. These early morning flights will have no parking or gate attendant and a limited number of food and beverage vendors will be open. Yes, you have to set an early alarm, but admission and parking are FREE!  

For evening flights, gates open at 4 p.m., with the launch scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 (and include parking) when purchased online, with children ages five and under being free. The decision to launch balloons will happen 30 minutes prior to flight and depends on wind and air condition. Both morning and evening flights are scheduled every day. Color your Instagram account excited. For a full schedule of events, click here.  

2. Balloon Rides

Looking for more thrills and not just pretty pictures? Hot air balloon rides are offered every morning or evening (weather permitting) at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. This once-in-a-lifetime experience lasts around an hour and tickets start at $250. It’s the best seat in the house! Book your flight here.

3. Special Events

In addition to the daily balloon flights, there are a variety of event highlights throughout the week. New this year is the RC Balloon Display, with remote-controlled balloons that are two stories tall (starting Wednesday, August 2). Fan favorite Nite Glow returns on Sunday, July 30 and Wednesday, August 2, with pilots firing their burners at dusk to make for a gorgeous glow in the night sky. The Wednesday Extravaganza lets guests enter the launch field and get up close and personal with the pilots. Other highlights include Fantastic Fireworks (Saturday, July 29 and Saturday, August 5), a Kite Flight, and the Celebrate Warren County Parade and Summer Arts Festival on Saturday, July 29 at 10 a.m. You can find more details and the dates of the events here.  

4. Live Music

The National Balloon Classic has more than just balloons to keep you entertained. Each night, there will be live music on the TruBank Stage. The stage is located between the balloon launch area and the balloon ride check in. Balloons and Tunes is included with your ticket. See the full band lineup here.

5. Food and Drink

Any festival is only as good as its food selection and the Balloon Classic is big on both altitude and flavor. There will be 18 food vendors, including fan favorites like The Outside Scoop (ice cream), Charlotte’s Kitchen (chicken sandwiches), The Pie Lady, Zipp’s Pizzaria, and Travelin’ Tom’s Coffee and DonutNV for those early morning flights. Check out the beer tent to grab beer and wine as well.   

Bonus Tip: Indianola is an adorable little town and you should explore all that it has to offer while you’re down there. Drive though Simpson College, check out the Des Moines Metro Opera, take a hike through Lake Ahquabi State Park, fuel up at Pete’s Pizza, and grab a drink at Summerset Winery and West Hill Brewing Company. It’s a great time to explore this hidden gem in Greater Des Moines!   

For more information, check out the Balloon Classic website here.  

When: Friday, July 28 – Saturday, August 5
Time: 6 – 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to Dark
Where: Memorial Balloon Field in Indianola, Iowa
Admission: $10 online, $14 at sponsor locations (no sales at the gate).
Parking: Located directly south of the Memorial Balloon Field on 15th Avenue (included with ticket purchase)