Forest Park is home to an exciting balloon race every September. The park is 1,300 acres and the ideal location for an event where giant balloons take flight in mass ascension to race to a big white X and drop a target in the center. Closest to the mark wins. Then, the balloons lower to the ground in various areas of metropolitan St. Louis. This feature makes the Great Forest Park Balloon Race a unique one.
Live music, a scheduled balloon glow, performances by local theater and dance groups, and fun giveaway prizes make this a festival you don’t want to miss. Thie kids can also play on inflatables and partake in games.
The park itself is described as the heart of St. Louis. Visit the Science Center, the Grand Basin with fountains that propel water 30 feet high, and the extraordinary greenhouse called The Jewel Box. There are plenty of trails for trekking and walking, too. Make a weekend of exploring the incredible Forest Park and then branch out into the City of St. Louis.
There are several ticket options at www.greatforestparkballoonrace.com, including VIP experiences too numerous to mention. Choose a Saturday race day package, or book a ticket that includes special bar services for the balloon glow evening. Prices range between $35 and $170, depending on what you are looking to do and how many are in your party. General admission is free, though and includes all of the entertainment and opportunities to see the balloons take flight.
Motorists will find several major highways leading into St. Louis, depending on which direction you are heading from as you place of origin. No matter which route you choose, traffic may be heavy so you will want to sign up for MODOT, the information site for the state. Have a good navigator at your side and set the coordinates for your campground or the festival directly.
For up to date information, check the Great Forest Park Balloon Race website closer to the event. If you bought a special package including upfront view and meals, you will have VIP parking added at time of purchase. General admission parking will be on the street and within the park; details on this information are updated on the festival website before the event, but be mindful of your camper's length when booking.
St. Louis has a public transit system that services the city. Take a look at the website to see whether the bus or metro will be the best method from your location. Metro stops near the event are DeBaliviere and Skinker. Taxi and rideshare options are a great choice if you want to arrive at the festival stress-free, without a concern about parking.
Despite the large expanse of green space, there is no onsite camping at the Great Forest Park Balloon Race. The park is a wonderful place to spend the day, so take the time for a picnic while there. Camp just a few minutes outside the city to be close to the action or venture further if your idea of camping is quieter, with darker night skies not lit up by city lights.
Outside of city limits, the choice is yours at to what type of camping you prefer. Lakeside, poolside, forested, or in the open air, it’s all available within a few minutes to few hours drive. Camp near a Six Flags Theme park or opt to be close to the Mississippi River so that you can fit a boat ride down through this historical area into your trip.
Motorized mobility vehicles are permitted at the Great Forest Park Balloon Race. A stroller or wagon to transport the young ones of your crew around this huge park and balloon venue is a wise idea. Adults on foot, wear your comfiest shoes, and consider bringing a second pair for a change over for your tired feet.
Shorts, t-shirts, jeans, and light sweaters are possibilities for the balloon fest. The temperature should be warm, but if inclement weather makes an appearance, you may want warmer clothes. A hat that offers good coverage is recommended. Pack rain gear in the RV just in case there is an opportunity to go for a stroll on a drizzly day.
The Great Forest Park Balloon Race offers plenty of food options, but as well, you are permitted to bring your own in a soft cooler. Bring along blankets and lawn chairs for sitting to view the performances or the balloon launch. Tents and shade structures are not allowed; they may contribute to blocking someone else’s view. Binoculars are a fun addition to the gear list to see the pilots as they drift through the sky in their vibrantly colored hot air balloons.
No smoking is a strictly enforced rule due to the use of propane for the balloons. Keep the kids close by because Forest Park is an expansive space, and there will be a large number of people milling about to view the activities. Bring water in your cooler and remind the family to drink often throughout the day. Dehydration can sneak up on a person unexpectedly any time of the year.
Fresh air and excitement build hearty appetites. Before leaving home, top up water, propane, and the charcoal briquet supply. Take inventory of your cooking utensils, pots, and pans. Most importantly, stock the refrigerator with plenty of fruits, vegetables, snacks, and drinks. Plan for meals that are easy to prepare, but delicious at the same time.
St. Louis has no shortage of amazing eateries. Consider a vegetable lasagna, locally sourced burgers of every style, blues-influenced fare like deli sandwiches, and southern-style ribs sure to please. The kids may want the treat of a fast-food restaurant. Surprise them and finish the evening off with an ice cream cone.
Visit the ATM to grab cash for midway-style food and food truck fare. Grab a cold drink and allow the kids some popcorn. Take a break in the shade while meandering through the vendor area. Balloon memorabilia will be the highlight of your shopping experience, for sure.
Pets and service animals are allowed to attend as long as they are on a non-retractable leash. The organizers do ask that you ensure your dog can handle the temperatures, crowds, noise, and size of the balloons. Some pets may prefer to be left at home. You are permitted to bring alcohol in your cooler, but drink responsibly and do not bring glass into the park area. For security purposes, attendees cannot enter the launch area when the balloons are taking off. Watch from a distance and still be amazed.
The Great Forest Park Balloon Race has been canceled only a couple of times since its inception, but rain and strong winds can be a hindrance to take-off times. The festival organizers and volunteers have worked hard to provide an entertaining weekend, so do dress in rain gear if rain appears and come and enjoy the park events nonetheless.
The park and events are ADA accessible, and there is adequate parking as well for those who need it. Restrooms and viewing areas are accommodating as well. Back at camp, have a well stocked first aid kit in your rig. Before heading out on the road, visit the pharmacy to replace items that may be beyond the expiration date.