Quick Tips for the QuickCheck Festival of Ballooning in NJ

quickcheck, hot air balloons, hot air balloons nj, nj hot air balloon, balloon festival, nj festivals

The QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning is the largest hot air balloon festival in North America.  It is a colorful, family-friendly, attraction voted for the 6th time, as a Top 100 Festival in North America by the American Bus Association.  We checked it out this past weekend at its annual location in Readington, NJ, braved the high heat and humidity and lived to tell about it.  Know before you go!  Here are my quick tips for the QuickCheck Festival of Ballooning.
1.  Weather permitting.  Your general admission ticket is non-refundable and balloons will only launch if weather permits, i.e. if winds are less than 10ph.
TIP:  Attend the MORNING launch, if the weather messes things up, you can still return for the PM launch. Tickets aren’t valid the next day but will be valid within the same day.  Just remember to get stamped to re-enter later that day.
hot air balloons, hot air balloon , nj hot air balloon, quickcheck hot air balloons
2.  Location.  Solberg Airport is seemingly in the middle of nowhere and traffic in/out is 1 lane either way which makes for painful traffic jams depending on the time of day you arrive.  The parking lot is basically a grassy lawn so if it has rained recently, expect it to be muddy like when we went.  Some cars even got stuck in it and those wearing flip flops truly regretted it!  Also, there aren’t any shady areas so unless you can score a makeshift seat on one of the bales of hay under a sponsored tent, you will have to rely on your own makeshift umbrella shading.  Also, we left around noon on a Saturday from the Financial District of Manhattan and it took us about an hour an 20 minutes to arrive.
TIP:  Take a picture of the parking lane sign before leaving the lot!  The last thing you want at the end of a long day out is to wander around hopelessly looking for your car amongst the hundreds there because you forgot it was parked in P1’s row.

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.

nj hot air balloons, hot air balloon festival, quick check, quickcheck event
4.  Food and Beverage.  Note that security will not only check you to see if you are armed but also check to see if you are smuggling in your own snacks! They WILL confiscate any snacks you have forcing you to beg, borrow and buy food once inside.  Bottled water was allowed this year.  Complaints abounded about the festival food pricing given everyone just paid a hefty admission fee just to get in..but what do you expect..it’s like that at every fair, isn’t it albeit without charging admission prices?  Apparently vendors really take to the “sky is the limit” spirit of the event seeing that they charge $7.00 for a lemonade for example.  Thankfully there are several sponsors offering free tastings that allow you to freely snack and drink along the way (thus the begging comment above).
quickcheck festival, festival of balloons, balloon festival nj, hot air balloon festival

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.

panda balloon, quickcheck balloon festival, hot air balloons nj

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.

hot air balloon festival, nj things to do, quickcheck festival of balloons

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.

Five Flowery Facades For Your Instagramable NYC Bucket – List

flower wall, flower garland, flower facade, instagramable nyc

Flowers cheer us up.  And they’re gorgeous when abundant, making for a dramatic backdrop.  Here, I reveal the most Instagramable NYC flowery facades.  You’ll want to flock on over for the free, photo-taking fun too!

  1. Sezane flower walls, instagramable nyc, nyc bucket list, instagram nyc I just adore this French shop’s facade with its black and white striped awning, and darling bike and bench.  It’s no wonder people travel from across the way just for this picture-taking opportunity!  My friend Hope and I did a very girly little photo shoot here, while browsing and borrowing fashions from the store.  All these pics were shot these just with our iphone..not bad, huh?  TIP – Make sure to head inside where you’ll find a flowery photo booth with flower crown props and all! flower crown, flowers nyc, flower sezane store
    254 Elizabeth St
  2. Hillhouse Home hillhouse linen, hillhouse home, hillhouse west villageThis West Village bedding shop wows with its white floral entrance.  Once you’re done with the photo, walk in for a one-on-one bedding consultation..you heard that right!
    395 Bleecker St
  3. Max Bone flower wall, flower facades, instagram nyc, nyc bucket list, instagramable nyc, flower garland nycThis place which sells high-end doggie items also hosts doggie birthday parties and other pet-friendly events!  It sure caught our attention with its fabulous dog house, completely covered with pink flowers!  The window is lined too, making for a cute little photo opp.  21 Crosby St, 
  4. Ever After ever after shop, ever after store, ever after kids, kids nyc store, kids nyc fashions, nyc kids shoppingManhattan minifashionistas must visit this Tribeca store.  It has everything from the coolest kiddie wear, to accessories, shoes and toys.  The yellow bench will call your name.  Just remember to remind whoever is taking your photo to try not to crop out the flowers overhead! 349 Greenwich St
  5. Yumi Kim  flower walls, nyc instagramable spots, flower facades, flower trashThis dress designer has the prettiest trash the world has ever seen thanks to artist collab with Surface of Beauty.  It’s no wonder bloggers and Instagram-ers alike are overcoming germophobia to stand, sit and even pose with picnic props and all sometimes…oh the things Instagram-ers do for the ‘gram! 105 Stanton St (corner of Ludlow in the East Village)

Know of any other flower-y spots that you would add to this NYC bucket list for floral photos??  Tell me in the comments below!

Read about 4 SOHO stores that are insanely Instagram-able here.

See my picks for 5 affordable, floral maxi dresses here.

© 2024 Stylishly Stella