Float Like A Ghost At The Spooktacular Hot Air Balloon Festival

by | Oct 15, 2022 | Day Trips From Los Angeles, Destinations, Family Adventures, Traveling with Teens, USA, Weekend Trips, West Coast

(This article may or may not contain affiliate links. What does that mean?)


If you’ve never heard of the Spooktacular Hot Air Balloon Festival, you’re not alone. I’d never heard of it either until a few years ago. I found it while researching fun, interesting, Halloween-themed activities to do with kids.

Intrigued, my wife and I decided to check it out with our girls. We bought our tickets (info below), put on our costumes, drove to Phoenix, and…

Dang! It was the best Halloween bash I’d been to as an adult! There was live entertainment! Costumes galore! A family fun zone! And beautiful hot-air balloons! It was the perfect way to get into the Halloween spirit!

In this post I’ll share my tips for how to get the most out of your trip to the Spooktacular Hot Air Ballon Festival this Halloween.


Jack-o'-lantern balloon at the

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! © Spooktacular Hot Air Balloon Festival




HA Festival Pin #1


When Is The Spooktacular Hot Air Balloon Festival?

The Festival is on Friday October 28th, 2022 and Saturday October 29th, 2022 from 5:00pm to 9:30pm. 

There will be trick-or-treating, costume contests, hot air balloon rides, food trucks, and live music.

Don’t forget to dress up! Everyone will be in costume which adds to the sense of Halloween fun and whimsy. Not to mention… the costume contests, but more on that later.


Don’t Miss! 6 Unforgettable Festivals In Autumn Around The US


Where Is The Spooktacular Hot Air Balloon Festival?

The Festival takes place at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, 30 minutes outside of Phoenix, AZ. 

Free parking is available, but limited to first come, first served. Saturday evenings will be busier than Friday.

If you plan on dressing up (like we did), it’s more convenient to change in your car at the event instead of in a parking lot nearby. 

Extra free parking at lots near the festival grounds will be available. So if you show up a little late, due to a last-minute costume malfunction, have no fear!

Click here to learn more about parking at Salt River Fields.



Do You Need Tickets To Enter The Festival?

Yes, you will need tickets to get into the event. You can book yours in advance by visiting the event’s website here

You can also buy tickets at any of the festival’s entrances on the night of the event. General admission is $22 for adults and $17 for kids 3-13 years old.


Best Things To Do At The Spooktacular Hot Air Balloon Festival



Okay, but what do you do at the Spooktacular Hot Air Balloon Festival, besides well… look at hot air balloons?

I’m glad you asked! 

Kids and parents can look forward to plenty of Halloween-inspired events! Keep reading and I’ll let you in on the must-not-miss things at the Spooktacular Hot Air Balloon Festival in 2022.


Don’t Miss! 5 SpOOky Things to Do with Kids for Halloween Around Los Angeles


Watch The Balloons Go Up

If you’ve ever been to a hot air balloon event like the Arizona Balloon Classic or the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in New Mexico, then you know one of the most exciting moments is when all the balloons start going up. Mass ascensions they’re called.

Much like watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade, there’s something spectacular and awesome about watching these colorful balloons fill the sky. And because these festivals are in arid regions, the desert glows from the light given off by the heated balloons.

Some balloons will be soaring high into the skies (see tether rides). But most will stay grounded so kids can trick-or-treat at them. I prefer it that way. It’s much more fun to get a look at these unique balloons up close.



Showcase Your Creativity At The Halloween Costume Contests

It’s Halloween, witches! Of course there’s going to be costume contests. Yup, you read that right. Contests! Four to be precise. Intrigued? Find out how you and your family can get in the running down below.


How To Register For The Costume Contests

Contestants can enter for the contest by registering their name at the Contest Check-In near the stage. (It’s enormous! You can’t miss it.) 

Only the first 50 applicants will be accepted for each contest, so if you plan on you or your kids strutting your stuff make sure to get to the Spooktacular early.


Who Can Enter The Costume Contests?

There will be four separate costume contests held one after the other on Friday and Saturday night.

The first is for tots ages 0-3. Parents are allowed (and encouraged) to walk with their kids. 

The second contest is for kids ages 5-12. 

The third is for anyone 13 years or older. Parents, prepare to embarrass your kids! 

The fourth is my favorite contest of them all: the group/family contest. It’s so wholesome to see the whole family come together with a common theme.


Kids in Halloween costumes pose for picture.

Watch out for these terrifying treaters © Spooktacular Hot Air Balloon Festival


When Are The Costume Contests?

The first contest starts at 7:00pm and each subsequent contest begins 20 minutes thereafter. 

