Despite the fact that I have only just moved to Bristol, I have been to the Bristol Balloon Fiesta a few times (in 2016 and in 2014) with James. This weekend was my third time going and it was every bit as magical as the last two. Although the crowds seem to be growing year on year which does make it slightly harder to enjoy, I would still encourage anyone who hasn’t been to go along. It is slightly surreal but also kind of magical, and I certainly haven’t seen anything like it elsewhere.
This year we went on the Saturday afternoon to have a wander round, watch the evening ascent and watch the night glow. Sadly it was too windy for the evening ascent (which might explain why the morning ascent on Sunday was so busy) but the night glow was wonderful and the fireworks afterwards were particularly impressive this year.
We also woke up early for the morning ascent which was magical with approximately 110 balloons taking to the skies. The weather was perfect for it and it was certainly worth the early start!
The circus was a new addition this year and is very much aimed at children. If you are looking for some family friendly entertainment to break up the day then this is a good place to come, although it did feel quite separate to the rest of the event. There were some impressive acts which could be enjoyed by everyone, but for me there was a bit too much of the more slapstick routines which took away from the overall show.
Another new addition for this year was the Ferris wheel and in my opinion this was definitely worthwhile. We were put off by the queues on the Saturday afternoon, but returned on the Sunday morning when it was a little quieter. We opted to go on part way through the mass ascent which was brilliant as we could still see balloons taking off but we also had a much better view of the balloons in the air, which from the ground looked as though they had disappeared over the hill. There were points where it looked as if a balloon might crash into the wheel but as far as I know this didn’t happen! It was a great way to offer a new perspective on the balloons.
A few other things I noticed this year in comparison to previous visits were that there appeared to be fewer craft stalls this year which was a shame and made it feel as though the stands were all much more commercial. Crowd control also wasn’t as good. It was incredibly busy so key walkways were bound to be congested, but I remember more people directing the flow of visitors last year, and they were also much stricter about keeping pathways clear. If you don’t like crowds then I would just stay away from the Saturday altogether, which is such a shame as it is a really good day out.
Although it is getting crowded I reckon I’ll still make every effort to go next year as each time I’ve been I have thoroughly enjoyed it. Maybe one day I’ll actually make it up in one of the balloons…