Earlier this month I took my first ever sunrise hot air balloon ride in Arizona. (The first of many to come, I might add.) And you know what? It was nothing like I expected it to be.
In fact, it was way more fun and a lot less frightening than the Great and Powerful Oz would have you believe. (There’s a reason we were told to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain). Not once did our pilot say, “I can’t come back! I don’t know how it works!” How Dorothy thought this man was going to drop her off on her aunt’s farm is beyond me.
A sunrise hot air balloon ride in Arizona
However, I’ll admit that for the month leading up to this adventure I was pretty apprehensive about it. I mean, you’re talking about riding thousands of feet over the desert in a wicker basket carried by a balloon. This is a technology that really hasn’t changed all that much since its invention in 1783. For reference, the American Revolution ended that same year. It’s not like we’re still shooting muskets and wearing powdered wigs so…?
Needless to say, I had a lot of questions about hot air ballooning, as I’m sure you do too. If, like me, the only things you know about hot air ballooning you learned from a conman from Omaha-turned-sorcerer, let me fill you in on what you need to know for your sunrise hot air balloon ride in Arizona.
Hot Air Expeditions
They say the Scottsdale, Arizona area has the most ideal weather conditions for hot air ballooning in the country. And Scottsdale in the winter has the absolutely best. For my sunrise hot air balloon ride in Arizona I flew with Hot Air Expeditions and I’m so glad I did.
The crew was amazing and our pilot, Bill, was hilarious in all the right ways. All this helped to dispel my *totally justified, right?* first time hot air balloon jitters. I learned so much cool stuff about hot air ballooning, saw some amazing sights, and experienced the smoothest, most ideal hot air ballooning landing this side of Emerald City.
Check out the video of my hot air balloon experience here:
What to expect on a sunrise hot air balloon ride in Arizona
Before your flight
Because sunrise is the most ideal time to fly a hot air balloon (fun fact #1!), you’ll be picked up in total darkness in a comfortable van you’ll probably fall asleep in. (‘Tis best to schedule a wake-up call, methinks.) And because this is 1783, you can use your feather quill to sign the waiver that will be handed to you.
On the way to your takeoff site (location TBD) your knowledgeable driver will answer all the questions you want to ask about just what you got yourself into.
Preparing the balloon
At the site, you’ll get to catch the desert sunrise while the crew blows up the balloon—a process that only takes around 15 minutes.
Before you know it, your pilot will usher you up and over into what’s little more than an oversized picnic basket.
Your pilot will give the full rundown on safety instructions, some interesting information on wind (yes, I just said interesting information on wind), and then tell you he has absolutely no control over where the balloon goes. Wait a second… so the Wizard wasn’t lying???
In the air
Your sunrise hot air balloon ride in Arizona will last about an hour—give or take since, ya know, you’re at the mercy of Mother Nature. And she’s still pretty pissed about the BP oil spill so when and where you land is going to be–wait for it–pretty much up in the air. *giggles uncontrollably*
During your sunrise flight you’ll experience:
- the most serene feeling of floating effortlessly over the Sonoran desert
- absolute silence (with the exception of a raging propane flame every so often that’ll scare the flying monkeys out of you)
- color commentary
- chilly weather but nothing scarf-worthy
- and the most beautiful scenery.
After your balloon ride
After landing, wherever that may be, you’ll enjoy a delicious brunch and champagne to toast the fact that your trip in the vessel that was invented 117 years before the Zeppelin airship ‘twas a success!
Hot Air Expeditions (by virtue of the authority vested in them by the Universitatus Committeeatum e pluribus unum) will hereby confer upon you a personalized certificate of completion to signify your Arizona adventures are really taking off (lolz). And you better believe I’m framing that sucker.
The crew will then take you back to your starting point in a comfortable van that you’ll probably fall asleep in.
What you’ll see on your sunrise hot air balloon ride in Arizona
Since you’re flying over and around the Scottsdale/Phoenix area, from your balloon you’ll see beautiful desert landscapes and tons of Arizona’s iconic Saguaro cacti.
You’ll see mountains (mountains, Gandalf!) and fly over highways and all the working stiffs on their morning commute. You can see hiking trails, foggy downtown Phoenix, and an overhead view of people’s homes (50 points to Gryffindor if you spot a woman in a bathrobe drinking coffee on her patio).
There will be jackrabbits a-plenty and possibly many another wild animals to spot like roadrunners and coyotes! And porky pigs and daffy ducks and Tasmanian devils—wait, wrong list. You’ll see other hot air balloons floating all around you at what I’m assuming is a safe distance.
You’ll get to watch the Chase Crew try to estimate where your balloon will land. Also, see your hot air balloon both being blown up and being deflated, up close and inside out.
Questions you may have about your sunrise hot air balloon ride in Arizona
Have no fear that all of your hot air balloon-related questions will be answered by the Hot Air Expeditions crew and your pilot. Literally everything you’ve ever wanted to know about ballooning and a bunch of stuff you never knew you wanted to know so badly.
In the meantime, here’s a few things you should know before your sunrise hot air balloon ride in Scottsdale.
Will you experience motion sickness?
Well, I don’t really know your body all that much, but the general consensus is no, you won’t experience motion sickness on a hot air balloon ride.
Ballooning was the absolute most relaxing, smooth ride I’ve ever taken. And though I did find a life-changing permanent motion sickness cure a few years ago, I don’t see how anyone could get sick in a hot air balloon.
Plus, hot air balloons only fly in calm, ideal weather conditions so there’s little chance of turbulence. Not to mention, the ride being only about an hour, by the time you’d start experiencing symptoms it would be time to land anyway. A letdown in more ways than one. (wink, wink)
How long is the whole excursion?
This really depends on Mother Nature and if you opt for hotel pickup or not. For me, from pickup to dropoff was 4 hours. And this included the time it took to pick up a couple at another hotel in another part of town.
That includes the trips to and from the takeoff and landing zones + the balloon ride + brunch and bubbly. The pace of the entire morning was incredibly relaxed, with the exception of when you have to jump into the basket after the balloon is inflated or risk never getting back home to Kansas.
How much does a sunrise hot air balloon ride in Arizona cost?
The price of your hot air balloon excursion will depend on a few factors. But I will say that after 237 years of regular inflation (😆), hot air balloon rides are much more affordable than I initially thought. Check out the Hot Air Expeditions website for different pricing options.
And one of the most asked hot air ballooning questions of all…
What to wear for a sunrise hot air balloon ride in Arizona
What you should wear (+ a few other things you should bring) for a winter sunrise hot air balloon ride in Scottsdale, Arizona is covered in my accompanying post: What to Pack for a Winter Hot Air Balloon Ride featuring 8 essential items + 2 things to leave behind.
And for everything to bring with you on your trip, check out What to Pack for Arizona in the Winter (+ What I Wish I’d Brought).