You’ve never seen Napa like this. Each ride starts at Vintage Estate in downtown Napa before gracefully rising over the valley’s vineyards, hillsides, and charming towns. The romantic journey lasts about an hour before touching back down.
For more than 40 years, hot-air balloons have risen at sunrise at this high-altitude celebration. Watch as 30 pilots compete in races and airborne challenges. While most of the festivities take place in the early morning, don’t miss the Night Glow Show on Saturday evening, when the balloons—some standing taller than a six-story building—inflate and light up to the beat of the music in the village center.
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Courtesy of Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
3 of10Courtesy of Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
The first week of October, Albuquerque, NM, from $10/person
The largest hot-air balloon festival in the world draws more than 550 balloons and their crews from all over the globe, much to the delight of the nearly 1 million people who visit the 9-day affair. The festival has dozens of events, including balloon races, concerts, and a chainsaw carving competition, but you don’t want to miss the Mass Ascension. Stand in awe as hundreds of glowing balloons gently rise into the sky as the sun begins to peak over the horizon.
Your flight begins with a cruise out onto Lake Tahoe on the only boat designed for balloon launch and landing in the world. When you’re done navigating the calm waters, the crew will ready the balloon on the upper deck before you lift off over the smooth, stunning blue surface. Take in unparalleled views of Emerald Bay, Fallen Leaf Lake, and Desolation Wilderness as you rise nearly 4,000 feet into the air. Once back on the boat, celebrate your flight with a toast of bubbly.
Marilyn Newton, Courtesy of Great Reno Balloon Race
5 of10Marilyn Newton, Courtesy of Great Reno Balloon Race
This desert race begins unlike any other. Just before dawn, a handful of expert pilots take off into the dark sky where the balloons twinkle and fly to choreographed music. As the sun rises, the remaining balloons take flight and the race begins. When the competitors are out of sight, watch the Smokey the Bear and Pea-Nut the elephant balloons sail.
Drift above Utah’s most striking landscapes. With the wind in your favor, you may fly over Arches and Canyonlands national parks and see the area’s famous geological formations that stood when Dinosaurs walked the Earth. As you coast, the sun lights up the red sandstone towers and river-carved earth below for a national park experience unlike any other.
Take off 30 minutes south of downtown Seattle for a personal sunrise or sunset tour of the lush Pacific Northwest. The flight starts along the treetops and follows the Green River north before turning back toward Mt. Rainier. As you approach, the balloon will ascend 4,000 feet with Mt. Saint Helens, Lake Tapps, and the Puget Sound spread out before you. Back on solid ground, cap off the unforgettable journey with a flute of champagne and fresh chocolate croissants from local favorite Bakery Nouveau.
Come for the morning launch and stay for the gourmet eats, carnival rides, and Rogue beer garden. On Saturday, join the six on six soccer tournament or the Twilight 5k run/walk before celebrating with live music alongside the glowing balloons. Arrive early each day for a chance to take flight on a tethered balloon ride.
British Columbia is home to some of the best scenery in all of the West. See it from above with a ride in one of the few balloons to grace its skies. Okanagan Ballooning is the only commercial air balloon ride company in the entire province, and their intimate trips are the perfect way to get a new perspective, celebrate a milestone, or simply enjoy a morning unlike any other. Take off from a picturesque farm at the edge of Kelowna, roughly 250 miles east of Vancouver, for a ride you won’t soon forget.
Break away from the city rooftops that stretch as far as the eye can see. Before you can even get into the basket, Float rewards you with locally roasted coffee and freshly baked cookies for the ride over North Phoenix, where the balloon launches, and over the majestic Sonoran desert beyond. Once in the air, watch as the desert comes alive below you. Javelina, coyotes, deer, and even bobcats and mountain lions roam beneath you, unaware. The experience doesn’t end when the balloon lands—an exquisite, seasonal meal in the wilderness awaits you.