The Canberra Balloon Spectacular 2020 will be held from the 7 - 15 March. For the past thirty years, the Balloon Spectacular has been an exciting time in the Capital. Locals and visitors alike watch the winds like hawks and set their alarms for the ungodly hour of 5:00am. Then, on the days when conditions are right, there is a beeline for the lawns Old Parliament House, the launch point for scores of hot air balloons from around the world.
The city looks different in the pre-dawn: fresh and sparkling under a light cloak of fog with so many of the recognisable buildings lit with shimmering lights. This hidden beauty is just the precursor to the main event. Join the hordes on the lawns and your reward will be the supernatural glow and bellowing wheeze of hot air balloons breathing fire, setting the crisp Canberra autumn mornings aglow.
Huddled together and looking larger than life at ground level, the balloons dance and sway as they try to heave themselves slowly from the dewy grass. The constant blasts of warm orange flames burn against the dawn sky is reminiscent of a flock of sighing dragons waking for an adventure.
Like clockwork, just as the balloons ready themselves to launch (usually around 6:30am), the sun inches above the horizon and spills into Lake Burley Griffin setting it ablaze, a perfect backdrop. Balloons start lifting, suddenly effortless, then scuttle across the sky chasing each other along the breeze. Depending on the winds, the balloons will head west and skid across the surface of the lake, bobbing among the paddleboards, kayaks and boats before climbing back into the sky. As they disappear over the hills, the balloons leave a trail of happy memories floating around the city.
This event is an absolute highlight of the Canberra calendar but if you've never been before, it's important to note the following: the Canberra Balloon Spectacular is very dependent on the weather which can also influence the best viewing points. As a guide, the most reliable spots are the Lawns of Old Parliament House for inflation and launch; the foreshore of Lake Burley Griffin near Queen Elizabeth Terrace, Regatta Point, Henry Rollings Park, and the National Museum for the views of balloons over the water and the National Arboretum for the balloons sailing over the hills to land. It's best to keep a check on wind forecasts then map out your viewing points based on that. Parking can get busy around Old Parliament House but you will find a space if you're patient, just factor in a few minutes for parking and walking so you don't miss the view! And if you'd like to be part of the view, why not book a balloon flight? Check out Balloon Aloft for details and pricing.