Bristol International Balloon Fiesta 2022: Tips and tricks for getting the most out of the event

This year’s Bristol International Balloon Fiesta has been a hot one, with temperatures reaching above 30C and so it can be hard to prepare yourself and your loved ones for a visit. This is especially true for visitors of the early morning mass ascent, who will arrive before the balloons take flight at 6:30am, when the weather is much cooler and the sun has not yet risen high in the sky.

It may seem tempting to send little ones off on their adventure in their cosy pyjamas or onesies but, when the sun comes up, they’re really going to feel the heat. Not only that but, with early ascents in mind, you might find yourself or your family members feeling a little tired after such an early start – and trust us when we say that you’re going to want to stick around once the ascent is over.

The balloon fiesta has lots of entertainment – both in the arena and around the site – throughout the day, making for one of the best days out in Bristol, but times to see the balloons themselves are limited to 6am and 6pm each day (with no 6am flight on the Thursday, but night glows at 9pm on the Thursday and Saturday, too). So, in order to get the most out of your time at Ashton Court, we’ve compiled a list of tips and tricks to make your visit as perfect as can be – and the first one is to prioritise the balloons over anything else, as they won’t be around all day, unlike the fairground, stalls and other entertainment.

Read more: Balloon Fiesta LIVE as tonight’s mass ascent cancelled

Remember that this year’s event has seen organisers put certain rules in place, including banning the use of barbeques and cancelling the fireworks displays due to the extreme heat. When it comes to what you wear to the festival, we’ll get into staying warm and cool in the list below but it is worth noting that Ashton Court is grassy and uneven, so swapping your high heels for something a little sturdier and more reliable, might make your experience all the more enjoyable.

Early mass ascents

1. Arrive early

You really don’t want to miss a moment of the balloon fiesta mass ascent, especially in the morning. Make sure you have enough time to find a spot, grab some food and get your party settled in time for the balloons to begin inflating and taking off. It’ll be worth it, we promise!

2. Make sure you’ve pre-booked your parking

There’s plenty of places to park for the fiesta, so it’s a good idea to make sure you know where you’re planning to park beforehand. That way you save time and will make it for launch time.

3. Wear layers

As we mentioned above, it’s better to have layers you can take off as the sun warms up the site, instead of wearing onesies or other trickier outfit options. Onesies might seem like a good idea when it’s darker and cooler outside, but the sunrise at Ashton Court can often be a surprise when you’re distracted by the balloons filling the skies and, before you know it, you’re finding it a little (or a lot) warmer.

4. Prepare for the sunrise

Layers aren’t the only thing you need to be thinking about – if you’re planning on staying on site for all, or much of the day, then sun cream, hats, water and something shady will help you stay cool. It’ll also mean that, if you happen to fall asleep, you’ll have less chance of waking up with a sunburn or feeling like you’re cooking a bit.

5. Have breakfast

Even though it’s early, there’s plenty of places to buy a tasty bit of breakfast before and after the early mass ascent, or you could even prepare your own breakfast before you arrive. It’ll keep your strength up for the fun of the day – and it all makes for the perfect balloon-watching snack.

6. Buy a programme

Not only does buying a fiesta programme help the free event to run for years to come, it’s also full of facts about the balloons and those in charge of making the festival a success. This year’s programme has even included ballooning terminology and a spotter’s guide, which is perfect for the next generation of balloon pilots among you.

Evening mass ascents (if they go ahead)

1. Arrive early

The evening mass ascents are even more popular than the early ones, which means the fiesta site gets busy and crowded far quicker. If you want to get there in time to get a good spot – arriving as early as possible will make things a lot less stressful and give you the best view of the hot air balloons.

2. Make sure you’ve pre-booked your parking

Parking also fills up fast in the evenings, so don’t leave it too late.

3. Prepare for the sunset

In a sort of reverse of the early morning ascents, extra layers are often needed as, when the sun sets, the site gets a lot cooler. Don’t let your balloon fiesta experience be ruined because you’re feeling a bit cold. You can always use your extra layers as a cushion or blanket to sit on if you feel you don’t need it.

4. Make sure you have a map

As things get busier and crowds fill the viewing sites, it can be easy to feel like you’re lost. So grabbing a map (you can find one in your programme) will help make sure you are aware of your surroundings.

5. Make sure you’re well fed and watered

There’s nothing worse than settling down as the event starts, only to suddenly find yourself in need of food or water. You won’t want to miss a moment of the balloons taking off, so grabbing yourself something delicious to feast on while you watch is ideal.

The same goes for toilet breaks too.

Night glow

1. Arrive early

We know, you’re bored of hearing this one but it’s a must. Getting a good spot is particularly important for the night glow as the balloons will be set in one place for the show, rather than flying overhead.

2. Make sure you know how to get home (and you understand there might be queues as you leave)

After the night glow, everyone on site is making their way home at the same time, which could mean long waits to get out. Make sure you know how you’re getting home if you aren’t using the car parks and, if you are, make sure you’ve made a note of where you’ve parked – it can be harder to find cars in the dark!

3. Bring extra layers/blankets

As the night glow takes place in the dark, so the glow of the balloons really shines, extra blankets or layers are the perfect companion – you can snuggle up and enjoy the show while staying warm in the process.

4. Bring a torch

Heading out of the festival site, though lit by magical festoon and twinkle lights in places, can be quite hard in the dark – a torch can be quite useful for making sure you’ve packed up all your belongings and it also helps with finding your car too!

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