Try Hot-Air Balloon For An Adventure In The Clouds

It’s not just a ride, a Michelin meal and champagne are included!

“Together we will touch the sky”

Headed to Arizona? Hmm, what to do, what to do . . .

Picture this:

You wake up at the crack of dawn. 4:00 am, to be precise. You drive to the middle of nowhere in the desert and can hear the wind whistling through the cracks in the rocks. You walk along the dirt path, the crunch of sand and gravel beneath your soles.

All of a sudden, fire shoots up.

That is, inside the gigantic, rainbow hot-air balloon right in front of you.

Once inside the huge woven basket, you look out below at the jaw-dropping scenery, your fingers gripping the edge while in total disbelief that what’s underneath you is real, that you’re this high up, that you feel like you can finally see the universe clearly.

There’s something about looking at the land from a different perspective. Acres and acres of red rock, canyon, and desert grass. Animals skittering around below and hiding in the shadows. Dry heat. Sun yawning in illumination. Up in the mist of clouds. There’s something about taking a breath without your feet on the ground, the freeing sound of wind ringing in your ears.

Only one experience can describe this moment: being in a hot-air balloon for sunrise in the Arizona desert.

Being in a hot-air balloon offers some of the most stunning views you will ever witness in your entire life. It did for me without a doubt. Love the scenic outdoors? Ready to fly? Well, what are you waiting for?

hot air balloon
Cactus balloon heating up. Photo: Amanda Dettmann


Something most people don’t know about the inside of hot-air balloons is that there are about four different sections: each family or group stands in one of these four compartments. You also never know what color or design you’ll get for your hot-air balloon! Designs range from cactuses to bright suns to little rainbow patches. Wherever you are up in the sky, you’ll be able to see all the other balloons around you and spot where they end up landing as well.


One of the craziest parts of the whole experience is getting inside the basket: you don’t realize how insanely hot the fire is, and how close you actually are to the 210 F degree heat. But don’t let that scare you off. The crew members make sure you are completely safe from the risk of any flame. Even though it will feel very hot during the ten minute loading period getting everyone inside, you’ll be up in the breezy sky in no time.

hot air balloon
Igniting the rainbow balloon. Photo: Amanda Dettmann


Our hot-air balloon pilot Mike was clearly experienced, and yet he said that different things have happened on every balloon ride. Sometimes the basket lands perfectly still on the ground; sometimes it topples over a little at landing and everybody holds on to each other nervously laughing. Pilots like Mike never know where they’re going to land. They can plan it, but the wind ultimately takes over. I think that’s what makes a hot-air balloon ride so ethereal and yet so worldly—you’re floating but hooked in earth’s control and gravity.

To become a hot-air balloon pilot like Mike takes a huge amount of time, dedication, and resources. You need to be able to work with heavy equipment and withstand extreme temperatures from the fire in the balloon. Our pilot Mike had to fly many many hours in balloons by himself and with passengers in order to achieve his license. He was clearly a committed and enthusiastic human being, which makes for a welcoming and entertaining pilot to say the least.

The best thing about Mike was that he was always attentive to our safety and well-being the entire flight. He helped us along with other flight crew members to carefully step into the basket with a small step ladder and to exit without falling. I always felt like I was in good hands and laughed the entire time with his dad-jokes about flying. He even gave us hot-air balloon flight certificates which he signed himself so we can always remember our crazy adventure and our pilot with a personality. (Ask for Pilot Mike when you book your hot-air balloon trip!)

hot air balloon
Crew members getting the balloons ready. Photo: Amanda Dettmann


The number one thing hot-air balloon pilots have to worry about is the wind; the best time to fly is in light and stable winds of 4-6 mph, and maximum safe winds are in the range of 8-10 mph. Doesn’t seem like much of a difference, but once you’re up in the air, the path and direction of the flight can change drastically depending on weather.


The whole ride is about an hour long, but it takes about 3 1/2 hours total if meeting at the check-in point, viewing the inflation of the balloon, having the champagne toast at the end, and receiving your certificate for the d’Ascension En Machine Aerostatique— an induction into the ballooning society.


