The Bristol International Balloon Fiesta is one of the city’s best loved events for very good reason.
The annual spectacle attracts around 100,000 visitors to Ashton Court each day and it’s always a sight to behold, even when the weather isn’t as kind as it could be.
If you’re thinking of attending the festival, you’ll be pleased to hear it’s completely free this year – as it has been in previous years – and there’s plenty to see and do once you’re there.
For the first time ever this year, visitors have the option of glamping so they don’t miss a second of the action – more information about that can be found below.
Here is everything you need to know about the event including how to get to the festival, what to see once you’re there and what happens during the Night Glows and mass ascents.
When is the balloon fiesta?
This year the festival runs from August 8-11, with its famous Night Glows taking place on the Thursday and Saturday evenings and its mass ascents happening daily, subject to the weather.
Balloon Fiesta Night Glows: What are they and when do they happen?
Ask anyone who’s been to the Balloon Fiesta before and they’ll tell you its two Night Glows are a mindblowing experience.
The Night Glows see all of the Fiesta balloons – including the special shapes – tethered in the main festival arena and lit up in time with a selection of popular songs.
The spectacle usually lasts for around an hour and is followed by a huge fireworks display.
This year, the Night Glows are taking place on Thursday August 8 and Saturday August 10, at 9pm each day.
Mass ascents: see the balloons in a whole new way
Another popular event at the Balloon Fiesta is its mass ascents, which take place in the morning and evening on each day of the festival.
The mass ascents offer amazing views, as guests witness dozens of hot air balloons take to the skies simultaneously.
Unlike the Night Glows, however, the mass ascents are at the mercy of the weather and have often been cancelled at the last minute due to poor flying conditions.
If conditions are good, then the mass ascents take place at 6am and 6pm daily and are an incredible way to start and end your day.
Parking at the Bristol Balloon Fiesta
Although entry to the festival is free, Bristol Balloon Fiesta parking spaces start from £10 per car and must be booked in advance.
Anyone who tries to enter the Fiesta car parks on the weekend without a pre-booked ticket will be turned away. There are also disabled spaces available to book and a premium car park available for a higher price, which guarantees you a shorter walk to the festival site and includes a programme.
Last entry to the Fiesta car parks is at 5pm each day and spaces are expected to sell out quickly. You can book tickets online now via the Bristol Balloon Fiesta website.
If you do book parking, organisers warn you should not follow sat-nav directions when approaching the Fiesta and should instead follow the yellow event signs to the correct car park.
(Image: Bristol Post)
Travelling to the Bristol Balloon Fiesta
As in previous years, organisers are urging people to travel to the Balloon Fiesta either by foot, bike or via public transport.
First West of England will be operating a shuttle bus from both Bristol Temple Meads railway station and The Centre (Metrobus stop C2, opposite 4,500 Miles From Delhi on Colston Avenue).
Buses will run at least every 10 minutes from 10am until the Fiesta closes each day, with additional buses running on the Saturday.
Single tickets are £3 for adults and £2 for concessions, while day returns are £5 for adults and £3 for concessions. These can be bought on the bus and do not need to be pre-booked.
Cycling is a popular way to get to the Balloon Fiesta.
Anyone wishing to cycle can use the Festival Way cycle path, which is a traffic-free route connecting Bristol to North Somerset via Ashton Court.
Starting in Bristol, cyclists can use the National Cycling Route 33 which takes you on a traffic-free path from Queen Square out of the city via Cumberland Road. Crossing the River Avon you join Kennel Lodge Road as you enter Ashton Court.
There is bike parking available onsite by the Mansion House and the fallow deer park.
Ashton Court is about a 45-minute walk from Bristol city centre.
Pedestrians can use the Festival Way path (detailed above) or the Clifton Suspension Bridge, except during the Night Glows when the bridge is closed to vehicles and walkers from 6pm until midnight.
Balloon Fiesta road closures
The Balloon Fiesta attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year and, as a result, a number of road closures will be in place around Ashton Court during the weekend.
Roads will be shut from 7pm around Ashton Court each evening to allow people to travel to and from the site safely.
Organisers say anyone living nearby should only travel during this time if it is essential and have issued the following advice on road closures in Long Ashton, Bower Ashton and Leigh Woods:
The Fiesta will once again place no waiting restrictions along Long Ashton Road so that two-way traffic can flow through the village during the event.
Access to Bristol between 9.00pm and 11.00pm during the Fiesta will not be possible via the B3128 and past The Ashton pub. Instead, residents and drivers should use Yanley Lane, Wild Country Lane or join the A370 at the Flax Bourton/Barrow Gurney junction.
To assist residents who do not have access to off-street parking, specific residents’ parking zones will be created at appropriate points along Long Ashton Road. These will be clearly signposted. For the first time this year, residents living on Parsonage Road and Glebe Road will also be able to apply for a residents’ parking pass to enable them to park within the resident parking zones.
Anyone wanting to apply for a pass to park in any of the residents’ parking zones should visit the Bristol Balloon Fiesta website for more information.
Parking restrictions will once again be placed as in previous years.
Residents wishing to gain access to their properties during the road closure periods are asked to enter Leigh Woods from the Beggar Bush traffic lights, as access will not be permitted from the Bower Ashton roundabout.
Passes will be distributed to each household prior to the Fiesta, but should you wish to order extra copies, please email email@example.com.
Road closures will be in place from 6.00am on Thursday 9th August until 11.30pm on Sunday 12th August.
Kennel Lodge Road will be closed all weekend and the one-way system on Parklands Road will be closed to allow easier access for residents.
The end of Parklands Road will be closed to both pedestrians and vehicles for the duration of the event, in order to minimise disruption to people living in Bower Ashton.
Residents in the area can still gain access to their properties by entering Parklands Road from Courtlands Road. The junction of Courtlands Road and Kennel Lodge Road will have barriers to restrict the entrance and a sign stating ‘no access to the Fiesta, residents only’.
Accommodation / Glamping
For the first time ever this year, there is the option of glamping at this year’s fiesta.
Organisers have teamed up with the Red Sky Tent Company to bring balloon fans the first ever boutique camping experience, allowing them to enjoy the Fiesta in complete comfort and convenience.
Available for couples and groups, the bell tents come fully furnished with carpets, real beds and mattresses with warming duvets and cosy cotton sheets and pillows.
The Boutique Camping Village also comes with toilets and hot showers, and it’s only a short walk to the launch field where you can take in all the action of the Fiesta.
For more information and to book, visit Red Sky Tent’s website.
Information about standard camping be found here.