Hot air balloons were the earliest form of flight. Long before the Wright Brothers made their groundbreaking plane ride at Kitty Hawk, two Frenchmen were exploring the skies in a custom-made balloon. Like NASA’s first space explorers, the first hot air balloon passengers were animals. After determining their new contraption was safe, the French explorers took the first manned balloon flight over Paris in 1783.
Today, manned hot air balloons are mainly used for recreational travel. It’s one of the only ways to fly without glass between the rider and the sky. Hot air balloons also make for an awesome spectacle, whether you’re in the basket or observing from the ground. At Southfork Ranch, we love seeing hundreds of balloons lift off at the annual Plano Balloon Festival in nearby Plano, Texas.
What is It?
Located just 14 minutes from Southfork Ranch, the exterior filming site of TV’s long-running primetime drama Dallas, the Plano Balloon Festival offers seasoned pilots a chance to bring their hot air machines to the masses. Most attendees just go to watch the balloons take to the sky. Others purchase a tethered ride so they can get a bird’s-eye view of Plano and the surrounding Texas landscape.
Those who prefer to keep their feet firmly on the ground can participate in a half-marathon, 5K or 1K Fun Run starting at the crack o’ doom (around 7 a.m.). This year’s festival takes place September 22-24 at Oak Point Park in Plano. Admission is $5 for adults. Additional fees for hot air balloon rides and races.
How Do Hot Air Balloons Work?
You’ve probably heard that heat rises. For example, the attic or second story of a house tends to be warmer than the bottom floor. It’s not actually the heat that rises, but hot air. This principle explains how hot air balloons work. A burner over the basket heats up the air inside the balloon, causing it to be lighter than the air outside of the balloon. The result is lift! A cubic foot of air weighs about one ounce, while air heated 100° is about 7 grams lighter.
After having a Wizard of Oz moment watching pilots take off at the balloon festival, click your heels and go to Southfork Ranch for a Texas-sized tour. The site looks much the same as it did during the 2012 reboot of the popular TV series. See the Ewing Mansion and backyard swimming pool, plus memorabilia like the Ewing family breakfast table and the gun that shot J.R. Guided tours are offered from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. and run every 45 minutes. Call 972-442-7800 or visit our website for more information.