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What to Expect on a Hot Air Balloon Ride
The world beneath you transforms into a patchwork of vivid splendors. All at once, you feel the thrill of soaring high above the landscape and the calm of soft breeze carrying you. You’re in a hot air balloon—a ride that’s peaceful, picturesque, and just a little hair-raising.
What’s the Experience Like?
Often, the adventure begins with you lending a hand during inflation! With the balloon envelope spread on the ground and the attached basket tipped on the side, a large portable fan is used to blow cold air into the opening. You’ll help the nylon keep its shape as cool air fills it. Next, the air is heated up with a propane burner. The basket turns upright, everyone gets in, and off it goes!
What Does it Feel Like to Drift Around in a Hot air Balloon?
Total weightlessness among the clouds! No confining windows—it’s just you and the open air and your lens stretching over the basket to capture extraordinary photos. Moving at the pace of the wind, you’ll have ample time to frame every shot.
And unlike a helicopter flight or airplane ride, there’s zero turbulence (the balloon follows the wind, never fighting it). The only time you’ll ever feel the breeze is when the hot air balloon changes altitudes. But even then, it’s very minor. Motion sickness is never a concern. It’s also quiet—almost silent, except for periodical blasts from the propane burner.
What does it Feel Like to Take off and Land in a Hot Air Balloon?
You might expect a bit of a jolt or tumble right before take-off but in fact, the sensation is quite smooth. Landing, on the other hand, can be a tad choppier. Normally, the pilot lands the balloon gradually with a few small bumps. A ground crew is often present to hold the balloon in place once it touches down.
How High Do Hot Air Balloons Fly?
The highest hot air balloon flight recorded was at 68,986 feet. But generally speaking, recreational balloon rides fly comfortably between 1,000 and 3,000 feet. Certain trips take you up to 5,000 feet as well!
When Do Hot Air Balloon Rides Take Place?
Balloons rides begin either before sunrise or sunset when wind conditions are at their most stable and scenery is at its most beautiful. Morning rides meet up usually 30-60 minutes before sunrise. These tours take off between 5:30 and 6:30 am. Sunset flights are generally available from November through March, usually two hours before dawn.
How Long Do Hot Air Balloon Rides Last?
The balloon ride itself lasts about an hour, but the entire experience—which often includes traveling to and from the launch destination, setting up the balloon, and a customary champagne toast—can last anywhere from 3 to 4 hours.
How many Passengers Fit into a Hot Air Balloon?
Bigger baskets (or “busses,” as they’re sometimes referred to), can comfortably accommodate 10-15 passengers. The setup guarantees everyone the opportunity to peer over the ledge. For more romantic excursions, there are numerous private tours available where it’s just you, your sweetheart and the pilot. If you’re thinking about popping the question, a hot air balloon ride ensures a “yes!”
How Do Hot Air Balloons Work?
In 1782, French brothers Joseph and Etienne Montgolfier discovered that a lightweight paper or fabric bag filled with heated air rises into the atmosphere. The brothers realized that when air is heated. it expands and that when it expands, it gets less dense. Within a year of the discovery, the first hot air balloon took to the skies in Paris.
A typical hot air balloon has three major parts: the envelope (the balloon itself), the basket (or “gondola”), which carries the passengers, and the burner, which is the device that propels the balloon into motion. Fixed to the metal frame of the basket underneath the envelope’s opening, the burner mixes liquid propane with oxygen and ignites it into a flame, thus heating the air inside the balloon.
When the air is heated, it expands, pushing the flying machine upward. When the balloon cools down (by emitting the warm air through a vent at the top of the contraption), it slowly descends.
Hot air balloons aren’t steered in the traditional sense; instead, they glide along the direction of the wind, which changes with different altitudes. Catching different airstreams allows the pilot to change directions.
Are Hot Air Balloons Safe?
Hot air ballooning is regarded as the safest sport in aviation. All pilots are FAA-certified, flights never occur in unsuitable weather conditions, extra equipment is always on board, and a thorough safety briefing is provided before every flight.
Popular Hot Air Balloon Destinations
Everglades, seascapes, canyons, and beyond—each city is distinct in its sights and attractions. Here are a few hot destinations:
Phoenix: At nearly 520 square miles, Phoenix is one of the largest cities in the US. Here, the Sonoran Desert’s rich landscapes provide the backdrop for your tour in the Valley of the Sun.
Napa Valley: What’s not to love about Wine Country? Calm weather and serene vistas make Napa Valley one of the most desired ballooning locations in the country. Float majestically over California’s most beautiful landscape. See the Palisade Cliffs, Old Faithful Geyser, and Mount Saint Helena.
Las Vegas: Sin City from the sky is luxury ballooning at its peak! See the Strip’s architectural icons and lavish landmarks, soar across the desert for stunning views of Red Rock Canyon, and marvel at the abundance of beautiful wildlife in the Vegas countryside.
Albuquerque Balloon Festival
Not only is this the biggest hot air balloon festival in the world; it’s also known to be the most photographed event on earth! For nine days in October, a show-stopping spectacle of hundreds of balloons sets ablaze the autumn Albuquerque skyline. Flying through the festival, you’ll see countless colorful balloons of imaginative shapes and sizes floating over the Sandia Mountains.
Temecula Balloon Festival
Every year around late-May/early-June, about 40,000 spectators gather to witness a multitude of balloons take over the Southern Californian sky. Shimmering Lake Skinner, sapphire skies, and rolling emerald mountains set the scene for the three-day balloon festival in the Wine Country jewel of Riverside County. If you can’t make it for the festival, there are still year-round Temecula hot air balloon tours that take you above the lovely vineyards of the Valley.
Hot Air Ballooning All Over the Nation!
Fly over the majestic Rocky Mountains in Colorado Springs, see the stunning Miami sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean and endless stretches of the Florida Everglades. If coastal beach views strike your fancy, head just outside of San Diego into Del Mar for the transforming landscape of the Pacific coastline. Hover over Tennessee and see homes of country music superstars, palatial estates, the city’s architecture, and local wildlife.
Ready to Fly?
With a never-ending stream of technology bombarding us these days, there’s something appealing about harkening back to a simpler time. It’s extremely satisfying knowing that the direction you’re following is at the whims of a peaceful wind. Give in to Mother Nature—the views are always extraordinary and the thrills, always abundant. Book your hot air balloon ride today!