Wine with a Chance of Hot Air Balloons-
The Temecula Balloon and Wine Festival
Looking for a quick weekend getaway from Orange County, we were stoked to find out that the Temecula Balloon and Wine Festival was happening on a weekend when we had no plans! With hot air balloons for our one year old and wine for Brett and I, I knew that it could be an event that we all would enjoy. Temecula is Southern California’s wine region, less well known than the wine regions to the north, but fun for tasting. Temecula also known for having hot air balloons that float romantically over the vineyards.
BASIC EVENT INFO
The Temecula Balloon and Wine Festival ran from Friday-Sunday at Lake Skinner Recreational Area. On Friday and Saturday evenings, the event featured a balloon glow where the balloons inflate, ignite their burners, and “glow” under the moon. On Saturday and Sunday mornings, they advertised a hot air balloon launch of 40-50 balloons, as well as hot air balloons that were tethered to the ground, offering guests a free ride. There were numerous booths featuring wine from local wineries. There were also two music stages, and all concerts were included with admission ($33 online or $40 at the gate for Saturday, $23 online or $30 at the gate for Friday or Sunday). Parking at the event is an additional $10 per day.
Brett and I chose to attend on Saturday and Sunday. We arrived at about noon on Saturday, and brought in a picnic blanket and some outdoor toys for Jackson. Plenty of people were bringing in chairs as well. The event was actually quite a bit larger than I was expecting! We purchased some wine tickets and grabbed some lunch in their “food court” area, with lots of vendors and food options. We ate our lunch picnic-style, then wandered around to taste a few wines and check out the rest of the event. They had tons of vendors selling everything from pistachios to insurance to solar panels.
The Temecula Balloon and Wine Festival was super family-friendly! There was a huge kids area with a bunch of activities for kids of all ages. Carnival rides, animals, a zip line, games, laser tag. Right outside, the local fire department set up camp with a few fire trucks and Smokey the Bear. Jackson loved playing on the trucks!
Fearing meltdown if we stuck around until the Evening Glow, we decided to duck out around 3:00 for a few hours so he could take a quick nap at the hotel we had booked about 30 minutes away. This definitely looked like the wrong time to be trying to get in to the event! The lineup of cars trying to enter the parking lot went for at least a mile and probably took people an hour to get in! When we saw the line, we immediately regretted out decision to leave, but (thankfully!) the lineup was completely gone when we came back around 7:00.
We wandered the event a bit more, waiting until the Evening Glow that was supposed to happen around 8:00. I’ve heard that it is really cool to see, but unfortunately it was called off that evening due to high winds. Understandably a safety concern, but still a bit of a bummer! We learned that Friday’s balloon glow wasn’t able to use the ignited burners, but needed to use some type of glow stick instead for safety reasons. The Fire Department cancelled Saturday’s balloon glow altogether because of wind.
The redemption of the evening was Jackson’s first concert- Jimmy Eat World! We camped out next to the stage to avoid the big crowd, but still heard all of the songs and had flashbacks to our college years. We left about halfway through in an attempt to beat the crowds trying to leave, but it still took us over an hour to get out of the parking lot!
The next morning we woke up bright (or dark!) and early at 5:15 to check out of our hotel and head over for the sunrise balloon launch. This was the event that I was most excited about! They have about 40-50 hot air balloons that were supposed to launch from the front of both stages. Gates open at 6 and balloons launch by 6:30. As we were driving up to the event at about 6:30, we saw a bunch of trucks leaving the event with hot air balloons still on their trailers, which was a little concerning. On our way in, we asked two different parking attendants if the balloons were still launching from the event- both said yes. We rushed in only to find out that they were wrong! The only balloons on-site that morning were the ones that were going to be tethered for air balloon rides. The ones that launched actually launched from a winery about 4 miles away.
This was the biggest disappointment of the weekend, partially because we are not morning people and don’t get out of bed at 5 AM without good reason! It also felt a little scam-y of the festival to take money for admission and parking, and then not deliver. The saving grace was that we did get to watch the tethered balloons inflate, and that was pretty cool. The tethered balloons went about 20 feet off of the ground. Brett initially said that there was no way he’d get in one of the balloons- even tethered- but when he saw that they only go about 20 feet off of the ground, he thought he could handle it (a survivable fall!). The line gets crazy-long for this, and since rides are only offered for a limited time period in the morning, not everyone in line was going to be able to get a ride. Had we gotten in line for this when we arrived at 6:30, I think we would have been able to ride.
We were able to see a few hot air balloons in the air from a distance, so we snapped a few pics and then decided to leave and grab a more legit breakfast (and coffee!!) than what the few open vendors had to offer. We headed in to the cute, downtown area of Temecula and ate at E.A.T. Marketplace, which specializes in fresh, seasonal food. Afterwards we went to a park to play, walked around the streets, and went to an antique store. Brett also spotted his favorite brewery, so we stopped by Ballast Point for a quick tasting before heading home.
Would we go to the Temecula Balloon and Wine Festival again?
Probably not. What I was hoping would be Albuquerque Balloon Festival’s little cousin to the west ended up being slightly lackluster. This is potentially more the fault of the weather versus the event itself, but they could have a more efficient way of getting information to event guests. The biggest reason we decided to attend the event was for the balloons. If we’re in the area again during this time and want to see them launch, we’ll probably try to find out where the secondary launch site is and go there instead. This year the secondary launch site was at South Coast Winery, about 4 miles away. I’d rather save the money on parking and admission and actually get to see some balloons! We knew ahead of time that the wine was going to be fine- nothing special (local stores don’t even really sell Temecula wine), so the wine alone wouldn’t attract us to this particular event again.
On Sunday morning, we heard one of the announcers on stage talking about the Temecula Balloon and Wine Festival app, which is how they claimed to be getting event information out to visitors. After scouring their website, I couldn’t find any information about the app, and it wasn’t printed on the tickets or in the confirmation emails from when I purchased my tickets. Turns out there is an app- I found it in my Google Play Store (after the event). They don’t tell you anything about it!
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