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The Great Reno Balloon Race picture in Reno
Watching the Great Reno Balloon Race picture in Reno
The Great Reno Balloon Race picture in Reno
Watching the Great Reno Balloon Race picture in Reno

Key Info

Price & Hours

  • Free
  • September; see website for details on hours of events

Details

  • Festivals Type
  • Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
4.8
Overall
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Scorecard

  • Value
    5.0
  • Facilities
    4.0
  • Atmosphere
    5.0

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Every September, more than 120,000 spectators grab their lawn chairs and head north of downtown Reno to Rancho San Rafael Regional Park for the annual Great Reno Balloon Race. During this three-day event, more than 100 brightly colored hot air balloons fill the northern Nevada sky, making this the largest event of its kind in the nation. The balloon's pilots race against each other; the first balloon to make it to Truckee Meadows (several miles south of downtown) wins.

The race starts at 6:45 a.m. on opening day, and the balloons land as the sun sets on the third day. During the day, other competitions  including kid-friendly activities  take place at Rancho San Rafael and around the city. For the coolest photo ops, consider waking up early for the Glow Patrol (5 a.m.) and the Dawn Patrol (5:30 a.m.). During these early morning hours, balloons that have been certified for flying in the dark (thanks to their onboard lights) take to the skies, glowing against the dark landscape. 

The event is free to attend, but parking will cost you, depending on where you decide to leave your car. If you want to park at Rancho San Rafael, plan to pay $10 per car. Even better, leave your car at the north lots at the University of Nevada, Reno, which is free. If you're staying in downtown Reno, event organizers suggest you walk to avoid the traffic. Recent spectators agree: walking to the event means you don't have to arrive in the wee hours of the morning to snag a parking spot. For more information, visit The Great Reno Balloon Race website.

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Hotels Nearby

  • Thing to Do
  • Hotel
Silver Legacy Resort Casino

Silver Legacy Resort Casino ...

  • 1.5 Miles Away
  • 4.0-star Hotel Class
Motel 6 Reno West

Motel 6 Reno West ...

  • 1.5 Miles Away
  • 2.0-star Hotel Class
Circus Circus Hotel & Casino Reno

Circus Circus Hotel & Casino Reno ...

  • 1.4 Miles Away
  • 3.5-star Hotel Class
See all hotels in Reno »

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#1 Lake Tahoe Sitting only about 40 miles south of "The Biggest Little City" on the border of Nevada and California, Lake Tahoe is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful places ... Read more » reno tahoe media / RSCVA & VisitRenoTahoe.com

#2 Riverwalk Downtown Reno's updated Riverwalk area – located along the Truckee River between Arlington Avenue and Lake Street – draws art lovers and gourmands alike with its collection of galleries and ... Read more » Getty Images

#3 Great Reno Balloon Race Every September, more than 120,000 spectators grab their lawn chairs and head north of downtown Reno to Rancho San Rafael Regional Park for the annual Great Reno Balloon Race ... Read more » Getty Images

#4 National Automobile Museum Even if you don't consider yourself an automobile aficionado, you'll want to make a stop at this museum, according to recent visitors. Home to more than 200 vehicles ... Read more » Watanabe_K NAM 18 / Flickr

#5 Nevada Museum of Art Founded in 1931, the Nevada Museum of Art is the oldest established cultural center in the state. But you wouldn't know that by looking at it. In 2001, the ... Read more » Courtesy of the Nevada Museum of Art

#6 Casino at the Eldorado Though a few recent visitors said this landmark casino has begun to show some wear, travelers still rate the Eldorado as one of the best places to gamble in Reno ... Read more » Marci / Flickr

#7 Mount Rose Ski Resort If you're itching to get on the slopes, but don't want to make the trek to Lake Tahoe, consider heading to Mount Rose. Situated a little more than ... Read more » Reno Tahoe / Flickr

#8 Greater Nevada Field Looking for another opportunity to break away from the casino and enjoy some fresh Reno air? Consider paying a visit to Greater Nevada Field, home to the city's minor ... Read more » reno tahoe media / VisitRenoTahoe.com

#9 Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum Billed as a hands-on science center, the Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum provides further proof that there's more to do in Reno than sit at a blackjack table ... Read more » Courtesy The Discovery

#10 Animal Ark Not all wild animals are found in Reno's nightclubs; some are found in Animal Ark. Sitting on 38 acres 25 miles north of Reno, this facility is not a ... Read more » Courtesy of Animal Ark

Lake Tahoe picture in Reno
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National Automobile Museum picture in Reno
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Mount Rose picture in Reno
Greater Nevada Field picture in Reno
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Animal Ark picture in Reno
Lake Tahoe picture in Reno
Riverwalk picture in Reno
The Great Reno Balloon Race picture in Reno
National Automobile Museum picture in Reno
Nevada Museum of Art picture in Reno
The Eldorado picture in Reno
Mount Rose picture in Reno
Greater Nevada Field picture in Reno
Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum picture in Reno
Animal Ark picture in Reno

Sitting about 40 miles south of Reno, Lake Tahoe makes a great day (or overnight) trip from the Biggest Little City. reno tahoe media / RSCVA & VisitRenoTahoe.com

Reno's Riverwalk offers plenty of scenic outdoor dining options and a Wine Walk is held every third Saturday of the month. Getty Images

The annual Great Reno Balloon Race  held every September  is the largest free hot air ballooning event in the world.  Getty Images

Home to more than 200 vehicles ranging from horseless carriages to race cars to celebrity rides, the National Automobile Museum covers a lot of ground.  Watanabe_K NAM 18 / Flickr

Founded in 1931, the Nevada Museum of Art is the oldest established cultural center in the state. Courtesy of the Nevada Museum of Art

Marci / Flickr

If you're itching to get on the slopes, but don't want to make the trek to Lake Tahoe, consider heading to Mount Rose. Plus, there's a bus that shuttles skiers from downtown Reno to the mountain, making it easy to access. Reno Tahoe / Flickr

The Reno Aces are the city's minor league team and are a Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Recent visitors especially loved the team's clean ballpark. reno tahoe media / VisitRenoTahoe.com

Courtesy The Discovery

Though visitors admit Animal Ark is a bit of a drive from downtown Reno (25 miles), reviewers said it was worth the extra effort, especially if you're traveling with young kids. Courtesy of Animal Ark

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