8 Tips for Attending a Hot Air Balloon Festival with Special Needs

Life has been just a tad different since we've moved to Virginia from New York.  This has also caused some changes in holiday traditions.  The 4th of July has always been a tricky holiday.  Neither one of our girls enjoy fireworks.  Crowds of people, a late night outside in the dark, and the scents of alcohol and smoke filling the air are huge triggers.

Our boys on the other hand love fireworks and everything that has to do with the 4th of July.  Most often my husband Jason and I split up for the night, one taking the boys and one staying behind with the girls.  But this year we found a way to celebrate that everyone could enjoy.

What did we do?  We went to the local hot air balloon festival, bright and early in the morning to watch nine hot air balloons set up and take flight.  It was an absolutely amazing experience that the kiddos will never forget, set up perfectly to accommodate everyone's special needs.  Here are all of the details of our experience and 8 tips for attending a hot air balloon festival with special needs.
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8 Tips for Attending a Hot Air Balloon Festival with Special Needs

1. We chose to attend the event bright and early in the morning when there were less people around.  The fewer people the less chaos and anxiety.  Because the kiddos had just woken up, they were at their best, which is always nice.

2. Knowing there would be fire and loud noises from the hot air balloons, we made the decision to watch from a distance.  This was a significant benefit to those with sensory issues and to those who don't like large crowds.  Being away from crowds also made it possible for the kiddos to move around when needed, as the whole process from beginning to end took quite a long time.


3. We made sure to dress appropriately for the event bringing along extra sweatshirts and blankets just in case.  Though most days here are around 90 degrees F, the mornings are still very cool.  I wanted to make sure no one was uncomfortable.  Everyone was wearing sneakers and brought along our handicap strollers.  We knew we'd be out in a field and there would be a lot of walking.

The family up bright and early to watch hot air balloons take flight.

4. I also remembered to bring bug spray.  Insects are everywhere here in the Blue Ridge Mountains, morning noon and night.  Ticks are also abundant.  Knowing we'd be in a field, I didn't want to end up coming home with everyone eaten alive.

5. Lastly, I remembered to bring sound blocking headphones.  If you're not familiar with hot air balloons, you may not know that they can be quite loud as they're filling and rising.  Even at a distance you could hear the distinct sound.  It was great to know that the headphones were there if Sunshine needed them.

Four kiddos watching the hot air balloon festival.

Now I rocked the tips I've shared above, and then there were a few others I didn't do so well at that I thought I'd mention, so your first experience can be even more successful than ours.

6. Learn how hot air balloons work before you go and watch them set up and launch for the first time.  The kiddos had so many questions, and though they were mesmerized, they wanted to know all of the ins and outs.  This can be done through books, experiments, etc.

7. Bring lots of snacks and drinks along.  There is a lot of waiting and standing around as hot air balloons set up and prepare to launch into the sky.  We were there for two hours, which was much longer than I expected.  Because it was so early in the morning and I wanted to be sure to provide incentives for good behaviors, I told the kiddos we would pick up a special breakfast afterwards.  If I could do it again, I'd bring the breakfast with us.

8. Don't forget binoculars!  Whether you're close to the action or farther away, seeing the details of each balloon and the set up process would be so much nicer with binoculars.  Dinomite regretted not bringing his and commented on their value as we were watching.

Without the binoculars the kiddos still really enjoyed the entire morning.  They loved watching the balloons fill with air.  Each balloon was different in design and color.  The only hiccup we had was when one balloon started to come close to us in the sky.  It kind of freaked Sunshine out a bit, as she worried it would fall on top of us. Thankfully once it decided to go another way, she was much better.

Our sweet Sunshine's reaction when a hot air balloon flew overhead.

The boys on the other hand enjoyed every single minute of the morning.  They LOVED watching every step of the process and couldn't get over how magnificent the balloons looked both on the ground and in the air.  I'm guessing we'll be doing this again next year!

The boys watching hot air balloons set up and take flight.

After we watched all of the balloons take flight we headed to the store to pick up some yummy breakfast treats that everyone could enjoy.

Our 4th of July breakfast!

Then we all took a nap.

It was the best 4th of July yet and the first one we've spent all together in a very long time.

What did you do for the 4th of July?  I'd love to hear about it!

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8 Tips for Attending a Hot Air Balloon Festival with Special Needs

1 comment:

  1. Binoculars and I do not seem to get along!

    Great ideas for successful air balloon trips.

    On the 4th I learnt about a circus workshop which is on this week; signed a First Peoples petition; received an e-mail from a Social Research Centre and copied a quote about Doctor Who and the Master.

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