Look to the skies as colorful and playful designs ascend like floating candies across the breathtaking Blue Ridge Mountains — a beautiful sight indeed at the Hot Air Balloon Festival in Helen, Georgia, sponsored by HEAD Balloons! Kicking off the only long-distance hot air balloon race in the country and the oldest balloon event in the South is the ascension of 20+ hot air balloons at the Wilkin’s Property.
Held in June, the Annual Helen to the Atlantic Balloon Race & Festival is a family-friendly summer event in the Alpine Village of Helen in the North Georgia Mountains (about 2 hours from Atlanta). Notably, this hot air balloon festival has been around since 1974 — nearly 50 years! Festivities include participation in hot air balloon inflations and ground chasing plus tethered balloon rides in the mornings and evenings. During the day, you can explore the Bavarian-inspired mountain town of Helen and relax at your cabin rental at nightfall.
Helen to the Atlantic Balloon Race
The Helen to the Atlantic Balloon Race — affectionately called a journey to “the edge of the Earth” by Pete Hodkinson (creator of the first race) — is a fierce competition for professional balloonists. Starting at 7:00 a.m. (weather permitting), hot air balloons begin to lift off into the sky from the launch field. Their goal? To cross the finish line — anywhere between Maine and Miami on I-95 — or to be the farthest ahead at sunset on the last day of the hot air balloon festival!
On average, the race takes about 2 days, with the shortest completion on record at 1 day and the longest at 4 days. The shortest distance it could take to complete the race is roughly 225 miles. To find out who’s in the lead, simply reach out to the Balloon Race Headquarters for an update with organizers or check out the Helen to the Atlantic Hot Air Balloon Race Facebook page.
Ballooning | A Unique Sport
Ballooning is an interesting sport that requires great skill and coordination between pilot and ground crew. Hot air balloons depend heavily on the speed and direction of the winds, and it’s up to the pilot to navigate vertically to find the best spot to sail to their destination.
Not to mention, racing hot air balloons can only carry enough fuel to last around 4 hours, which is about 40 gallons. This means the pilot needs to land and refuel multiple times during a race, and the crew needs to be ready with everything they need the moment their basket touches the ground. Honestly, it’s super exciting — anyone could overtake the lead at any time!
Hot Air Balloon Festival
After the Helen to the Atlantic Balloon Race begins, take time to watch the hot air balloons soar into the heavens. Or go ahead and explore downtown Helen; you can often still spot the balloons while out and about. Once evening rolls around, you can head back to the festival grounds for more ballooning fun! Festivities are only held in the mornings and evenings of the event, leaving you midday to check out local attractions, shops, and eateries.
The Hot Air Balloon Festival in Helen invites YOU to participate in ballooning activities. You can help inflate balloons and assist chase crews who follow the hot air balloons to aid with landing. Best of all, you can sail up for a one-of-a-kind ride in a tethered balloon! Views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Lake Lanier, rivers, waterfalls, treetops, wildlife, and heavenly skies are unbeatable. There are typically around 20 balloons that fly locally throughout the event. Most take off at the festival grounds, but you may spot some taking off at other locations around Helen, GA.
Things to Note
Balloons will only take off during ideal weather conditions. If it’s pouring cats and dogs, or if the wind picks up suddenly, the balloonists will wait to launch.
Dates & Hours
Mornings & Evenings — 7:00 a.m. & 6:30 p.m.
Note: Festivities are not active at midday.
Wilkin’s Property (across from Cool River Tubing & River Park)
Balloon Race Headquarters
Where to Stay
Spending your weekend at the Hot Air Balloon Festival in Helen, GA, means you’ll need a comfortable and relaxing place to rest and recharge on your vacation. What better way to experience Blue Ridge Mountain culture than to stay in a North Georgia cabin rental? Georgia Cabins for YOU offers a range of mountain view cabins, pet-friendly vacation rentals, romantic cabins, family rentals, and large group lodges — with amenities to entertain and conveniences to appreciate.
Strolling around town will leave your muscles aching for a soothing hot tub soak beneath the stars. To further unwind, sip local wine in the rockers with a view of the Toccoa River, shoot pool in the game room, watch movies in the theater, or read in the outdoor lounge. Hungry? Whip up homemade meals in the fully equipped kitchen or toss burgers on the grill. When it’s time to hit the hay, slip away for a spa bath in the indoor jetted tub before retreating to your king suite. Book online or at 1.800.580.5524 today!
Plan YOUR memorable vacation with Georgia Cabins for YOU and experience the Hot Air Balloon Festival in the Alpine Village of Helen.