The Canberra Balloon Spectacular is a highlight of the Canberra event calendar, held in March every year. Each morning before dawn, Canberra locals and visitors push back their covers and get out of bed in the dark, to make their way to the lawns in front of Old Parliament House. Thousands of people make this early-morning pilgrimage to see 40 hot air balloons inflate and take off in a silent dance across the city landscape. The only sounds that pierce the silence are the whoosh's of hot flames, as the colourful hot air balloons climb higher into the air and over the tree line. When dozens of balloons do this at once, it is a sight and sound to behold.
As well as the beauty of the seeing them all hover over the city at once, another highlight each year are the novelty hot air balloons - some which will get the city talking. "Did you see the Darth Vader balloon this morning?" can be heard at office water coolers, all around the city. Keep your eyes to the skies this Canberra Balloon Spectacular to see what's new this year - and which ones make you smile!
Colourful characters from previous years. Image: Original photos from Events ACT Facebook
Although it is an early start, The Canberra Balloon Spectacular is worth getting up for before dawn. Although you may be tempted to slam down on the snooze button and go back to sleep, hop up and get yourself to the lawns in front of Old Parliament House by 6:15am - there will be hot coffee and bacon and egg rolls waiting for you! The Belconnen Lions Club will be cooking up a storm (cash only) and Dutch Pancakes will also be on offer, to get you up and going for the day.
The hot air balloons start inflating at 6:15am, ready for the 6:30am ascent up into the sky. Although some may take a little longer, most are gone by 7am. The temperatures can be quite chilly in the morning in March, so warm clothing is recommended. As this event is dependent on the wind and weather, also check the Events ACT Facebook from 6am, to confirm the hot air balloons will be flying.
The beauty of the balloons before dawn. Image: Events ACT Facebook
It is free for spectators to enjoy this event, however If watching the balloons from the sidelines isn't enough, you can also get a birds-eye view from within one of the baskets. Why not book a passenger ticket with either Dawn Drifters or Balloons Aloft, for a morning flight over Canberra to remember. Prices for both companies are:
Weekend flights: $395 per person or $290 per child aged 6-12. Weekday flights: $345 per person or $250 per child aged 6-12.
* Prices include champagne and cooked breakfast afterwards.
Photo taken from the Canberra Balloon Spectacular, 2017 (Photo credit: @jojoflynnflynn). Image: Events ACT Facebook
Apart from the lawns of Old Parliament House, the National Arboretum is a popular place to see the hot air balloons over the city, especially from the Dairy Farmers Lookout at the top of the property. Gates to the property open at 6am, so you can get up there early enough to see them raise over the tree line and hover ethereally over the landscape. Another popular venue is down at ground level on Lake Burley Griffin. If you make your way to the central basin, between Commonwealth Avenue Bridge and Kings Avenue Bridge, it is only a matter of time before the hot air balloons start to make their way over the water and create a colourful dance before your eyes.
With such beautiful scenes like this to see every morning, you'll be glad you didn't hit the snooze button!
What a sight! Enjoy the Canberra Balloon Spectacular from Lake Burley Griffin. Image: Canberra Balloon Spectacular website