Touring Napa From Above: Hot Air Balloon Rides Over The Valley

By: Hugh Parker

The most popular way to see Napa is on the ground, picking your way through vast vineyards tasting any number of different wines. If you're in the mood for something that will stimulate the blood a bit, however, there's another option. One of the most unique approaches to experiencing the glory that is the Napa Valley is to ascend above it in a hot air balloon. From this new vantage point, you'll truly appreciate the vivid green landscape. With the number of hot air ballooning companies rising steadily over the past two decades, prices have dropped dramatically, and it's now possible to soar above the clouds for less than 200 dollars per person. So grab a couple of bottles of fantastic California wine, and prepare to embark on the adventure of a lifetime.

Commercial ballooning in the Napa Valley began in the 1970's, and has grown steadily along with the proliferation of wineries. There are now at least five companies operating balloon tours, with new ones popping up every few years. The most established are Napa Valley Balloons, Balloons Above the Valley, and Napa Valley Aloft. Each of these companies has provided excellent service to visitors since the 1980's.

Trips run year round, with the best weather in the spring and summer. If you're looking for a great deal, however, you might want to consider taking a ride during the winter. Booking over the Internet in advance is usually the cheapest way to get into the air.

For those of you with a fear of heights, don't fret: the trained, licensed pilots operating these balloons are extremely capable. Indeed, it's so safe that the United States Secret Service even allowed Chelsea Clinton to fly! The ride is much more gentle than an airplane, with no herky-jerky movements. If anything, all you'll experience is a wonderful gliding sensation.

Your experience will begin with a pre-dawn continental breakfast of coffee, pastries, and fruit. The captain of your balloon will give you a quick orientation, going over the safety protocols. From there, the only place to go is up! A soft whisper turns into a shooting flame in seconds, and you'll gently lift off the ground, soaring ever higher until the entire valley comes into view. From this perspective, the Valley's beauty resembles a piece of fine art. Your captain will be happy to answer any questions you might have, all while pointing out points of interest. The flight lasts approximately an hour. Upon returning to land, the company will provide a fantastic champagne breakfast, where you'll be able to sample different Napa Valley wines.

Touring the Napa Valley via hot air balloon is one of the best ways to experience the majestic landscape. Leave your cares on the ground and rise towards the heavens. This is certainly one of the most romantic options for your time in Napa, and, if you can keep a secret, you wouldn't be the first to propose a couple of thousand feet above the gorgeous Napa Valley.

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