2016 Beach Princess: Enjoying the Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival in Foley, Alabama

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Updated for 2018!
The Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival in Foley, Alabama, has reached their 15th year of flying. The event typically features over 30 balloons from across the country. While parking on site costs $5, the event itself is free. Man, do I love free stuff to do!

The Balloon Festival is held at 18507 US Hwy 98 West in Foley and open Friday 2 pm  – 10 pm and Saturday 9 am – 10 pm.
Free parking is offered for off-site parking. Parking is available at Tanger Outlets behind the Nike outlet, with a bus shuttling back and forth from the Festival Grounds to Tanger Outlets for a small per person fee. There will probably be a wait for transportation depending on how many people use the shuttles.

Glow at Tanger Outlets

Things start before the festival on Thursday night. We had a great time watching the balloons inflate at the Tanger mall, and the crowds were light with plenty of room to see. We even did a little window shopping while we were there. This event occurs at the outlet mall on the Thursday before the festival starts on Friday from 6 pm  to 7 pm.

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At the Festival Grounds

On Friday and Saturday, the balloons are at the Festival Grounds by the soccer fields on HWY 98. There is lots of food to purchase and crafts, plus live entertainment during the day when the balloons are not inflated. The balloons are only inflated first thing in the morning and as the sun is going down.

Don’t show up mid-day in the bright sun expecting to see inflated balloons, because that’s a sight you will not see. Weather premising, which means wide under seen miles per hour, the balloons will start to inflate around sunset. We suggest arriving before 7 pm to see this from the very start.




As you can tell from the pictures, you can walk around among the balloons after they are inflated. Lots of people bring lawn chairs and blankets to watch the inflation. This is really cool!








Things look a little different as it starts to get dark.




Photos from 2018

The Carnival

There is a small carnival, sometimes with a Ferris Wheel and multiple kiddie rides. These were ticketed rides, and while a little pricey, they cost way less than Disney tickets!



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And since you brought that lawn chair to watch the balloons inflate, walk over and enjoy a free concert under the pecan trees. We have enjoyed enjoyed several tribute bands through the years. I would really suggest you bring a chair unless you want to stand.


The lighting is very pretty at night. We walked around to all the craft booths and bought a couple food items. Prices are not unreasonable compared to vacation food at other places. You can always bring your own food and drinks. We saw a lot of families enjoying picnics.

Tips to Keep in Mind

The balloons only fly early in the morning/dawn and late in the afternoon/dusk.

The balloons can only fly in the perfect weather, which means wind speeds must be seven mph or less in order to fly.

Tethered rides require a signed waiver of liability, and those waivers are available on site.

What not to bring: coolers, tobacco products and pets

What to definitely bring: sunscreen and lawn chairs

**I would bring real money just in case, especially if you are hungry, thirsty, or plan to park on site.

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Thanks for stopping by, and we’ll see you in a lawn chair under the pecan trees.

Amanda, Disney’s Cheapskate Princess


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Amanda Major CheapskatePrincess.comAmanda Major is the creator of cheapskateprincess.com. She remembers her first visit to Magic Kingdom like it was yesterday, because she had a ham sandwich tucked in her shorts pocket. The whole family snuck in their lunch; you can’t make that kinda stuff up. 40 years worth of trips to Orlando later, she is still trying to save money on vacations.

Amanda is a Disney Vacation Club Member and Annual Pass holder. Her amazing husband, band director Carl Major, plus three teen children and two dogs keep her busy. Amanda teaches Leadership to high school seniors in the almost-coastal town of Foley, Alabama. Read about her cheapskating local vacations with this link. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, walking somewhere, or paddling a kayak. Life is indeed a blast. 

We hope we can help save you some money too. Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from our Travel Consultant with Pixie Vacations, Mike Ellis. You can also e-mail him at mike@pixievacations.com.