I was so looking forward to this event and being able to share numerous photos of colourful hot air balloons, but sadly this will not be the case in today’s blog post. We attended the Bristol Balloon Fiesta yesterday for three hours in the afternoon and I will share my honest review of what we experienced in this blog post.
Typically the weather today is still and sunny. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case for the past few days where we had a mix of sun, cloud, rain showers and a lot of rain. There was even a yellow thunderstorm warning, but we didn’t have a storm here in Gloucestershire.
It’s typical because the Bristol Balloon Fiesta is obviously dependent on the weather. It’s a four day free family event in Bristol with up to 150 hot air balloons taking to the sky each year. Unfortunately because of the weather being so unpredictable this year they had to close the entire fiesta on the Saturday for the whole day – only the second time they’ve had to do this in its 41 year history.
We had pre-booked parking a few weeks ago for the Sunday, but with the weather in Gloucester showering down on us and being so windy on the Saturday, we kept an eye on the main Fiesta website and saw the event had been closed on the Saturday. Due to dangerous weather conditions for the balloons they had so far only managed to take off once on the Thursday morning.
The event was aiming to open at 10am on the Sunday, so rather than go the whole day as we had planned, we decided to go after lunch after checking their website for any updates.
The sun was shining and it was a little windy on Sunday, so we had high hopes that the 6pm mass ascent of hot air balloons would be able to go ahead.
We didn’t arrive until 3pm and assumed we would stay to watch the mass ascent, get some food and head home at 8pm latest when it closed on the Sunday.
Luckily I wore my wellies as the grounds were very wet and muddy! There were even areas we couldn’t walk through and had to take longer routes around due to all the mud. Of course this isn’t their fault at all, but we know for next time to all wear wellies if there’s been some rain!
We were so impressed at the number of stalls at the Fiesta and from reading other reviews, it would appear that a lot of stalls didn’t even turn up due to weather forecasts. There was meant to be a motorhome and caravan show, but only one turned up according to one person’s review.
There was still lots of inflatables for the kids, fairground rides, bars and so many stalls, mostly food and drink, but clothing too.
We were amazed by how large it was for a free event and even more amazed if this wasn’t even all the intended stalls. It was massive!
So much so that I’d rather pay £20 for parking for one day and come here next year than go back to Wychwood Festival which I was very underwhelmed with this year. It was so small and cost over £100. There was much more to see at this event and they even had entertainment all day.
The Bristol Balloon Fiesta is a FREE event, but if you want to park then you need to pay a daily parking charge. Ours was £17 plus booking fees.
There was a band stand which had bands playing all day and we also listened to a jazz band in another tent! Lidl had set up a free activity area for the kids and there were plenty of paid rides to entertain them.
The best thing about going at the end of the last day is that stalls start reducing their wares! We were even given 10 pots of fresh fruit salads for free from one stall that had too much stock left!
My only complaint is that there were no vegan food stalls! Being Bristol I really expected a lot more vegan food options, but most of the stalls were very meat orientated and I saw no vegan options at all. There’s so much option for vegan food in Bristol city. It’s a shame they didn’t bring that plant-based vibe to their Fiesta.
At around 4pm they announced that sadly they will not be able to do the mass ascent of balloons as they had so hoped. The weather forecast and winds remained unpredictable so it was not safe enough to fly. However they would put up as many balloons as they could on the ground.
We were gutted!
But obviously we totally understood that they had to make that difficult decision.
We sat for a while and watched four balloons be blown up and felt so disappointed, but without blame of course.
We were only thankful that we were able to experience a small taste of the event as we were so impressed at how large the event is. It’s something I’ve seen photos of over the years and always wanted to go. From previous photos it’s an amazing event. The mass ascent is magical and the night glow looks so exciting.
We will put it in our diaries next year, but if the weather looks iffy then we’ll wait and pay for parking on the day itself. The downside to pre-booking parking is there are no refunds if it’s cancelled.
I hope next year we will be able to experience the fiesta and balloon ascents for the entire day. We’ll also make sure we have plenty of pocket money for the kids for all the rides and food stalls! Luckily we did manage to eat a portion of chips, our free fruit pots and we found a stall selling vegan flapjack!
I decided to share my few photos anyway and write about this event as I could tell it’s normally such a good event when it goes to plan. If you’re looking for free things to do in Bristol then it’s worth checking out. You can find lots of footage online from previous events and all the magnificent photos of hundreds of balloons in the air at once.
Eagerly anticipating next year’s event and keeping fingers crossed for dry, calm weather.
Check out more of my reviews here:
Bristol Botanical Gardens review
Visiting Bristol for half a day
Painswick Rococo Garden review and photos: things to do with kids in Gloucestershire
Snowdonia National Park with kids – 3 day travel diary & photos – Cadair Idris, Aberdovey, Harlech Castle
8 free days out with kids in Gloucestershire
Sudeley Castle Spectacle of Light review and photos 2018
Wookey Hole caves review – kids go free!
My very honest Bluestone review – 3 night Christmas break in Wales
One thought on “Bristol Balloon Fiesta: free things to do with kids”
I love seeing hot air balloons close up, and the surrounding festival looks amazing! I hope all these free local festivals are able to come back next year, they’re such a wonderful way to spend a day in the summer.