Lancaster Hot Air Balloon Festival & Country Fair Provides a Bucket-List Experience in a Basket

balloons in a field
Image via Discover Lancaster.
The 2022 Lancaster Hot Air Balloon Festival floats over the Sept. 16–18 timeframe.

The 2022 Lancaster Hot Air Balloon festival lifts off Sept. 16 in nearby Bird-in-Hand Pa.

By the time it lands on Sept. 18, attendees will have gazed at the sight of dozens of onsite technicolor balloons, perhaps ridden in one themselves, enjoyed a steady rotation of multi-genre musicians, enjoyed local dishes, engaged with their kids, and perhaps taken a deeper dive into the unique Amish culture.

The star of the show, however, is the balloons themselves.

Part of each Lancaster Hot Air Balloon Festival day is a mass takeoff of colorful silks — more than 30 of them — inflated to airworthy capacity. The sight of them rising above the landscape against a blazing blue sky is an Instagram moment if there ever was one.

But the evenings of Sept. 16–17 hold truly standout experiences. After sunset, the darkened sky causes the propane-and-nitrogen-fueled transport to glow from the interior of their colorful silks.

A Thrill … But a Safe One

For those new to the ballooning experience, a ride may seem somewhat intimidating. But any undue concern about safety is easily addressed.

The event participants have been safely hosting passengers for decades. All pilots are commercially approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and fly with more than 10,000 hours of combined experience in the air.

A novice passenger may also worry about the height being fearful.

Veterans of the experience say that the liftoff, rise in elevation, and navigation across the sky are so gentle that even avowed acrophobics come to love the sport.

And despite appearances, hot air balloons are navigable, meaning the experienced pilots can avoid conditions to ensure a smooth, safe journey.

The science behind hot-air ballooning is not unlike navigation of the seas by a ship. The pilots —using an ongoing cycle of heating the air in the balloon and gradually letting it cool — find upper-level wind currents that gently “steer” the basket.

Broadening the Itinerary

Once on the ground, the festival has plenty more to offer.

But a full weekend escape is possible by employing a broader itinerary.

The Amish Experience, also in Bird-in-Hand, has been welcoming visitors for 63 years, enlightening them through demonstration of the lifestyle, traditions, and warmth of this culture.

The site has a traditional farmhouse, one-room schoolhouse, effects-enhanced movie experience, and guided tours.

It’s a separate admission from the balloon festival and location — just down the road from the balloon festival — but well worth the investment.

In fact, these two draws, part of many reasons to venture from the Phila. collar counties, can be easily as part of an entire late summer getaway.

Discover Lancaster has numerous accommodation options too, from swanky hotels to homey B&Bs. They can be explored online.

A view of the 2021 festival and its after-dark glow presentation.
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