California, Review

Soaring above Wine Country: Hot Air Balloon Ride in Napa

I remember when I was a kid, I was so fascinated with the sky that I would climb trees as high as I could, arms outstretched, pretending I could fly. As I got older, the fascination remained but since I can no longer climb trees, I set my sights on riding a hot air balloon instead. For my birthday this year, my husband, James and I did exactly just that. Since James was hesitant about the whole thing (something to do with 3,300 feet, I’m not really sure lol), I took it upon myself to search for a reputable company that will put his mind at ease. After all, it wouldn’t be fun if I just went by myself. Turns out I didn’t have to look far because I found one right away! Napa Valley Aloft in Yountville is a family owned hot air balloon company that has been flying since the 1970s. Knowing they have a lot of experience under their belt made it easier for us to book with them.

From downtown Napa, it took us 20 minutes to get to V Marketplace in Yountville, our meeting location. Check in was quick and simple. After signing our waivers, we helped ourselves to some coffee and pastries available at the lobby area. After 15 minutes or so, some of the employees held a safety briefing before we were separated into 3 groups.

Soaring above Wine Country: Hot Air Balloon Ride in Napa

Photo from V Marketplace Facebook page

If weather permitting, they can conveniently take off right at the parking lot of V Marketplace. But on foggy mornings, they may have to launch outside of Napa Valley because of low visibility making flying unsafe. They have two exclusive launch options located in Pope Valley (30 minute shuttle ride) and Paradisa Valley (1 hour shuttle ride). Thankfully, the skies were kind to us and gave us great weather despite a couple of showers the day before. The crew were friendly and spoke with us for a bit while the pilot prepared for the flight. One of the crew members told me that our pilot that day was one of the owners, Jay Kimball. He opened the balloon ride company back in the day and eventually turned it over to his sons to run the business.

Soaring above Wine Country: Hot Air Balloon Ride in Napa

Soaring above Wine Country: Hot Air Balloon Ride in Napa

Soaring above Wine Country: Hot Air Balloon Ride in Napa

Inside the basket are three separate sections that were spacious enough for us and two families. While we waited for the crew to finish with their pre-flight preparations, we chatted with the people in our flight. I think one of the perks of traveling is meeting new people and sharing stories. This time, we were blessed to meet the Truong family from Southern California.

Soaring above Wine Country: Hot Air Balloon Ride in Napa

Soaring above Wine Country: Hot Air Balloon Ride in Napa

After a few minutes we were ready to take off! I was a bit scared at first but after awhile I got used to it and didn’t mind the altitude. James surprisingly took it well too. As we rose above the valley floor, most of us found ourselves oohing and ahhing at the beautiful panoramic views of the valley. Our views included the majestic Mt. St Helena, the Mayacamas Mt. Range and the Vaca Range. At one point we also had a glimpse of the San Francisco skyline.

Soaring above Wine Country: Hot Air Balloon Ride in Napa

Soaring above Wine Country: Hot Air Balloon Ride in Napa

Soaring above Wine Country: Hot Air Balloon Ride in Napa

Soaring above Wine Country: Hot Air Balloon Ride in Napa

The flight was steady and easy despite varying altitudes. Even when at one point we were as high as 3,200 feet not once did I feel fearful for my life. Our pilot definitely knew what he was doing because the entire flight I felt like we were just gliding. It didn’t hurt that the weather was cooperative too. The morning haze mixed with rays of sunshine were strikingly beautiful. It comforted me and made my mind feel like I was in a distant, unknown place. If they had a bed up there, I would’ve probably fallen asleep. That’s how soothing the flight was. While I continued to stare intently into the wide open space, James was preoccupied with taking photos and videos for our trip. (Check out the video below)

Soaring above Wine Country: Hot Air Balloon Ride in Napa

a non-wine drinker's guide to Napa Valley

Soaring above Wine Country: Hot Air Balloon Ride in Napa

Soaring above Wine Country: Hot Air Balloon Ride in Napa

Soaring above Wine Country: Hot Air Balloon Ride in Napa

Soaring above Wine Country: Hot Air Balloon Ride in Napa

Our flight took longer (1 hour and 10 minutes) than the rest of the other groups, which we really liked. But unfortunately, it had to end somehow. After we descended with ease, the crew readily packed up the balloons while the rest of us were shuttled back to V Marketplace where we were greeted with a champagne breakfast at the Pacific Blues Cafe, thanks to Napa Valley Aloft. We were joined by the Truong family and our pilot/owner Jay Kimball who shared stories about his travels and his business. The whole experience was a blast and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m sure this won’t be the last time I’ll go on a hot air balloon ride but I’m glad my first ride was with Napa Valley Aloft.

