Bristol Balloon Fiesta
Thirty-five years old in 2013, this superb hot-air balloon festival is held over four days in August. It attracts up to half a million visitors to the lovely rolling parkland of the Ashton Court Estate in the West Country, complete with mansion, deer parks, woodlands, ancient oaks, golf courses, mountain-bike and walking trails and wonderful views over nearby Bristol.
Highlights of the free event are the mass ascents of 120 balloons at dawn and dusk, the Special Shapes Rodeo with its strangely or comically shaped balloons (among perennial favourites are the Churchill dog, the Kiwi bird and the Scottish Piper), the Night Glows, which combine lit-up balloons and fireworks with a musical soundtrack and 'Heaven', a special area providing carnivalesque entertainments.
Other attractions are a display of model hot-air balloons from around Europe, children's activities, Food & Drink stalls, and trade stands. Note that if you want to actually ride in a hot-air balloon, you need to contact a balloon company in advance (Bailey Balloons 01275 375 300; Bristol Balloons 0117 963 7858; or First Flight 01934 852 875).