The Great Reno Balloon Race, or GRBR as it is popularly known as, is a hot-air balloon racing event that takes place every year in Reno, Nevada. The beautiful desert landscape fringed by majestic mountains acts as the perfect backdrop for the race.
Rancho San Rafael Regional Park, a large property that spans over 600 acres, is the event venue. The race is jointly organized by paid employees and a volunteer group called the Aeronauts.
It was started in 1982 with just 20 balloons as a way to promote tourism in the region. The 35th anniversary of the race was celebrated in 2016. In recent years, over a 100 balloons grace the Nevadan sky on the days of the event. Apart from the actual competition, there are other highlights like the "Dawn Patrol" and the "Glow Show." These are great visual spectacles that visitors and locals alike look forward to every year.
Over the years, the event has grown to be among the largest hot air ballooning races in the United States. Pilots from different parts of the country and the world, travel to Reno to take part in the festivities. It is now a beloved tradition that over 140,000 people enjoy every year.
The Great Reno Balloon Race is completely free for spectators to enjoy. This is made possible by generous donations from sponsors of the event. There are a limited number of Cloud 9 VIP Club Memberships available for purchase every year. These will give you access to a clear, heated tent with a great view of the proceedings.
A single-day Cloud 9 adult pass can cost around $110, with a child pass is priced around $90. The club membership includes perks like VIP parking, heated indoor seating, private bar access, and a special catered breakfast. More information on VIP memberships and sponsorship opportunities is available on the event website.
Driving to Nevada via US-395 and I-80 will give you the chance to enjoy some gorgeous desert scenery. Rancho San Rafael Regional Park is less than two miles from Downtown Reno along the business route for US-395. If you're camping at one of the RV parks or campgrounds in the area, you can likely park your rig and simply walk to the venue. Stay informed with road and weather conditions for the State of Nevada and California, including the Lake Tahoe and national forest areas that may pop up on your route.
Paid public parking is available at the venue for smaller vehicles. These lots are a short walk away from the field where the race takes place. If you'd like to be closer to the action, you can opt for VIP parking but note the size of your camper when doing so. Parking is also available at the University of Nevada's lots, about a block away. Parking along McCarran Blvd. is not allowed and overnight parking is not permitted anywhere on site.
Shuttles will be operating on the days of the event, usually with services every 30 minutes. These will ferry guests to the venue from various points in the city, including Reed High School. If you're low on time, you can use a taxi service or a ride-sharing app to acquire a ride if desired.
Onsite camping or overnight parking is not available for the Great Reno Balloon Race. The park is completely dedicated to the event, and strict safety regulations are enforced per the local fire department. Fortunately, you can choose from a number of campgrounds and RV parks nearby.
There are a couple of well-equipped RV parks less than five miles away from the venue. RVers often choose one of the campgrounds close to the Truckee River or drive further away to Lake Tahoe. This gives a chance to enjoy some great waterfront views and activities like boating and fishing.
The area where the action takes place is moderately sized, and you can get from one point to the next on foot. Event officials request that patrons avoid walking on any balloon material that may be on the ground. Most parts of the grounds are navigable by wheelchair and ADA parking spots are available close to the entrances.
Much of the action happens in the early hours of the day, which can be bitingly cold. So be sure to wear warm clothing and covered shoes. Dressing in layers is a good idea. This way you can take off your jacket once the sun rises and the temperature starts to heat up.
It's a good idea to take a lawn chair, sleeping bag, or a blanket, so you can sit down on the grass and enjoy the view. Also pack a small bag with essentials like sunscreen, bug spray, a hat, and a water bottle. Be sure to carry a good camera to capture the beautiful sights and awe-inspiring hot-air balloons.
Wear plenty of sunscreen and a hat to protect yourself from the harsh UV rays. Be aware of the balloon launch areas and stay clear of these. If you're asked to move by a crew member or pilot, please do so. Smoking is strictly prohibited because the gasses that propel the balloons are highly flammable.
Due to the flammability of balloon fuel, fires of any kind will not be allowed in or around the venue. However, many of the campgrounds in the area permit campfires and some even come with fire pits and built-in grills. These typically have stores on site where you can purchase firewood, coffee, and other camping essentials.
From family-owned establishments that have been around for years to newer restaurants showcasing cutting edge techniques, there's a wide range of eateries to choose from in the Downtown Reno area. Some of the large hotels and casinos have fabulous restaurants within them, so bring your appetite if you plan to venture to any local establishments.
There will be dozens of vendors selling delicious breakfast foods and warming beverages that are perfect for a cold morning. From breakfast sandwiches to pancakes, you're sure to find something you're in the mood for at the Great Reno Balloon Race. If you opt for the VIP Club Membership, you can enjoy a complimentary gourmet breakfast.
Random security checks may be conducted, so avoid carrying any prohibited items while attending the Great Reno Balloon Race. Safety is taken very seriously at the event, and specific procedures are followed to keep pilots and passengers safe. Avoid any activities such as operating drones that can pose a danger to the balloons in the air.
The temperature tends to fluctuate significantly from day to night. The early mornings are very chilly, so be sure to dress appropriately. Strong winds may result in the race getting postponed or canceled. Follow the event's social media accounts or call 511 for up to date weather information and road alerts.
A first aid station will be available on site, staffed with trained medical professionals. Medical attention will be provided to spectators, pilots, or participants as needed. ADA support will also be available at the first aid station. If you have special medical or accessibility requests, you can contact the organizers directly. Pharmacy and medical center options abound in the Reno area and are as close as a 10-minute drive from the race site.