Humanity has long been fascinated by flight. Long before the invention of planes, though, another device became a popular way to experience adventure from above: the hot-air balloon. It was invented almost 240 years ago in Paris, and the first manned excursion in America happened in 1793 when a balloonist drifted from Philadelphia to Gloucester County, New Jersey.
Some eighty miles north of that initial landing site, the tradition of hot-air ballooning continues to thrive today at the largest summertime hot-air balloon and music festival in North America, the New Jersey Lottery Festival of Ballooning. Held at Solberg Airport in Readington, centrally located a little over an hour from both New York City and Philadelphia, it’s a three-day summer tradition like no other.
The stars of this show, being held from July 29–31, are the one hundred or so hot-air balloons that ascend into the summer sky at 6:30 p.m. each day as well as 6:30 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. You can expect to see a colorful array of sport and special-shaped balloons that dazzle both young and old alike. But you may ask: Why the super early morning launch time? It’s based on science. Ideal conditions for a hot-air balloon launch are when the surface winds are less than 6–8 miles per hour—before the sun creates breezes while heating the atmosphere—and this happens approximately one hour after sunrise and an hour before sunset.
If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can also get a bird’s-eye view of the festival yourself by taking a ride in one of the hot-air balloons, either sky high or tethered to the ground. With 3,500 people taking part each year, these tickets sell fast, so purchase them early if you want to have an experience of a lifetime.
As breathtaking as the hot-air balloons are, the music headliners booked for the festival’s concert series each year are equally so. Past performers to grace this stage have included the Beach Boys, Joan Jett, Styx, Meat Loaf, The Doobie Brothers, Hall & Oates, the Jonas Brothers, Demi Lovato, and Barenaked Ladies.
This year, popular children’s performer Laurie Berkner returns to enthrall the children’s audience with an afternoon show, and music legends Collective Soul, Todd Rundgren, and Kansas are the scheduled headliners for the remainder of the weekend. Lawn seating for the concerts is included with general admission tickets, but reserved concert tickets must be purchased separately and sell out quickly, so keep this in mind if you want to catch one of these stellar acts.
In addition to watching the balloons fill the skies and taking in a concert, there’s plenty for you and your family to do all day at the festival, including perusing hundreds of craft and food vendors (where you must seek out and try the decadent, chocolatey Hot-Air Balloon Funnel Cake), enjoying amusement rides, partaking in interactive exhibits, and even watching a magic show. You can also witness hundreds of runners participate in the annual Running with the Balloons 5K, a cross-country race that begins at and then loops back through the festival itself. And be sure to visit the festival’s latest attraction, the Lottery Land by New Jersey Lottery, a massive complex that offers games, activities, a bilevel lounge area overlooking the festival grounds, an additional concert stage, and more.
When the sun goes down, the fun factor goes up. Among the nighttime attractions are a fireworks display and Balloon Glow, a popular event where the hot-air balloons light up the night in synchrony.
Approximately 165,000 people travel to the Central Jersey countryside every year to be part of this weekend balloon jam, including a record 175,000 festivalgoers in 2021. But for as many indelible memories that are made for visitors, the impact beyond the event is even greater.
A portion of the festival proceeds benefits a variety of local nonprofits, including the Children’s Miracle Network, as well as children’s specialized hospitals. The promoters have raised more than $3 million to date to benefit those in need. In addition, the festival has an annual financial impact of over $50 million on the state’s economy. In a very real sense, it’s truly an uplifting experience in more ways than one. It’s no wonder USA Today Network named it the premier family-entertainment attraction in New Jersey and New Jersey Monthly dubbed it the top thing to do in the state.
Ultimately, the New Jersey Lottery Festival of Ballooning is so popular because it’s a great metaphor for life. This festival not only shows the heights you can reach if you dare to dream but also beckons you to let loose and enjoy all that life has to offer—whether it’s music, food, art, adventure, or simply making the world a better place.
For more info, including tickets, visit balloonfestival.com
Summer is an ideal season for traveling and seeing new sights. But before you leave home, you’ll need to make some important decisions regarding the care of your pets. Consider these ways for keeping your feline, canine, or other pets safe and happy during your trip.
One choice is to travel without your pet and leave them in another’s care while you are away. If you decide not to bring your pet with you, consider these tips.
If you have family and friends nearby who can care for your pet, you’re in luck. You can have someone visit your pet a few times a day or stay in your home, or you can let your pet go to their home. Even if you don’t know anyone locally who can pet sit for you, an out-of-town friend or relative might be interested in staying in your home while you are away. It’s best to choose someone who is familiar with your pet and is comfortable with animals.
Hire a sitter
A pet sitter can stop by for feedings, playtimes, walks, and other care needs. Some sitters will prefer to stay in your home while others may want to watch your pet in their home. You can ask your veterinarian, dog trainer, or friends and family to recommend local pet sitters for you, or you can look for certified pet sitters in your area on the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters and Pet Sitters International websites. Before you hire one, see if you can talk to pet owners who’ve used their service, read reviews on sites like Yelp or Rover, and have them meet with you and your pet so you can evaluate whether they are a good fit. Any sitter you hire should be bonded and insured, which means that your sitter has coverage should your animal get sick or injured and ensures you are covered in the event of theft or property damage.
Board your pet
Another option is to board your canine or feline at a dog kennel or pet hotel. If you can, choose a facility that’s recommended by your vet or another individual you trust. It’s best to visit the boarding facility before selecting it in order to evaluate its cleanliness and to see how it’s employees treat the animals in their care. Visit with your pet before your trip to assess how its caretakers interact with your dog or cat. Look for a site that has staff on-site around the clock, has a vet on call, and requires its boarders to be immunized, so your pet is protected. You can also check the kennel’s ratings on social media or with the Better Business Bureau. If your state requires certain boarding-facility licenses or certifications, be sure the pet hotel has them.
