In October 2018, we took a gamble and joined the masses at the Salt River Fields Spooktacular Balloon Festival in Scottadale. The gamble was because we’re not festival lovers (mostly due to crowds). This Spooktacular event was amazing! So unique and fun and yes, there were crowds, but it was managed well and we had a memorable evening.
The highlight of this festival is hot air balloons. There were around 25 giants for visitors to admire, photograph, wander around, and even ride in a tethered balloon (for an extra fee). We also chatted with a few balloon owners and learned some fun facts about how they work. Later in the evening as well, the kids can go trick-or-treating at each balloon.
Other than getting candy, the kids loved the bouncy houses. There were so many! There was one long set of bouncy houses at the entrance, and then another set by the hot air balloon rides. Over 20 bouncy houses in all, and with unlimited time! Our kids tried every single one, of course. There was a nice variety of themes and sizes/heights, and a few obstacle courses as well. We recommend arriving right at opening time, 5pm, to enjoy the bouncy houses before the crowds arrive closer to 6pm.
As the sun began to set, the hot air balloons came alive. This is fascinating to watch! You don’t realize how huge the balloon portion is until you observe the process of inflating. Be aware that the majority of the balloons are not blocked off. Employees and helpers did a good job keeping families safe; there are often just ropes that can be difficult to see in the dimming light.
Next up was finding dinner! The food truck selection was varied. There were tasty options from burgers to BBQ, to sides to melt in your mouth desserts! Also be prepared to drop $50 or more to feed the family. After an affordable entry fee to the festival, we were disappointed to have the food so pricey. An alternative might be to have an early dinner at home, then splurge on snacks. We brought a picnic blanket and enjoyed watching the hot air balloons inflate while eating.
The start of trick-or-treating didn’t have an official start time, but just watch for the lines beginning to form at the balloons. They were long, but moved fairly quickly. Apparently there is 4,000 pounds of candy to hand out! While you wait, look up and admire the huge hot air balloons. There are also periodical countdowns, where all the balloons blast fire – such a visual treat! You can see more in our YouTube video below:
We ended up leaving before the fireworks, due to overtired children (and pregnant mama). We were told they started at 9pm, but at 9:15 they had yet to appear. After the fireworks, the festival closes.
Overall, we enjoyed this fall festival and recommend it for its unique flavor and family friendly atmosphere! Have you taken a hot air balloon ride over the desert? Several companies in the Phoenix area offer this, and children as young as 5 are welcome. Let us know if you have any recommendations!
The Salt River Fields Spooktacular Balloon Festival in Scottsdale is held on October 25 and 25, 2019 (Friday and Saturday). Gates open at 5pm both evenings. Admission is $12/adult, and $10/children ages 3-12 (2 and under are free). Included in admission is the bouncy houses, trick-or-treating at the balloons, live music, fireworks (at 9pm) and a spooky trail to explore.
Parking is free at Salt River Fields. Limited space is available by the entrances, but overflow parking and shuttles are available. Consider taking an Uber or Lyft.
Tethered hot air balloon rides are available for purchase at the festival, $25/adult and $15/ages 10 and under. Spaces are limited. Food truck prices vary. Port a potties are located at the entrance. Strollers, wagons and camping chairs are welcome. Water bottles are fine. Costumes are encouraged!!
Spooktacular Balloon Festival
at the Salt River Fields Talking Stick
7555 N Pima Rd
Scottsdale, AZ 85258
More great fall festivals and activities in Phoenix with kids can be found here!