10 Of The Best Places In North America For A Hot Air Balloon Ride

Flying in a hot air balloon combines beautiful views, the exhilaration of flight, and the peace of quietly floating, according to Travel Awaits. For many it's a bucket list activity, and if you're ready to check it off your list, here are some things to keep in mind. The best weather for ballooning is at sunrise or before sunset, according to Hudson Hot Air Affair. The balloon will generally land somewhere different than where it took off; a chase crew will be in place to get you back to where you started, per KOAT. Allow three to four hours for the total activity time, even if you're only in the air for an hour or so.


One thing that might hold people back is a fear of heights, but Joy Klempner, business manager at Okanagan Ballooning, told The List that worry is often misplaced: "Passengers often land and talk about how safe they felt, and feeling silly about having been anxious." Here are some tips if you're dealing with anxiety – hot air balloon related or not.

Klempner calls hot air ballooning as "both adventurous and peacefully calm." If you're ready to embrace the adventure and the calm, these are 10 of the best places in North America to go on a hot air balloon ride.

Make sure to book in advance no matter where you go to ensure you can go for your ride, remember that all flights are weather dependent, and always listen to the pilot.


Albuquerque, New Mexico

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is celebrating its 50th year in 2022. It runs in early October, and this year's event will take place from October 1 to 9. The schedule is jam-packed, but plan to get up early to see or even be a part of the Mass Ascension where over 500 balloons will inflate and take off en masse: these usually take place on Saturdays, Sundays, and Wednesday of the event. Rainbow Ryders is the only company authorized to take off with riders, so book early.


Along with the traditional shaped balloons, there are the Special Shapes balloons – a toy car, Darth Vader, a tiger, a stagecoach, and more will all take flight. And after sunset during the event is the Balloon Glow where you can walk amidst the balloons lit up on the ground.

Albuquerque even has the Anderson-Abruzzo International Balloon Museum at Balloon Fiesta Park that's open throughout the year, and along with full size balloons, it has exhibits on history and science. If you're not in Albuquerque for the Balloon Fiesta, don't worry, Rainbow Ryders flies in Albuquerque throughout the year.

Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

The Okanagan Valley in southern British Columbia, Canada is known for award-winning wines, apple orchards, rolling hills and mountains, and the 135-mile long Okanagan Lake. And Okanagan Ballooning in Kelowna, the area's largest city, is a family owned and operated business with a chief pilot that's been flying balloons since 1997. They've got the option for a six-person basket or a two-person basket (along with the pilot of course), if you're looking for a little more intimacy. Bonus, at the end of the flight, you'll get sparkling wine and a flight certificate as a souvenir.


The tradition of drinking bubbly at the end of a hot air balloon flight dates back to 18th century France. Hot air balloons carried French aristocracy in the 1780s, and they had to land in farmer's fields, which farmers apparently didn't take too kindly to. So they started carrying a bottle of champagne to give to the farmers in a gesture of goodwill, according to The Bubbly Girl.

Lake Tahoe, California

The hot air balloon ride with Lake Tahoe Balloons, based out of South Lake Tahoe, starts off just after sunrise and you're literally on the lake when you take off. Flights start and end on the Tahoe Flyer, which is the world's only boat for hot air balloon launching and landing. Once in the air — it can get up to 10,000 feet — you'll get views of the deep blue of North America's largest alpine lake as well as views of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, per Visit Lake Tahoe. If the weather is clear, you can see all the way to Yosemite National Park, according to Sierra Nevada Geotourism. While on the way back to the south shore, there's food and a champagne toast.


Their season runs from mid-May to mid-October and costs $349 per person. The ride itself is between 45 minutes and an hour, but getting to and from the best launch site on the lake takes some time. They also generally go out with two sets of passengers, so while one group is in the balloon, the others get to enjoy being out on the water.

New England

If autumn is your favorite season — and you've already got your house decorated for fall – get out there and soak in the changing colors of the foliage. And what better place than with a bird's eye view of New England in a hot air balloon. If you're in Connecticut, Berkshire Balloons out of New Hartford should be on your radar; the company started in 1981, and depending on the day, you can see up to 100 miles. Fall and winter flights launch at 7 a.m., and flights last around an hour. They're only taking private flights due to COVID-19, and it's $1,500 for a party of four.


In North Salem, New Hampshire, A & A Balloon Rides charges $300 per person for an approximately one hour ride over the New Hampshire countryside. You can help out or just watch as the balloon is set up — it's particularly exciting to see the test burn where flames can shoot up to 25 feet.

Above Reality Hot Air Balloon Rides is in Vermont, and their fall foliage tours start at $395. You can also book a private ride for anywhere between one and 14 people. The ride will most likely give you a view of Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks as you float over the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Northern California Wine Country

Hot air balloon flights in both Napa and Sonoma County in California will give you amazing views of vineyard-covered hills and valleys as well as the Mayacamas Mountains.