  • Tots: 7:00pm
  • Kids: 7:20pm
  • 13+: 7:40pm
  • Group: 8:00pm


What Are The Costume Contest Prizes?

The amount of applause each contestant gets determines the winner. All four winners will receive a special Halloween trophy and $100 Visa Gift Card. Not bad for one night’s work, me thinks.


Do You Still Have Questions?

Click here to learn more about the costume contests on the event’s website.


Go Trick-Or-Treating At (Wait For It) Hot Air Balloons!

It’s Halloween tradition to go door to door collecting candy. But the organizers of the Spooktacular had a better idea. What if instead of houses, we let kids treat-or-treat at hot air balloons? And thus… the Spooktacular trick-or-treating event was born. 

There will be over 20 hot air balloons filling the night sky on both days. Trick-or-treating starts at 6:30pm when the balloons go up and lasts all night long!

The event organizers estimate that they hand out over 4,000 pounds of candy each night. Which… like… what?! Where was this when I was growing up? 4,000 pounds?! I doubt if my entire neighborhood could have generated 4,000 pounds of candy!

Kids have it easy these days, I’m telling ya. When I was growing up, we had to work for our candy. And if we were lucky, we got 1/4 pound, max!


Trick-or-treating at the Spooktacular Hot Air Balloon Festival

I love the smell of candy in the evening © Spooktacular Hot Air Balloon Festival


Enjoy Hot Air Balloon Rides

This is the real highlight of the event. I mean, it wouldn’t be a hot air balloon festival if at least some of the balloons didn’t lift off, right? 

And while trick-or-treating from hot air balloons is fun, seeing the entire festival laid out beneath you like an enormous, illuminated patchwork quilt is even better.

I don’t like heights but even I was pumped to take trip up into the air in one of these bite-sized blimps. Our girls, of course, loved every second of it!



How To Ride In A Hot Air Balloon

Tickets for the hot air balloon tether rides are available at the event. There are no advance sales. Like with the costume contests, you’ll want to arrive early to ensure you get a spot.

The tickets are $25 for adults and $15 for kids ten and under.


Balloon operator at the Spooktacular Hot Air Balloon Festival.

How do I get that guy’s job? © Spooktacular Hot Air Balloon Festival


Free Kids Zone

Last but not least on the list of activities is the Free Kids Zone. 

Over 30 attractions have been set up for kids to mess around in. These include slides, inflatable bounce houses, and even an obstacle course!

Our girls loved being able to run wild for a bit. It probably helped them work off all that candy they snacked on earlier…


Free Kids Zone at the Spooktacular Hot Air Balloon Festival.

It’s a bouncy castle bonanza! © Spooktacular Hot Air Balloon Festival


Discount Code!

Use this link to buy discounted tickets to the Hot Air Balloon Festival! Why pay retail?


When You Go



How to Get to the Spooktacular Hot Air Balloon Festival from Los Angeles

So now you’re pumped about bringing your family to the Festival, right? But what about getting there? No worries, I’ve got you covered!

The fastest way to get to the Hot Air Balloon Festival is to fly directly to the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport

An excellent discount site for flights (and hotels) is Expedia!

Once there, you’re only about a 30-minute drive from the festival entrance. Our family rented a car the last time we went because we wanted to turn it into a three-day weekend adventure.

A rideshare app or taxi is fine if you’re only going for the night. And you won’t have to worry about parking. Nice!

The event ground is also reachable by public transit. Google Maps estimates it’ll take about an hour to get from the airport to the festival.

Click here to learn more about how to get to the Balloon Festival with public transit. 


Where to Stay while at the Spooktacular Hot Air Balloon Festival

The Hilton Garden Inn is situated in downtown Phoenix. It’s a beautiful, luxurious resort that pairs stunning views with unbeatable prices. The onsite restaurant makes dining convenient, and the hotel’s proximity to public transit ensures getting around is a breeze.

Located close to everything, the Holiday Inn & Suites Phoenix Airport is perfect for families who want to turn their trip into a mini-vacation. The hotel is fitted out with an outdoor pool and 24-hour fitness center: perfect for anyone hoping to unwind after a long day of exploring. 

For those looking for a quick, one-night stay, I recommend La Quinta Inn by Wyndham. Not only does it have an outdoor pool, fitness center, free breakfast, and free outdoor parking, La Quinta also has a complimentary shuttle to and from the airport. This is perfect for families who don’t want to feel rushed during check-out on Sunday morning.



HA Festival Pin #2


Matthew LaMourie is a travel writer and photographer based in San Francisco, CA. A natural explorer, he specializes in finding out of the way places, even in the most well trodden of destinations. When not on the road, he devotes his time to his loving family, his water color painting, and just walking around his adoptive city, ever curious to see what’s round the next corner.