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Hot Air Balloon Rides - An Exhilarating Experience!

Updated on November 2, 2011

One of life’s great adventures is riding in a hot air balloon. It is one of the most exhilarating and breathtaking trips you will ever take. There are locations all over America where you can purchase a ride for yourself, family or friends. Balloon flights last about an hour. Allow 3-4 hours for the entire adventure. Balloon flights take place near dawn and dusk since that's when the wind is the calmest.

In our town, it is not at all uncommon to see them flying an hour or two before sunset. One calm night, I heard a loud noise come from above our house. I looked up and saw a rainbow colored hot air balloon fly overhead. The noise I heard was the burner being lit. A local company was offering rides and using the local elementary school soccer field for taking off. It was quite a site and drew a large crowd.

Balloon festivals are another great way to experience hot air ballooning. Festivals are held all over the United States during all times of the year.Click here for a complete list.

Years ago, we went to one at the airport in Faribault, Minnesota. It was a beautiful site to see the many balloons being set up and taking flight. I will never forget the joy and excitement on my 2 year old son's face as he watched the balloons fly into the air.

There are over one hundred balloon festivals in the United States held this year and into 2012. These festivals offer you a chance to experience the world of flight. It is quite possible that you will be able to purchase a ride on a balloon at a festival, which will only add to your already amazing experience.

Wells Fargo Bank had two stagecoach balloons at the Albuquerque, New Mexico balloon festival.
Wells Fargo Bank had two stagecoach balloons at the Albuquerque, New Mexico balloon festival. | Source

We attended the largest and most famous festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was an amazing site to see. We saw balloons shaped like Garfield, cakes, bottles, fish, cats, Winnie the Pooh, a burger, a snowman, and more. When the sun set, the balloon pilots lit up the burners, resulting in a field of fire.You can walk amongst these balloons as they set them up and as they are lit. If the weather cooperates, they will fly in the early morning and near sunset.

Balloonists come from all parts of the world to this festival, which shows ballooning's world-wide popularity.

Don’t be shy about asking questions at a festival. Balloonists are more than happy to answer your questions, and you just may meet a balloonist that lives near you.

If you would rather be a pilot than a passenger, there are plenty of places to learn how. To earn your license you must be able to exercise sound judgment, take flight instruction from a commercial balloon pilot, pass both a written and flight test, be 16 years or older, and have no disqualifying medical condition.

This bird  balloon made an appearance at the Albuquerque, New Mexico balloon festival.
This bird balloon made an appearance at the Albuquerque, New Mexico balloon festival. | Source
The first hot air balloon.
The first hot air balloon.

A Quick History in Hot Air Ballooning

Hot air balloons came to be in 1783 in France when Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and François Laurent d'Arlandes launched the first hot air balloon. On board were a sheep, a duck and a rooster. The balloon stayed in the air for a total of 15 minutes before coming back to the ground.

Later that year, 2 French brothers, Joseph and Etienne Montgolfier were the first humans the fly in a balloon. This 20 minute flight was the birth of hot air ballooning.

On January 7, 1793, Jean Pierre Blanchard flew the first hot air balloon in North America. George Washington was present to see the balloon launch.

The next 100 years saw many advances. In August of 1932 Swiss scientist Auguste Piccard flew into the stratosphere and set the altitude record of 52,498 feet. Over the next couple of years, altitude records were set and broken every couple of months.

The first Pacific crossing was done in 1981. The Double Eagle V launched from Japan on November 10th and landed 84 hours later in Mendocino National Forest, California. 3 years later, Captain Joe Kittinger flew 3,535 miles on the first solo transatlantic balloon flight, setting another record.

In 1987 Richard Branson and Per Lindstrand flew the first flight over the Atlantic in 33 hours.

In 1991 they became the first to cross the Pacific in 47 hours. Steve Fossett became the first to complete the transpacific balloon route solo, travelling from Korea and landing in Canada 4 days later.

In 1999 the first around the world flight was completed by Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones. They flew for 19 days, 21 hours and 55 minutes.


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    • TTC12 profile image

      TTC12 6 years ago

      Thanks! We had great time there and loved New Mexico. The balloon show was the highlight.

    • JasonCulley profile image

      JasonCulley 6 years ago from Cheyenne, WY

      I lived in Albuquerque for a few years and enjoyed going to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta when I lived there! Great hub!