High-flying fun returns to Reno-Tahoe with the Great Reno Balloon Race this weekend, Sept. 5-7, followed by the National Championship Air Races next weekend, Sept. 10-14.
From a humble beginning in 1982 with only 20 balloonists participating, the Great Reno Balloon Race has blossomed into one of the country’s premier events for balloon enthusiasts – Reno’s festival is the largest free hot air balloon gathering in the country.
The event now boasts more 140,000 spectators viewing more than 100 balloons soar above the Sierra sky. Less a competition than an opportunity for camaraderie, the festival offers no shortage of parties and events, along with the occasional free ride.
Over three days, spectators make their way to Reno’s Rancho San Rafael Park (map) to be part of the “Dawn Patrol” festivities. Also new for this year is the World’s Largest Pajama Party, where participants are encouraged to arrive in their best (or worst) PJs on Saturday, and compete for bragging rights in contests for “best bed-head,” while enjoying movies, hot chocolate and games during the race’s famous dawn patrol.
The Right Stuff
For Reno-Tahoe visitors seeking an adrenaline fix, the National Championship Air Races showcases some of the world’s best pilots taking on a grueling course at daredevil speeds.
Over five days, six classes of aircraft race up close and personal at speeds up to 500 mph. When the racers aren’t in the sky, spectators will be wowed by flying demonstrations, and displays, including a world-class air show featuring the USAF “Thunderbirds”, top aerobatic performers, military and civil flight demonstrations, and a large display of static aircraft.
The Air Races have been run since 1964 near Reno, and are currently held at Reno Stead Field, about eight miles North of Reno.
- Also check out Food, shopping and events at Reno’s West Street Market