Four balloon festivals in the West draw crowds with a host of activities.
Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
What is it about viewing giant hot air balloons that makes everyone feel like an awestruck 5-year-old? At New Mexico’s Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, the largest such event on the planet, you and 850,000 others watch more than 650 nylon inflatables ascend at once. The affair includes five “balloon glows,” when pilots fire the burners on tethered aircraft at twilight. Like boats, these vessels sport whimsical names, such as SunRacer and Booboulina. For $6 you can catch the whole spectacle October 2 to 10 at Balloon Fiesta Park, 12 miles north of Albuquerque International Sunport. (888) 422-7277, balloonfiesta.com .
Spokane Balloons Over Valleyfest
Part of a festival with a parade, pancake breakfast, and car show, Balloons Over Valleyfest runs September 24 through 26 at CenterPlace Regional Event Center in Spokane Valley, Wash. (509) 922-3299, valleyfest.org. 
Boise Balloon Classic
The Spirit of Boise Balloon Classic launches 40 hot air balloons every day September 2 through 5. Includes a night glow and live concert. At Ann Morrison Park, 1000 Americana Blvd. (208) 375-0512, spiritofboise.com. 
Great Reno Balloon Race
The Great Reno Balloon Race launches more than 100 balloons a day from September 10 to 12 at Rancho San Rafael Park, 1.5 miles from downtown. Kids can ride in a tethered balloon for $5. (775) 826-1181, renoballoon.com .
Photography courtesy of Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, Inc.
This article was first published in September 2010. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.