3. Pricing. Most people complained about the price – gauging. $35 general admission is the starting price. Pay $10 for parking. Plus carnival rides, trinkets, food and beverage are extra. Want a hot air balloon ride? The AM ride is $225 and the PM ride is $250 PER PERSON. The tethered hot air balloon which they say lasts 5 minutes (but someone timed and said actually was 2-3minutes) will cost $20. So a family of 4 will pay $150 just to get in and park for the day. Then add gas, tolls, f&b and entertainment.
TIP buy tickets at QuickCheck to avoid the $4 service fee online and purchase early for $20 if you want to risk the rain or shine no refund policy. Groupon had a half off deal that we missed this year so keep an eye out for that. I also read that discounted tickets through NJIT alumni association. were available and included drinks and food.
TIP: cheapest area to buy food and beverages is the Quickchek tent. Fountain drinks were just $2 here. Note, most vendors shut down sample stations from 5-7pm even though the event officially doesn’t end until 10pm.
5. Comfort. Add these items to your packing list to ensure you stay comfortable throughout your time there. Comfortable walking shoes (not open – toe if it happened to have rained there recently). Sunscreen and bug spray. Hats and sunglasses. Waterproof picnic blankets to sit on (or a dollar store shower curtain will do too!). Bottled waters and cooler bag. Snacks you can easily hide in pockets. Extra toilet paper, hand sanitizers (porta potties are on-site and often run out of both). (optional) beach chairs and umbrellas. CAMERAS and extra battery juice for your phone if you plan to be out long.
Having arrived at around 2, we were severely disappointed to find that there were no hot air balloons anywhere in sight. We learned too late that we’d have to wait until 6:30pm when they were scheduled to ascend. Who knew that the balloons could only be up for a little bit (45min. at a time or so)? We thought that the hot air balloon festival was going to have a sky filled with balloons all day..NOPE! So we wandered aimlessly around what looked like every average NY street fair that we’ve already grown jaded with. Crafts and trinkets that we didn’t want..unhealthy fair foods, and a bunch of vendors selling the same stuff mixed in with a random bathtub renovation vendor haha. Needless to say, hubby was not too happy about this. It’s no wonder that this event’s Yelp review is only 2.5 stars. The website should have really offered more information to help others plan ahead and know what to expect – which is why I’m writing all of this for you.
After spending $5 per carnival ride, we decided we couldn’t stand the heat anymore, and drove off to a nearby random restaurant for bathroom relief, air conditioning and a decent sit-down lunch. Course we had to fight traffic again to get back in but with our stamp and wisdom, having gone through the process of checking ourselves back in, we headed straight for the picnic-ing area where we plopped down our blankets and watched the rainbow of balloons take over the skies. And we played a little mommy and me game of ring around the rosie.
This part was truly magical! To me, if the weather had been cooler and the grounds less muddy, I would have happily enjoyed the entire day (assuming we started closer to the ascension time). This view with the custom shaped balloons (think Elvis, blue dog, American flag etc.) was breathtaking and wow-ed EVERYONE there. Audible gasps, cheers and celebrations filled the air with each balloon launch.
Knowing what I do now, I would return wiser and have much more fun. I would even consider springing for the VIP ticket which gives you access to the Blue sky tent, air conditioned bathrooms, seating, and a private parking lot.
Have you been to this festival and if so, what tips would you add?
Would you ride the hot air balloons??
If you love balloons as much as I do, check out these posts.