Dates: 16 - 20 March 2016
Location: Hamilton Lake, Innes Common and Waikato University
Balloons Over Waikato is New Zealand's premier hot air balloon event. First held in 1988, this annual event is one of the most popular on the Waikato event calendar. Hamilton City will play host to the festival in multiple locations, over four nights in March. There are usually 2 separate events each day where balloons ascend at sunrise and sunset.
Balloonists from New Zealand and around the world come to show their skills. Family focused, the events are free to attend. You can watch balloon inflation and flights in the mornings, and also at sunset for night flying. There can be upwards of 30 balloons rising at each event so it is certainly a great spectacle.
The Balloons Over Waikato Trust was set up to manage the festival. The non-profit organisation has the mission of growing the number of spectators and participation in ballooning. The first day of the event involves balloon ascension from up to 6 different parks around Hamilton. You are more than welcome to go to your local park to view, or you will of course see the balloons from any vantage point in the city.
Balloons at Westfield was a popular event in during previous years. Children were allowed to have a ride in a tethered (but real) hot air balloon on the Westfield Chartwell rooftop carpark. A magical experience for kids! Local schools were also treated to Ballooning hops, where balloons take off and land at several school fields.
Nightglow Balloon Event
The key event is called the Nightglow which is held at Waikato University. The event usually starts from 4.00pm with free family entertainment. There is a concert with bands and dancers. Balloon inflation and a light and sound show captivate the audience. The fiery red glow of the balloons is a sight to behold. It's a real carnival atmosphere with food and treats available, so bring the whole family (and a torch) to enjoy the evening.
For those looking to spectate from up high, pre-booked balloon rides are available at most events and for around $300. Greater Hamilton is a farming region with the mighty Waikato River running through. The natural beauty of this area makes for stunning views from up high. A 45 minute journey is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and one you certainly won't forget.
Flights take off from 7.30am each morning during the event from Innes Common. Balloon flights need to be booked through the Hamilton Visitor Centre: firstname.lastname@example.org or 0800 242 645. More information on this public hot-air ballooning event can be found on the Balloons Over Waikato website: