As you may have read in my Things To Do in Temecula post, a few years ago I decided to surprise Daniel with a big birthday trip to Temecula. Specifically, to attend the Balloon and Wine Festival! Daniel has always surprised me with weekend getaways for my birthday, and that particular year I was finally not a starving artist and could reciprocate! I had many different travel ideas and options, but the Balloon and Wine Festival stood out amongst them all. Mostly because Daniel and I love to go wine tasting, and the prospect of taking a hot air balloon ride was too amazing to pass up (hello, bucket list)! It was a clear winner!
The Balloon and Wine Festival is held every year in Temecula, CA, which is about 2-3 hours away from Los Angeles. Tickets vary based on what you want to see and do, packages, etc. I bought general admission tickets online for Friday, which were $22 each. I also bought parking for $5. The festival typically lasts three days, and offers a variety of entertainment each day.
Obviously, one of the main attractions is the wine. There are a plethora of local wineries and vendors situated throughout the entire festival. You’ll need to buy beverage tickets when you arrive – we chose to buy a package that came with commemorative wine glasses ($15 each). If you like physical mementos, I highly suggest doing the same. We use the glasses all the time, and they invoke wonderful memories every single time. Tip: When we were talking to the woman selling us drink tickets, we mentioned it was our first time attending and she threw in a bunch of tickets for free! Not saying this will happen to everyone, but worth mentioning just in case, right?!
If I’m remembering correctly, I believe 1 tasting cost 2 tickets and a full glass cost 4 tickets. Another Tip: We found a few vendors that gave us full glasses for only 2 tickets. We chose to mainly go there to get our buzz on, and then dispersed our remaining tickets for the wines and champagnes we were really interested in trying. Sooo, if you want to get tipsy, be sure to scope out all the booths before you use too many tickets!
They also serve beer if you’re with someone that doesn’t drink wine, and there’s also a bunch of food vendors serving up typical festival fare so you’re not drinking on an empty stomach. Here are a few of our favorite things we tried:
Grilled sausage with peppers
These fried pickles were AMAZING!
This was an “Indian taco” – the photos don’t do this justice. It was incredible!
Other than wine, there is also musical entertainment on Friday and Saturday. Usually it’s either country or popular 90s bands. It’s a serious flashback if you grew up during that time!
The 2nd big attraction at the festival is the hot air balloons. The festival coordinates hot air ballon rides in the morning on Saturday and Sunday. If you read my Hot Air Balloon ride post, then you know that I chose to schedule a private ride for Daniel since it was his birthday. But the festival rides would be a great option for anyone on a budget, and/or wants one stop shopping. Tips: 1. Be aware that you will need to be there SUPER early in the morning, balloons have to take off as soon as the sun comes up and they have to get everyone checked in well before that. 2. Dress in layers! It will start out cold and then become incredibly hot, also bring a hat because the fire overhead will be intense. 3. I also suggest bringing sunglasses, as the sun gets pretty brutal. 4. Lastly, hold on tight and be prepared that it could be a bumpy landing!
General tips: Even if you’re not taking a balloon ride, be sure to dress in layers for the festival regardless. It will most likely be very hot during the day and cool off considerably at night. Bring lots of sunscreen, and something to cover up with – there was practically no shade when we went.
Another main attraction, and what Daniel and I were most looking forward to (besides the wine), was the “Balloon Glow.” On Friday and Saturday night, local companies bring in their finest hot air balloons to delight festival goers with a spectacular show of light and music. I’d highly suggest going on Friday or Saturday just so you can see this. Trust me, you really don’t want to miss it. Check out some photos below!
Once the sun goes down, you’ll see the balloons start to inflate. It was pretty amazing to see up close!
Once it’s fully dark, the Balloon Glow will begin.
This champagne shaped hot air balloon was one of the few that was promoting their winery, instead of their sponsor. We checked out Wilson Creek Winery the next day, which you can read about here.
It was one of the most amazing festivals I’ve ever attended, and an all around incredible experience in Temecula. I truly hope we’ll be able to go back one day soon! If I’ve piqued your interest and you’re thinking about attending the festival this year, or just taking a trip to Temecula, be sure to check out my Things To Do in Temecula post. You’ll find lots of food recommendations, hotel suggestions, and so much more!