Grayslake hot air balloon festival lights up the night

Balloons as big as buildings, floating above your heads or glowing in the dark, so close you can feel the heat from their flames. No, this is not a super expensive experience that you can only wish to be a part of. It’s actually a FREE festival that happens in Grayslake on Aug. 29.

If you go

Grayslake Color Aloft Hot Air Balloon Festival

Saturday, Aug. 29

Central Park

100 Library Lane

Grayslake, IL 60030

4-9 p.m.

The Color Aloft! Hot Air Balloon Festival takes place in Central Park. Balloons will set up in the fields at the west end starting at 4 p.m. While the balloons are getting ready to launch there will be family-friendly games and activities, including an old-fashioned baseball game put on by the Grayslake Historical Society at the fields closest to Lake Street. There will also be bands, a storyteller and various community groups set up at booths around the park.

Sometime between 5 and 7 p.m. the balloons will take off in a what is called a “Fox and Hound” fashion. One balloon goes up first and all the rest follow. Because hot air balloons are dependent on the wind to get going in the right direction, there is no firm launch time so plan on spending the evening at the park.

The balloons usually land somewhere around Lake Villa and will be driven back to Grayslake. If you have older kids that can hang out, or you plan to come back, this is the best part. Starting at dusk, between 7:30 and 8:30 p.m. the balloons will all be inflated and illuminated internally. In the dark, the flame lights up the balloons like giant lightbulbs in the field. You can walk around and get up close and personal with them all. Some of the drivers will even allow people to step into the baskets. They will also answer questions and show the kids how the balloons work. It’s really magical!

In addition to the festival, Central Park is home to two great playgrounds. The one on the west end, closest to Lake Street, is only one year old and has tons of great climbing and spinning equipment. The “Library Park,” as my kids call it, is on the east end. It’s the older, but bigger, park. It has plenty of swings and an entire toddler-safe structure, plus a covered picnic shelter.

Good to know:

Families are encouraged to bring a picnic and set up in the park for the evening. In the past there has been food available for purchase.

Parking is available at Grayslake Central High School, Grayslake Middle School, Grayslake Aquatic Center and the Grayslake Library.

The park is large and if you will be walking from the car, bring a stroller or wagon to carry the kids and and all your stuff. There is a paved path around the entire park.

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