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Don’t miss The Preakness Balloon Festival

Preakness Balloon Festival

Photo credit: Forsaken Fotos Follow / Balloon Glow / Flickr

If you’ve ever been interested in going for a hot air balloon ride, you may want to check out the Preakness Balloon Festival in Howard County, Md., each May. There are always plenty of fun things to do on the ground and in the sky, from watching the nightly Balloon Glow (pictured) to climbing in a balloon basket and taking to the skies for your very own bird’s eye view of Maryland.

The 2015 Balloon Festival will be held Thursday May 14 through Saturday May 16. This family friendly festival has been a tradition for 40 years, offering fun and entertainment for locals and visitors alike. Activities will be held at the Howard County Fairgrounds and Turf Valley in Ellicott City.

The Preakness Balloon Festival Afternoon Activities

Each day during the festival, afternoon activities will be held at the Howard County Fairgrounds beginning at 4:30 p.m. Activities include:

  • A tethered hot air balloon ride, where you’ll float 60-80 feet in the air for an incredible view of Howard County.
  • A bevy of food, retail and craft vendors to explore at your leisure.
  • A mass hot air balloon ascension of 25 colorful balloons at 6:30 p.m. Reserve your spot on one of these hot air balloon rides! Details below.
  • A Balloon Glow at dusk at Turf Valley. This beautiful sight is a great way to cap off your evening. More details on the Balloon Glow are below.

The only morning activities during the festival will be the 6:30 a.m. ascensions at Turf Valley in Ellicott City. A full schedule of events is listed on the Balloon Festival website.

Mass Hot Air Balloon Ascensions

The mass hot air balloon ascensions are a sight to see with 25 hot air balloons taking to the sky. The ascensions are scheduled (weather permitting) for May 14 at 6:30 p.m., May 15 at 6:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m., and May 16 at 6:30 a.m.

All morning balloon ascensions take place at Turf Valley. All evening ascensions take place at Howard County Fairgrounds.

Whether you choose to attend the morning or evening session, you can watch from the ground as these giant balloons are inflated and then take flight. Or you can reserve your very own spot in a balloon basket and experience the flight yourself. The flight is $225 per person.

Nightly Balloon Glow

The Nightly Balloon Glow takes place at Turf Valley at 8:30 p.m. The balloons are inflated and lighted but do not take flight. Spectators have said that the balloons almost look like Christmas ornaments against the backdrop of the night sky.

The Balloons

Twenty-five hot air balloons are scheduled to appear at the festival, including colorful balloons and specialty balloons in the shape of Puddy Cat and Yellow Bird. Other specialty balloons include one with a giant teddy bear on it and another shaped like a giant elephant. Find out more about these balloons and see a few fun pictures at the event website.

The Preakness Celebration

The Balloon Festival is one of many events that make up the Preakness Celebration, a week-long lineup of food, fun and entertainment in honor of the Preakness Stakes, one of the most famous events in horse racing. In addition to the Balloon Festival, events include the Preakness 5-K Run at Pimlico, concerts and more.

The Preakness Stakes

The big race will be held May 16, 2015 at the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, the second oldest racetrack in the nation. The Preakness is the “second jewel” in the thoroughbred racing’s prestigious Triple Crown. If you plan to be in town the entire week of the Preakness, you can take advantage of all the activities surrounding this racing tradition.


If you’re planning to attend the festival, let the Wayside Inn serve as your home base during your visit. Our Ellicott City bed and breakfast is a romantic retreat from everyday reality. The Wayside Inn is the perfect place for you to escape. After a day enjoying the Preakness Balloon Festival, come back to The Wayside Inn where you can relax in one of our six beautiful, quaint rooms. Wake up refreshed and enjoy a delicious gourmet breakfast that you’re sure to love.