An Insider's Guide to the Great Texas Balloon Race
So, you’re going to attend Longview’s Great Texas Balloon Race and want to find out exactly how it works. We’re here for you! We are locals who have attended many times and understand the intricacies of this fun 3-day event.
Friday is a great day to experience the Great Texas Balloon Race. The morning begins around 6:30 am with professional pilots competing for a cash prize. The pilots meet at the Maude Cobb Convention Center for a quick meeting and discussion of the current weather patterns. You won’t be able to get inside the meeting, but many people love to stand outside and chat with other team members and hot air balloon fans. When the pilots disperse to go to their vehicles and find a launch site, it’s pretty exciting so be sure and stay out of their way as they rush out of the parking lot. This is a race, after all.
Meanwhile, the special shapes balloons are starting to be aired up at various locations all over town. Children especially love seeing these uniquely shaped balloons. Over the years, we’ve seen everything in the sky from a stage coach to a lady bug. The teams try to begin inflating their balloons at 7 am, but the estimated time can fluctuate by several minutes. It’s best to arrive early to view the special shapes. Breakfast is provided on a first come, first served basis at most locations. If you plan well and hurry, you can view several balloons during this unforgettable morning and you don’t need a ticket to get up close and personal with the balloons.
The gates at the Great Texas Balloon Race don’t open till 4 pm so midday is a great time to enjoy one of Longview’s delicious eateries. Some local favorites are Pizza King, The Butcher Shop and our award-winning barbecue restaurant, Bodacious.
In the late afternoon, head to the East Texas Regional Airport for the balloon glow and concert. Bring a folding chair if you have one. Vendors sell them at the event but you’ll be ahead of the game if you remember your own. Coolers are allowed in the event, too. Just remember not to pack any glass! If you prefer to travel light, don’t worry. We have plenty of food and beverage vendors on site.
The balloon glow usually starts after sunset but be sure and check the Great Texas Balloon Race site for the current schedule. Tickets can be purchased at the gate with a credit card or online at OuthouseTickets.com. Kids 12 and under are free and parking is free.
If you’d like to watch the professional pilots competing, the event gates open at 5:45 am on Saturday. Are you wondering why they fly so early? Well, it’s because the heated air inside the balloon makes it buoyant since it has a lower density than the colder air outside it. So, mornings are a great time for pilots to take to the sky and you’ll see them over the East Texas Regional Airport by 6:30 am.
At 7:30 am the Up and Away 5K Fun Run takes off from the East Texas Regional Airport at the LeTourneau Hanger. This is a fun way to get in some exercise and the fastest male and female runner will each take home $200.
At 11 am the gates close and you know the drill… This is the perfect time to try a local eatery or perhaps visit one of our three downtown museums: Longview Museum of Fine Arts, Longview World of Wonders or the Gregg County Historical Museum. Be sure and check their hours as some locations do close early.
The event gates re-open at 4 pm and this is a good time to visit the midway and then get set up for the concert and balloon glow. Yes, if you missed the fun on Friday night, it repeats again on Saturday night with different bands. Check the schedule for all the details.
The final day of the Great Texas Balloon Race is free! That’s right. No ticket is necessary for entry on Sunday. At 6:30 am you can watch the Duck Drop competition and other navigational tasks. The balloons will be launched from two miles away and they will fly over the event grounds at the East Texas Regional Airport. This is a much quieter day and is really enjoyable if you pack a picnic and enjoy the view!
Read our Guide to the Special Shapes