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Best Hot Air Balloon Rides

Have you ever dreamed of taking to the sky to soar over the landscape in a hot air balloon? Or maybe you just love admiring the beauty of colorful hot air balloons against a bright blue sky. Either way, hot air balloons are majestic and exciting. Here in California, there are a number of destinations where you can take a private hot air balloon ride. Here are some of the best hot air balloon rides in California.

Best Hot Air Balloon Rides & Festivals

California Hot Air Balloon Rides

California has some amazing destinations for hot air ballooning. While the Temecula wine country is the most popular destination, we’ve rounded up a big list of many spots around the state where you can take to the blue yonder in a colorful balloon.

Popular Hot Air Balloon Destinations In California

Temecula and Napa Valley are the two biggest hot air balloon hot spots. Both are also well know wine country destinations. There are a number of companies in both locations offering hot air balloon rides. Most hot air balloon rides are an hour to an hour and a half long, and many are at sunrise. Many companies offer packages or experiences that may include wine or champagne toasts and discounts to nearby wineries for wine tasting.

Lake Tahoe, Palm Springs and the Central Coast all have a few destinations for hot air balloon rides that are worth exploring as well. Here is a list of some of the companies offering hot air balloon rides in these destinations.

Most flights depart in the early morning hours – often 5:30 or 6:30 AM. You can explore these companies to find shared or private balloon flights.

Temecula & SoCal

Palm Springs Area

Napa Valley, Sonoma, & Sacramento Area

Central Coast

What To Expect On A Hot Air Balloon Ride

  • Wear comfortable clothes with layers to stay warm. It can get cold up there! You’ll want to wear clothes that you can comfortably climb in and out of the balloon basket, and closed toed shoes or sneakers are recommended. A hat and sunglasses are also recommended. Long pants are often required.
  • Use the restroom before you board! There’s nowhere to go up there!
  • There will usually be a pilot and crew members or the hot air balloon ride, and you may even be asked to help out in the ride preparation and inflation of the balloon.
  • After the balloon is inflated, they’ll light the burner to bring the balloon to boarding position.
  • Once in the air, your speed and altitude will change with the speed and direction of the wind.
  • It is usually very quiet when you are up in the hot air balloon.
  • You may get the opportunity to skim the trees or do a splash and dash (when the gondola dips into a lake or body of water).
  • Hot air balloon landings will be in open spaces like a field. Impact is often determined by the wind speed. In calm winds, you will likely get a soft landing with the gondola remaining upright. In windier conditions the gondola may tip or land sideways.
  • Gratuity is appreciated unless otherwise stated by the company. It is normal to tip your pilot and crew.
  • Remember that you will be standing for at least one hour. If you have back or leg conditions or injuries, this may not be your best choice of activity.
  • Most companies will not allow you to ride if: you are pregnant, are on oxygen, if you have a cast on, you have recently had surgery.

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Heidi Deal is the author of the Newcomers Handbook to Living In Los Angeles & Orange County, and a children’s book author specializing in history and human rights.