SOME PEOPLE... see a bird or a butterfly and imagine that they're flying alongside, up high, free as, well, yeah... a bird. Or a butterfly. Some people feel the same thing upon spying a plane, but there are other fly-high buffs that are all about colorful envelopes, wicker gondolas, and the world-famous, oh-so-big parties that have sprung up around such fanciful flights. It's the hot-air balloon fan we speak of, and while they may be found around wine countries all year long — balloon rides and an area that grows grapes are as tight as a bottle and cork — sometimes the whole balloon-person love thing really steps it up. And one of those times arrives around the beginning of June, at the Temecula Valley Balloon and Wine Festival. It has been around for three decades, plus another half decade on top of that, which makes it as venerable and as widely known as big balloon bashes come. And the 2018 dates are on the near horizon, the same horizon that will soon be full of balloons.
JUNE 1 THROUGH 3... is the window for fest, a Friday through Sunday, and planning how you want to spend your time around Lake Skinner Regional Park is essential before you arrive (you might find yourself deliciously overwhelmed if you don't). Sugar Ray, Spin Doctors, The Wallflowers, Lifehouse, and Tyler Farr are just a few of the major acts playing the festival, so you could spend the bulk of your time near a stage, rocking out or dancing with glee. As for the rides in the hot air balloons? Those are available, yep, and the balloon glow action, after sundown, will draw people eager to be wowed (and plenty of photographers). Food and wine pairings, dozens of vendors, chances to try wine, chances to try beer, a place for kids to play, and other elements of this out-sized affair may be found around the grounds.
BUT, OF COURSE, "grounds" isn't a word that gets much play when so much is happening in the sky. Eager to soar like a bird, or, a butterfly, or, yes, a balloon? Here's where you start, at one of the best-known balloon times on the West Coast.