Soaring above Wine Country: Hot Air Balloon Ride in Napa

Soaring above Wine Country: Hot Air Balloon Ride in Napa

Soaring above Wine Country: Hot Air Balloon Ride in Napa

a non-wine drinker's guide to Napa Valley

Soaring above Wine Country: Hot Air Balloon Ride in Napa

Yountville Scrambled

Soaring above Wine Country: Hot Air Balloon Ride in Napa

Things to know before your flight:

  • Make sure you book flights in advance to reserve your spot. They recommend booking 1-2 weeks prior but sometimes they are able to accommodate late minute reservations. But do call beforehand.
  • Meeting times may vary but most flights take off between 6:00 am-6:50 am. Ours was at 6:30 am. Make sure you arrive 20-30 minutes before your flight to give ample time to sign waivers and for safety briefing.
  • Don’t forget to call for weather decision 1 hour prior to check in the morning of your flight since it’s an activity contingent to weather. Weather #: (707) 935-9880.
  • Since flights are early in the morning, breakfast joints may not be open yet but don’t worry because included in your package are hot beverages and pastries.
  • Make sure you wear appropriate clothing. Casual clothing – preferably in layers so you can adjust according to the temperature as the morning progresses. Most people I’ve seen wore closed-toed shoes, hats and sunglasses. As for women, make sure you wear pants because getting to the basket requires climbing in and out of it.
  • If you forget any of these, don’t fret. They send 1-2 emails to remind you of the date, time, address and some additional flight info.

Inspired? Pin it for later!

Soaring above Wine Country: Hot Air Balloon Ride in Napa


Have you been on a hot air balloon ride? Was it fun or scary?

Let me know about your experience in the comment section below.

 

 

Napa Valley Aloft

6525 Washington Street

Yountville, CA 94599

Email: ballooning@nvaloft.com

Phone No’s: 855.944-4408, 707.944-4400

Check out their Facebook page: Napa Valley Aloft

Thank you Napa Valley Aloft for helping me fulfill this bucket list dream of mine!

DISCLAIMER: This is a sponsored post and was written in collaboration with Napa Valley Aloft.
As always, all opinions are my own and unbiased. All media (photos & video) are mine.


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38 Comments

  1. Laura @ Grassroots Nomad

    May 9, 2016 at 1:48 pm

    Gorgeous!!!! Your photos are stunning and the scenery is spectacular. Your champagne breakfast looks delicious as well 🙂

    1. Janna C.

      Janna C.

      May 16, 2016 at 2:52 pm

      Thanks Laura! It was quite the experience! And you’re right, the champagne breakfast was delicious. 🙂

  2. Brooke of Passport Couture

    May 9, 2016 at 7:31 pm

    What a fantastic birthday present! I would have been excited, but also just as scared to experience this opportunity. Great photos of the hot air balloons scattered in the skies!

    1. Janna C.

      Janna C.

      May 16, 2016 at 2:56 pm

      I was a bit scared at first because I’m slightly fearful of heights but after the take off, the whole ride was smooth and steady. The pilot definitely knew what he was doing!

  3. Svetoslav Dimitrov

    May 9, 2016 at 10:49 pm

    Indeed, an amazing idea for a birthday gift and you both look really happy and thrilled. Hot air balloon rides are quite adrenaline-rising as you know you only rely on the wind (and the pilot’s skills).

    Your photos are fantastic, and I will also check out the video.

    Why you can’t climb trees anymore? I dare you do it :))

    1. Janna C.

      Janna C.

      May 16, 2016 at 2:59 pm

      I agree! It’s a bit of a risk obviously but the pilot was very knowledgable and made us feel safe the whole ride. That’s why I think it’s important to go with a reputable company like Napa Valley Aloft. Thanks Svet for liking the photos and for checking out the video.

