If your kids happen to be like mine, they are awake before dawn on a regular basis. But even if not, this is worth waking them up for. You’ll see many children still in their pajamas and grown-ups with sleepy eyes, clutching their cups of coffee brought from home. (My family makes a tradition of swinging by the drive-thru of our favorite donut shop on the way and saving a healthy second breakfast for when we get back home.)
Each year, the launch is dependent on the weather and wind conditions. Last year, the balloons were actually unable to launch. Of course, this was disappointing to some who made the trip out there, but for my family, it was still a vision to see the balloons up close, and it was still a great photo op, of course.
- Each year seems more crowded, in my experience. Be prepared to park in a somewhat disorganized fashion on rocky terrain. And try to be patient with others when everyone simultaneously tries to exit after the launch.
- Some folks bring blankets or chairs to sit on. Some will walk around or just stand and watch. (Last year I spotted a large group of folks with a gourmet breakfast that included mimosas. Impressive!) But just bring whatever you think you or your family will need to be comfortable at that time of morning.
- Charge the battery in your camera the night before! You will be sure to get some gorgeous shots.
- Be prepared for Mother Nature to dictate the event. Depending on winds, the balloons may take off FAST! One year we arrived just at sunrise, and all the balloons took off very, very quickly. And last year, all balloons were grounded because winds were not in their favor.
- If your children are sensitive to loud noises, be aware that the propane torches are loud when inflating the balloons.
- If you don’t make it to the Dam or wish to try another view, a popular place to watch is from the parking lot of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church on Hwy 620.
- Finally, be sure to check the Central Texas Ballooning Association website the night before for any updates regarding weather and estimated launch times.
Free Fun In Austin continues to highlight Austin area locations and activities that may not be available at this time. We encourage you to take all safety measures to keep yourself and your neighbors safe. It is our hope that the stories and features on this site will help inform your plans in the future.
Mansfield Dam Park
4370 Mansfield Dam Park Rd.
Austin, TX 78732
Want to learn more about hot air balloons and how they work? Visit the How Stuff Works website.
Editor’s note: The Central Texas Ballooning Association website currently says, “The balloons plan to launch from Mansfield Dam Park at sunrise, which is about 6:45. The pilots and crew will arrive at about 6:00 to get the balloons ready for launching. The balloons, WEATHER PERMITTING, will fly for about an hour.”
Freelance web producer and childcare provider, Heidi Okla is mom to three boys (ages 3, 5, and 7), and can’t pass up any opportunity for fun family adventures. Browse her literacy-focused kids activities on her blog, Read ‘Em and Leap.