It’s one of my family’s favorite Steamboat weekends… if we had to pick just one event to attend all summer, Hot Air Balloon Rodeo would probably be our top contender.  Nobody in our clan is a self-proclaimed early riser, yet we’ve eagerly made it to the balloon launch many times over the 18 years we’ve lived here.  Truly, nothing beats not only seeing the sunrise over the mountains, but simultaneously seeing vividly colored balloons lift off and vicariously fly us all a little closer to the sun.

Hot Air Balloons in the Sky

Balloon Launch and Rodeo

If you’re going to our hot air balloon festival launch, save time and skip the caffeine at home as there are vendors serving up coffee and pastries at the Bald Eagle Lake site. Be at the Meadow’s parking lot by 6 a.m. sharp and take the easy and quick shuttle out to the launch site in time to see the inflation. When else would you get to see the focused balloon crews crank up the gas and get their fire-powered balloons upright and into the air? And to see 30 or so of them all in different stages of inflation is a huge treat.


As the balloons gain a smidge of altitude, yet before they sail too far off, watch them take part in the “rodeo” aspect of the event.  The balloonists dip their baskets into the lake, skim the water a few times and then after one last swoop, they catch thermals upward and spiral into little specs in the sky. The reflections of these brightly colored balloons, as they’re just hovering slightly above the still mountain water, make for fantastic photographs, so bring your big rig camera or make sure your iPhone battery is charged up!

When the balloons are way overhead, grab a second (or fourth?) cup of joe, settle in and enjoy the spectacular Steamboat lake-side scenery.  If little ones are starting to get wiggly, take them over to the kids’ zone where giant bubble water walkers await.

Art in the Park

The balloons land in spots throughout Steamboat, so chase one or two through the downtown corridor and then pilot yourself towards the 41st annual Steamboat Springs Art in the Park festival. Mingle with artisans and their masterpieces, settle into the kids’ art section for crafts and face painting or grab some delicious food, listen to the rotating line up of live music and bring home some handmade artistic creations.

Balloon Glow

After Art in the Park, take an afternoon Steamboat-style siesta so that you can power the family on through to the mountain base area for the Balloon Glow when dusk settles in.  If the winds cooperate (Saturday night only), you’ll see a handful of tethered balloons sprinkled around the lower part of the ski area, spectacularly glowing, fully-illuminated against the dark sky by their own fire power.


Stick around for outdoor movies in Gondola Square or tuck everyone in early and do it all again on Sunday!