      Haha I’m older now and my bones are brittle! 😛

  4. Marteen

    May 10, 2016 at 7:29 am

    How amazing! I love how colourful the balloons are ☺ As I’m not a wine drinker it’s good to know there are other activities besides wine tasting. What camera do you use?

    1. Janna C.

      Janna C.

      May 16, 2016 at 3:01 pm

      Same here! I’m not a big drinker of wine too but I’m glad Napa gave us many options to do other stuff. I use Nikon d5300 to take my photos and videos! 🙂

  5. Ulli

    May 10, 2016 at 2:38 pm

    Wow… not everyone can report such an experience! I’m so jealous but also so happy for you 🙂

    1. Janna C.

      Janna C.

      May 16, 2016 at 3:01 pm

      Aw thanks Ulli! I appreciate it. 🙂

  6. Chantell Collins

    May 10, 2016 at 7:46 pm

    What a great birthday gift! Looks like you had a lovely time :). I went hot air ballooning in Albuquerque in January and it was absolutely freezing!! ha ha I downed my champagne at the end just to warm myself up. Napa Valley Loft looks like a great company to use and I will certainly consider them the next time I want to go hot air ballooning. Thanks!

    1. Janna C.

      Janna C.

      May 18, 2016 at 10:58 pm

      It really was a great birthday gift. I’m glad I can finally say that I went on a hot air balloon ride! Ooh yeah that sounds cold! haha but Albuquerque is actually one of the places I want to go on a hot air balloon ride. I’m sure you’ve heard of the annual Balloon festival they have there. I can’t wait to attend this year. And yes! Glad you will check out Napa Valley Aloft. They’re awesome! 🙂

  7. Amanda Williams

    May 11, 2016 at 9:58 am

    What a fantastic way to see Napa Valley and a lovey idea for a birthday treat! I can’t believe I didn’t know about this when I was there. Fab pics to btw.

    1. Janna C.

      Janna C.

      May 18, 2016 at 10:59 pm

      Yes, indeed! I didn’t know either. But apparently, Napa is one of the top destinations for hot air ballooning. So, I guess we have been missing out all these years. Thanks for liking the pics Amanda! 🙂

  8. Patricia

    May 11, 2016 at 11:13 am

    What an awesome birthday present!! I must admit that I have a fear of heights, so I’d have to be feeling pretty brave before getting into the basket. Still, from the video and pictures it looks like you had a perfect weather day and a wonderful trip!

    1. Janna C.

      Janna C.

      May 18, 2016 at 11:01 pm

      You’re not alone Patricia! I’m actually a scaredy cat when it comes to heights but surprisingly, this one wasn’t bad at all. I felt safe and comfortable throughout the whole flight. Thankfully, the weather was cooperative that day so all in all, we had an amazing time. Hope you can check it out too!

  9. Travel Pockets

    May 11, 2016 at 11:26 am

    I’ve been to Nappy Valley, but didn’t realize they offered hot air balloon rides. The view looks gorgeous, but I’m so afraid of heights! Not sure if I’ll ever be able to experience the hot air balloon unless I somehow rid my fear of heights 🙂 Cute video!

    1. Janna C.

      Janna C.

      May 18, 2016 at 11:02 pm

      Me neither! I actually just found out about it after googling “What to do in Napa besides drink wine” and this came up as the number one activity there. Don’t worry! You can do it. I’m actually the same as you, but surprisingly this one wasn’t bad at all. It felt like we were just gliding up there. And thank you for liking the video. 🙂

  10. Stefan

    May 11, 2016 at 12:29 pm

    Love a hot air balloon ride – but doing it in the UK is so so hard as they frequently get cancelled due to weather (!) The views over Napa are incredible – great post – have pinned to one of our favourite adventure boards we follow.

    1. Janna C.

      Janna C.

      May 18, 2016 at 11:04 pm

      Oh no! That’s too bad. I hope you get to experience it someday somewhere outside of the UK. Maybe, when you visit the US you can do it in Napa too yea? 🙂 And thank you for sharing Stefan!

