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WRAL Freedom Balloon Fest Guide: When, where to go

Posted May 18, 2015
Updated May 19, 2015

WRAL Freedom Balloon Fest

— The WRAL Freedom Balloon Fest is May 22-25, 2015, in Zebulon and Raleigh. There are so many things happening that we decided to give you the best bets for each day.

Note: Everything that involves balloons is wind and weather permitting.

Friday, May 22

Where should you go? Head to Bennett Bunn Plantation, 1915 Old Bunn Road in Zebulon

Where should you park? Starting at 2 p.m., you can park at the home of the Mudcats – Five County Stadium, 1501 NC-39. Parking is $10 and proceeds go to The Raleigh Jaycees. There will be a shuttle running to the Bennett Bunn Plantation, which is about two miles away. There is limited on-site Premium Parking for $30/car (cash only) with a portion of proceeds going to The Raleigh Jaycees.

When? Gates open at Bennett Bunn Plantation at 3 p.m.

What's going on? Hang in the vendor village to get some shopping done. There will be food and a beer garden there. The opening ceremonies will be around 5 p.m. followed by a mass ascension of more than 40 balloons around 6:30 p.m. That's when all of the balloons fly at the same time. (Bring a camera!) Around 8 p.m., the balloons will stick around for a Balloon Glow, which is when they light the balloons. Things will wrap up around 9:30 p.m. Bring a camera, bring a small, folding chair or blanket, but please no coolers or pets.

Food? Old North State Catering will be selling food in Zebulon.There will be barbecue, hot dogs, pizza, funnel cakes and more!

Saturday, May 23 and Sunday, May 24

To see the balloons race:

  • Where should you go? Head to Bennett Bunn Plantation, 1915 Old Bunn Road in Zebulon
  • When? The races are scheduled between 6 and 10 a.m. Balloons will likely arrive between 7 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. Breakfast will be available for purchase, so come on out and enjoy the sights!

To take a tethered ride:

  • Where should you go? You have two options here. Head to Bennett Bunn Plantation, 1915 Old Bunn Road in Zebulon and Spring Forest Road Park, 4203 Spring Forest Road in Raleigh. Zebulon will have a couple more balloons available than Spring Forest Road for tethered rides so you might want to head to Zebulon because the wait time might be shorter.
  • When? The parks will open at 3 p.m. but tethering doesn't begin until about two hours before sunset, so probably around 6 p.m. or later.
  • Where should you park? If you are going to Zebulon, go to Five County Stadium. General parking at there is $10 and Premium Parking at Bennett Bunn Plantation (very limited) is $30 with proceeds going to The Raleigh Jaycees. There will be a shuttle running from Five County Stadium to the Bennett Bunn Plantation, which is about two miles away. If you are going to Spring Forest Road, enjoy free park-and-ride shuttle service courtesy of Triangle Town Center and GoRaleigh Transit. Simply park near the entrance of the mall closest to Men's Wearhouse at Triangle Town Center. There's a GoRaleigh Bus shelter nearby.
  • If you want to take a tethered ride, it is $15 for children and $20 for adults. Get more details and a copy of the form you will need to sign before going up.
  • Bring a camera, bring a small, folding chair or blanket, but please no coolers or pets.
  • Food? There will be food at both locations. Old North State Catering will be selling food in Zebulon and there will be four food trucks at Spring Forest Road. Trucks include Hibachi Xpress and Sarge's.

To see Balloon Glows:

  • Where should you go? You have two options here. Head to Bennett Bunn Plantation, 1915 Old Bunn Road in Zebulon and Spring Forest Road Park, 4203 Spring Forest Road in Raleigh.
  • Where should you park? If you are going to Zebulon, park at Five County Stadium, 1501 NC-39. Parking is $10 and proceeds go to The Raleigh Jaycees. There will be a shuttle running to the Bennett Bunn Plantation, which is about two miles away. If you are going to Spring Forest Road, enjoy free park-and-ride shuttle service courtesy of Triangle Town Center and GoRaleigh Transit.
  • When? The glows will happen around 8-8:15 p.m. each night at both locations.
  • Food? There will be food at both locations. Old North State Catering will be selling food in Zebulon and there will be four food trucks at Spring Forest Road. Trucks include Hibachi Xpress and Sarge's.

Monday, May 25

To see the balloons race:

Where should go? Head to Bennett Bunn Plantation, 1915 Old Bunn Road in Zebulon
When? The races are scheduled between 6 and 10 a.m. Balloons will likely arrive between 7 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. so enjoy breakfast and balloons! The closing ceremonies will be around 11 a.m.

2 Comments

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  • Bob Herrmann May 22, 2015
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    WRAL, you blew it in planning this event. We waited in a mile long line of cars off 64, and when we finally got to the parking lot at the stadium after 45 minutes, there was ONE person taking money. Police were scarce and frustrated. We left the event to go home at 7:30 and there was still a line of cars as far as the eye could see waiting to get in off 64.
    There were people on Bunn road taking money from cars parked on the side of the road. Walking to the event, we saw homeowners had signs for $10 parking in their yards, on the way back they painted $15 on the signs. When we left, it was pretty much a free-for-all as far as parking; on shoulders, on the exit ramp, on the highway.
    We had to walk the 2 miles to the event, as the line for the shuttle was endless, and all the shuttles (only 5 of them) were stuck in traffic. We never did see any of the shuttle buses go by when we were walking.
    This would have been a great way to spend an evening if better planning were done.

  • Jim Slaughter May 19, 2015
    user avatar

    If any of you are going to attend, contact me...this will be, literally, in my back yard!