In Sonoma County, you can get a package deal to get a hot air balloon flight, a champagne brunch, and a stay at one of nearly 50 hotels with hotel options ranging from budget-friendly Motel 6 to the luxury boutique Farmhouse Inn. For just a flight, Sonoma Ballooning offers flights starting from $275 and packages that include a vineyard tour after your flight as well as a wedding package if you want to get married in the air.


In Napa Valley, flights take off just after sunrise for calm winds and cool temperatures. Napa Valley Aloft is based out of Yountville; flights start from $270 per passenger. And Napa Valley Balloons, which has a fly and e-bike package for a unique view of wine country, and Balloons Above The Valley, which has been in business since 1976, are both based out of Napa.


Teotihuacan is a UNESCO World Heritage Site about 30 miles from Mexico City, and you can get a unique view of what used to be the largest city in Mesoamerica with a hot air balloon ride. It's a way to really get an understanding of the vastness of the ancient city and to get a memorable look at the pyramids and palaces of Teotihuacan. Some tours, like this 50 minute option and this 60 minute option, will arrange to pick you up in Mexico City, provide breakfast, and also coordinate an on the ground tour of the ancient site.


And if you're a fan of balloon festivals, the León International Balloon Festival in León, Mexico is a four day event in November with half a million people expected to show up, according to Travel Awaits. Each morning of the festival, assuming good weather, you can watch the mass ascension of some 200 hot air balloons. If you want to help out, you can register to be a crew member and fly in a balloon, form a team of three — with at least two men — and make sure you have a large pickup.

Western New York State

Letchworth State Park in New York is known as the "Grand Canyon of the East" with the Genesee River carving its way through the gorge that's up to 550 feet deep. The park has three big waterfalls, and on a ride with family-owned Liberty Balloon Company, you can get a fantastic view of the roaring river and its waterfalls from a balloon. They have both morning and evening flights throughout the year on every day but Sunday — as always, barring weather constraints. They've got multiple balloons that can fit from four to eight passengers. And if you've got 18 people in your group, you can buy out all the balloons. 


The company also has flights in the Finger Lakes area of New York, an area known for its many lakes and wineries. A shared basket ride starts at $365, and they've got a number of packages, including a high altitude package in the Finger Lakes for $1,400 for two people where you fly up to 10,560 feet above sea level.

Canadian Arctic

For an absolute once in a lifetime experience, you can go hot air ballooning in the Canadian Arctic near Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut. Your trip won't be one just to see the beautiful, dramatic white landscape from a hot air balloon — to get that experience, you'll have to go on a small or private group expedition to the area. One company that offers expeditions incorporating a hot air balloon is Baffin Safari. Along with the hot air balloon ride, you'll get a chance to see narwhal and beluga whales, bears, walrus, and foxes.


Another option for a customized tour that includes a hot air balloon ride in the Canadian Arctic is with Arctic Kingdom; the trip will have other bucket list adventures on the itinerary, like having dinner at the North Pole and exploring icebergs.

There's also the tethered balloon experience with Quark Expeditions that rises up to 100 feet allowing for an incredible view of the North Pole.

Asheville, North Carolina

Asheville, North Carolina's Asheville Balloon Company partnered with The Foundry Hotel, a luxury hotel in Asheville's historic The Block neighborhood, for a unique wedding package; fly over the historic city with views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Biltmore Lake in a hot air balloon as you say your vows. A total of 16 can partake in the wedding flight, per Travel + Leisure. The hotel also offers private, non-wedding flights for guests, starting at $300 per person that comes with a complimentary champagne toast and picnic.


Asheville Balloon Company flies at sunrise to avoid the winds later in the day, and they fly every day of the year if the weather's good, though the best weather for flying is generally between mid-May and mid-September, per Asheville Balloon Company. Fall is particularly beautiful as the tree leaves change color, and the area has a long leaf season, so make sure to book in advance. Flights last from 45 minutes to an hour, and they can cover up to eight miles.

Sedona, Arizona

Sedona, Arizona is a top wellness destination, according to TripAdvisor. Some people feel that Sedona has healing energy coming from the red rocks at certain places called vortexes, per Visit Sedona. And for an unforgettable view of those iconic and healing red rocks, head to the skies in a balloon. Both Northern Lights Balloons and Red Rock Balloon Adventures fly at sunrise every day of the year if the weather is good, and take passengers amidst the towering spires and over the forested canyons of Red Rock Country. After the one to two hour flight, you'll get to enjoy champagne.


During the champagne toast at the end of your flight, no matter where you fly, you may get a chance to join in with the balloonist's prayer: "The winds have welcomed you with softness. The sun has blessed you with its warm hands. You have flown so high and so well that God has joined you in your laughter and set you gently back into the loving arms of mother earth."