  11. Danielle Des

    May 11, 2016 at 7:14 pm

    I’ve never read a detailed blog post about hot airballooning before but I’m going to pin this and hint this to my boyfriend for my next birthday!

    1. Janna C.

      Janna C.

      May 18, 2016 at 11:04 pm

      Thanks Danielle! Glad you found it informative. And yes! That’s the best way to do it. hehe I hinted a few times to my husband until he finally said yes haha

  12. Jo

    May 12, 2016 at 2:36 am

    Wow this looks amaaazing. I love the incredible view from above. I have never done a hot air balloon ride before though I have considered it many times – Mostly because of cost constraints. I wanted to do this in Kenya where they take you in a hot air balloon very close the animals – So you are literally few feet away from the animals (usually around sunset) and its beautiful. After seeing these pictures of Napa, I bet it could be really interesting as well. I would love to try it out when in CA.

    1. Janna C.

      Janna C.

      May 18, 2016 at 11:06 pm

      I’ve seen photos of that Jo and I think that’s super awesome that they take you close to the animals. I’m sure it looks stunning with the sunset in the background! What a dream! Yes, definitely try it when you make it out to CA! Check out Napa Valley Aloft 🙂

  13. Bailey K.

    May 12, 2016 at 10:53 am

    I’ve been on a hot air balloon ride once, and I was like you – I wasn’t scared at all, not once. I loved it, and I’d love to go again – especially in Napa! It’s absolutely beautiful.

    1. Janna C.

      Janna C.

      May 18, 2016 at 11:07 pm

      I was actually a bit scared at first but overall, the flight was smooth and steady. I loved it! I hope to do a few more in the future.

  14. Kevin Wagar

    May 12, 2016 at 2:07 pm

    This looks amazing! I have yet to do a hot air balloon ride. I think I’d need to hold off on the wine tasting till after we landed though 🙂
    Great photo’s and an awesome idea for a birthday!

    1. Janna C.

      Janna C.

      May 18, 2016 at 11:07 pm

      Oh definitely! We don’t want anyone falling off the basket haha. Thank you Kevin for liking the photos. 🙂

  15. Heather Teles

    May 13, 2016 at 9:35 am

    This is on my bucket list!! Beautiful photos!

    1. Janna C.

      Janna C.

      May 16, 2016 at 3:02 pm

      Thanks Heather! Now’s the time to check it off your bucket list! Go for it! 🙂

  16. marie

    May 16, 2016 at 2:57 am

    What a great experience. You get a totally different perspective from up there don’t you and you managed to take some amazing pictures!

    1. Janna C.

      Janna C.

      May 16, 2016 at 3:03 pm

      Definitely! The view up there is unparalleled! It was amazing to see the mountains and the beautiful sky from 3,200 feet above ground. Thank you for liking the photos Marie! 🙂

  17. Sarah from Tales From a Fork

    May 16, 2016 at 4:58 am

    This looks amazing! I’ll look into it when I go to Napa.

    1. Janna C.

      Janna C.

      May 16, 2016 at 3:02 pm

      Thanks Sarah! And yes you definitely should check it out!

  18. Psychic Nest

    May 16, 2016 at 1:06 pm

    Hi Janna,

    Lucky you for having such a wonderful husband! This was definitely an amazing gift! I don’t really like heights, they make me feel light headed but I bet it is a fantastic experience to be inside a hot air balloon and have such a beautiful ride. I love your photos! The food looks excellent as well!

    Zaria

    1. Janna C.

      Janna C.

      May 18, 2016 at 11:09 pm

      You’re most definitely right! I’m lucky to have such a thoughtful husband. I’m not a fan of it that much either but I assure you if you go with experienced pilots, they will make you feel comfortable and safe. Hope you can try it out in the future. Thanks for liking the photos Zaria!

  19. Raj popat

    June 6, 2016 at 3:33 pm

    Great post and pictures, I booked mine for latest this month. What camera lenses would you recommend for the flight?

    1. Janna C.

      Janna C.

      June 7, 2016 at 12:51 am

      Thank you Raj! That’s awesome that you booked with them. You will definitely enjoy it. I just used my regular lenses 18-55mm for my Nikon. But I’m looking to purchasing a wide angle lens. I think you should use that if you have it.

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