It’s not just a ride: at the end of your hot-air balloon flight with Hot Air Expeditions, the crew members set up a giant picnic table in the desert right when you land. A meal and champagne are included! I had some of the best quiche and cheese in my life during this picnic basket extravaganza, and to chat with other passengers during a sit-down meal afterwards was the icing on the cake (or, I guess, the fire to the balloon if you know what I mean).

Chef Vincent Guerithault who is the chef/owner of the local, award-winning Vincent’s on Camelback offers culinary dishes combining French cooking with Southwestern ingredients:


Continental Breakfast

  • Chilled champagne
  • Sparkling Cider & Orange Juice
  • Assorted Muffins
  • Pound Cake
  • Raisin Bread
  • Warm Croissants
  • Fresh Fruit


Celebratory Breakfast

  • Chilled champagne
  • Sparkling Cider & Orange Juice
  • Southwestern Style Vegetable Quiche
  • Warm Croissants
  • Soft Cheese
  • Seasonal Fresh Fruit

Celebratory Evening Hors D’oeuvres

  • Chilled champagne
  • Sparkling Cider
  • Pizza Rounds topped with Bar-B-Que Duck
  • Miniature Southwestern Style Vegetable Quiche
  • Miniature Lemon Tarlets
  • Dark & White Chocolate Truffles
  • Seasonal Fresh Fruit
hot air balloon
Up in the air! Photo: Amanda Dettmann


I recommend bringing a light sweatshirt; even though the balloon temperature is extremely hot, once you’re up in the sky you’ll want an extra layer of clothing. It’s also a good idea to bring a hat or sunglasses to be able to see better in the sun. Make closed toe shoes a priority so you don’t trip getting in and out of the basket.


My dad has a fear of heights and he still had the guts to go on a hot-air balloon ride. If you do have a fear of flying or heights, I recommend moving closer to the center of the basket. Just remember that there’s never any pressure to look down over the edge! You can look straight out over the flat land the entire flight, and most of the time by doing so people’s nerves are calmed.


hot air balloon
An unbeatable sunrise. Photo: Amanda Dettmann

Going at sunrise is an entire experience in itself. Just as you are waking up yourself, so is the natural world. Your balloon will get fired up just as the sun peaks, hitting you with some warmth while you’re 3000 feet up in the air. Although I haven’t ridden in a hot-air balloon for sunset, I’m sure the experience is just as spectacular with beaming views as the sun goes down amidst the red rocks.


If for some reason your balloon ride is cancelled due to unsafe weather conditions, there is no extra charge and you can always reschedule at your earliest convenience. The balloon crews suggest to NOT schedule your ride on the last day of your trip just in case you have to book another ride. Just know that if you’re headed to Phoenix, this city boasts the most flyable days per year (the chance of a balloon cancellation is not too common).


  1. Must be at least 5 years old
  2. Must not be pregnant
  3. No broken bones or recent surgeries
  4. Should be able to jump off the second step of a ladder
  5. Must be in good general health
  6. All passengers must sign a liability waiver

There is no weight requirement, but the crews do ask every member to record their weight so the basket is even on both sides, making for a smooth, comfortable ride.

hot air balloon
Waking up to the sunrise. Photo: Amanda Dettmann


Adults – around $180 per ride if shared with other passengers.

Children – around $130 per ride if shared with other passengers.

Includes gourmet meal, champagne, and flight certificates.

Prices increase if you’d like a private flight.


My family still has the picture of the four of us hung in our house—sunglasses on, big smiles, and the perfect day in an Arizona hot-air balloon. Every time I look at this picture it reminds me of that day, one breathtaking trip in the sky that may not happen again in my lifetime.

So if you’re in Arizona looking for that date of the century or want to take a picture of your whole family up in the clouds, hot-air ballooning is the perfect adventure, mixing a peaceful experience with heart-racing views. People even get engaged on their hot-air balloon ride! Maybe you’ll be in the same basket as a couple taking that next step in life or you’ll be the one getting down on one knee!

Who knows, hot-air ballooning offers the unexpected every single time . . .

Amanda spent one week in Arizona.

Amanda Dettmann


Amanda is an avid traveler who calls Maine her home, but her favorite places include Amsterdam's Christmas markets and Shakespeare's Globe in London. She is passionate about poetry, theatre, and teaching writing to kids and adults with disabilities. She thinks the best part of traveling is hearing strangers' incredible stories. Her ultimate mission? To find the tastiest cappuccino in the world.

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