Your pet, especially your dog, may enjoy joining you on your travels. Before you bring your pet along, though, weigh these important considerations.
How you are traveling
It’s easier to bring your pet with you if you’re driving. If you are flying, check with the airline first. You may need a health certificate for your pet from your vet, and your airline could prohibit your pet from flying because of their age or breed, or it might only allow your pet to stay in cargo. If your pet can travel in the passenger section of the plane, you might have to bring them in a ventilated carrier and keep it underneath your seat.
Where you go
Whether you stay at a hotel, campground, or rental, there may be some pet restrictions, so check those first. You can often find this information on hotel websites and travel apps, such as Airbnb. If you are traveling outside the US, research the country’s pet regulations before you travel.
Whether your companion is traveling with you or staying home, check these details before you embark.
Your pet’s health
Schedule a wellness check with a vet to make sure your pet’s vaccinations and medications are up to date.
Ensure your pet’s needs will be met while you are on vacation. Take an inventory of their food and any other supplies they might need, such as leashes, identification tags, toys, and cages.
Whether your pet will be traveling with you or waiting patiently for your return, these products might make the experience easier for them.
A pet camera, such as the Furbo Dog Camera, can be used to watch and listen to your pet from afar. The device also allows you to speak to your pet via your cell phone, whether they’re at home or in your hotel room while you’re out to dinner. The camera will also allow you to toss a treat to your canine or feline, get alerts when your pet is making noise or moving, and even take photos.
A sofa slipcover can come in handy during your vacation—whether you are protecting your couch or furniture in your hotel or rental. You can get covers in different colors and sizes, as well as ones that are waterproof or machine washable.
Pet travel bowls
It can be helpful to keep storage containers for your pet’s food or water on hand. These stainless steel bowls are durable, can hold kibble or water, are available in a variety of colors, and are stackable.
Pet ID tags
You may want to get your pet a new identification tag before your trip so they can easily be identified. These silent silicone ID tags can be customized and engraved with your pet’s information.
Fresh drinks and grilled foods are quintessential parts of summer, but if you’re looking to mix up your menu with something new, you’re sure to love these recipes that offer a twist on old favorites.
The combination of lemonade and iced tea is a seasonal favorite. This recipe takes the flavors of the Arnold Palmer you know and love and turns them into a delicious frozen treat.
Who doesn’t love burgers loaded with tasty toppings? If you don’t mind getting a little messy, you’re going to fall in love with these copycat takeout burgers.
recipe by patterson watkins
photos by patterson watkins
Everyone’s favorite summertime drink gets a frozen upgrade in this refreshing drink.
recipe by patterson watkins
photos by patterson watkins
Takeout burgers are beloved for their delicious sauces, but you can get the same amazing tasting burgers right at home thanks to this recipe!
When you think of a blooming garden, your mind may conjure images of vast beds and fields of vegetation set in wide-open acres. However, you can grow gorgeous flowers and bountiful vegetables in more compact areas too. If you have a small yard, a rooftop, or simply a balcony in a metropolitan area, use these tips to start your very own urban garden.
Before you start digging, take time to get a feel for the space you’re working with. How much room do you really have? You don’t want to get too ambitious and buy plants, containers, and tools you won’t have space for. You’ll also want to choose a spot that provides sufficient sunlight for your garden—a site that receives at least four hours of sun a day is good—but you may need more or less depending on the types of plants you choose. If this is your first garden, you should consider starting small. Once you get a feel for what works, you can begin adding more plants.
Your garden’s success may come down to choosing the best plants for it. Some plants need space, sunlight, or soil that your garden may not be able to provide. One way to find success is to research what grows naturally in your area—native species will have an easier time thriving in your climate and might cost less to maintain. Also, be aware of how much space your plants need to grow. Overcrowding can cause some plants to suffer. If this is your first time cultivating a garden, there are several low-maintenance options to consider planting, including:
The most significant obstacle to starting an urban garden is often finding a place to grow your plants. While it can be challenging, you can overcome this problem with a little creative thinking.
Container gardens can be one of the easier and less intrusive ways of setting up your urban garden, and this method allows you the convenience of moving your garden if need be. You’ll find containers in all shapes and sizes. However, you’ll want to use ones that are appropriate for the size of your plants. Containers that are too large may not fit your limited area, but ones that are too small can hamper plant growth. Keep in mind you might also need to move plants to larger planters to promote healthy roots. If you’re using containers, drill holes in the bottom for improved drainage. Popular container materials include:
You can overcome a lack of space by moving your garden up instead of out. By adding vertical layers, you can make better use of every inch you have to grow, possibly doubling the size of your garden. Incorporating shelves into a container garden will help you create space for additional plants. Options such as vertical wall planters, hanging baskets, and stack planters can be helpful. You can also add sections of rain gutters to fences or railings for a convenient DIY planter option.
Add raised beds
This is a fantastic option if you have a small plot of land to work with. You can build a DIY version of raised beds or install preconstructed beds, but make sure they’re at least six inches tall, and, if you’re focused on organic gardening, made of untreated wood.
If you’re trying to grow plants in a limited space, you probably won’t have access to a shed to store your arsenal of gardening tools. However, you shouldn’t need much to take care of your urban garden. Limit yourself to the essentials, such as:
Don’t let your lack of space discourage you from using your green thumb. You can have your own tranquil space in the city by following this guide.