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Epic Winter Balloon Festival 2022 in Winthrop, Washington is Great for All Ages

Warming up your hands on a hot chocolate or coffee latte as you listen and watch the amazing spectacle of hot air balloons rise and glide over a snowy landscape…priceless!

In this article, you will learn about these four things:

All stages of putting up the hot air balloons can be witnessed at the annual winter Balloon festival in Winthrop.

What is the Winthrop Balloon Festival?

Balloon Roundup in Winthrop, Washington is a chance to chase away those winter doldrums for some colorful outdoor entertainment. For three days in early March every year (March 4-6, 2022), the festival is full of brightly patterned hot air balloons gliding in the sky or just lighting up for some outdoor fun.

Western Washington gets a fair amount of snow in the winter, and attending events such as the Balloon Roundup helps to curb that cabin fever we all fall into sometimes after the holidays.

Balloons all around in Winthrop.

What to Expect at the Winthrop Hot Air Balloon Launch Site

On the mornings of the three day festival, the Winthrop field is full of hot air balloon enthusiasts and companies. Big trucks pulling trailers all converge on the ground behind the Winthrop Inn and next door to the Abby Creek Inn, which is where we stayed.

Starting about 7:30 AM, they begin to roll out the balloons and begin to inflate them. Most of the balloons are locally owned from Washington, Oregon, or Idaho enthusiasts, private owners. So, they want to protect the balloons by laying fabric on the ground first.

One of the best things to do in winter in Winthrop, watch the Balloon Roundup.

Next they unroll the canvas of the hot air balloon, which can be as high as nine stories. Finally, they attach the ropes and basket, hook it all up and light the fire.

All around you, you can hear the hiss of the gas, see the glow of the fire, and watch in amazement as the ground handlers hold on and make sure the balloon takes off safely.

Just barely off the ground, this hot air balloon is just starting to ascend.

For a few hours the field is full of balloons in all stages of ascent, and then you can watch them as they float over the stunning Methow Valley.

By about 10:00 in the morning, all the balloons have launched, and you have the whole day to enjoy some fun winter activities.

Winthrop Balloon Roundup.

Balloon Roundup Basic Schedule

  • Friday, Saturday, and Sunday morning 7:30, the balloons launch.
  • Friday afternoon and evening is the Sip and Stroll all through downtown.
  • Saturday evening is the Balloon Glow from 5:00 – 6:00 PM downtown.
The fire that make the hot air balloon rise.

Winter Weather in Winthrop, WA.

Winthrop is the perfect place to go in March as there always seems to be snow on the ground. When we visited, it snowed on Sunday, which was beautiful, but the balloons had to cancel their launch as they only take off in pristine conditions. (It’s a good idea to plan on staying at least two nights so you have the best chances of the launch not being canceled due to weather).

However, temperatures are coming up from the winter and you can get some highs in the 50’s (average is 59 degrees) and then of course at night, it dips down to right about freezing (about 29 degrees on average), which make it easier to be outside longer and enjoy all the fun winter activities in the area.

Winthrop Balloon Festival in Washington is one of the best things to do in winter.

It’s important to bring the right clothes for staying outside. You will want to make sure that you are layering and on the outside have water-resistant clothing. Here are a few items we highly recommend, because from our experience, it just makes the experience so much more fun when you are not freezing.

  • Insulated and water-resistant snow pants for men and women. We wear these more than I can tell you. Whenever we go out for a walk to when we’re touring and sightseeing in the winter months. It just keeps us so much more comfortable.
  • Another favorite of ours are 3 in 1 jackets. We learned how wonderful these were when we were living in Alaska, and we’ve never looked back. We buy a new one every year and it’s by far some of the best money we spend, since we love being in the outdoors. They are great for year-round wearing. For men/ for women.
  • It goes without saying that you should have a great hat, gloves, and sturdy shoes, but what really makes a difference is wearing real wool socks (for men/ for women) to keep your feet warm and dry.
In winter, go skating at the Winthrop rink.

Other Winter Activities to Do in Winthrop

There are plenty of things to do in winter in the Methow Valley, many of which are great for the whole family.

  • Sledding- bring your own sleds or borrow tubes from the hotel.
  • Ice Skating – The Winthrop skating rink is a great place for families to have fun. They will rent you skates, and if you just want to watch, you can even play ping pong in the lounge.
  • Cross country skiing – There are plenty of trails for skiing, and the place to start and buy your pass is right next to the skating rink.
  • Sleigh ride – The Sun Mountain Lodge has both a large and small horse sleigh. Rides run from $20 and up.
  • Snowmobiling – Chewack Ranch has snowmobiles for rent.
The Winthrop Emporium is one of the beautiful shopping areas of downtown.

How to Get to Winthrop

Winthrop is on the route we recommend for a fantastic Cascade Loop road trip, which you can normally take in two different directions. However, inn winter, there really is only one directions to get to Winthrop, because the passes in the North Cascades close Route 20 for the winter months.

You need to drive from south to north, and if you are renting a car, make sure to get all wheel drive and chains as you will be going over some high mountains.

Lift off from the starting field in Winthrop, this balloon is getting off the ground.

From Seattle to Winthrop in the winter it takes about 4 – 4.5 hours, on a clear day. Here are some very basic directions.

  • Take I-5 South towards Portland
  • Take 1-90 East to Spokane
  • When you are almost to Wenatchee, take I-97 North to Okanogan
  • Take Route 20 North and you’ll come right into Winthrop

Pro-Tip: Make sure to load your route while you have service onto Google Maps. This route you will be in and out of service the entire way, but as long as you don’t close it, Google should hold the map and get you to your destination.

Spectators watch as the balloons are being put up.

Where to Eat in Winthrop

There are a surprisingly quite a few places to eat in Winthrop. The downtown area is full of shops and eateries, and you can wander around until you find something you’ll like. While we were there we ate at Rocking Horse Bakery where we loved their cinnamon rolls, quiche and coffee. We also order a take out pizza from East 20 pizza, which was quite yummy.

The Winthrop gas station will also serve you great sandwiches.


One way to ensure not getting cabin fever in the winter is to head to Winthrop, Washington and enjoy the Balloon Roundup. Small, but packed with awe-inspiring launches, you’ll love the snowy setting. Afterwards, get your winter activities fill in the surrounding Methow Valley. You’ll love it.

People watch in awe at the winter balloon festival.

Author Bio – Corinne is an avid camper and traveler. She’s been to all 50 of the US states and has four more Canadian provinces to visit. However, she’s not stopping yet. There’s always more to see of this great continent! Corinne loves local foods, getting outdoors, landscape photography, and road trips.