When I was planning our Arizona vacation using Frommer’s 500 Places to Take Your Kids Before They Grow Up, one of the top things I wanted to do with my kids was take a balloon ride over Sedona. For someone who is afraid of heights, you would think that a hot-air balloon ride would send me into a faint. But for some reason, the idea of being contained in a basket hundreds of feet in the air feels safer than standing on a ladder.
We used Red Rock Balloon Adventures and were very pleased with their professionalism, service, and the quality of their balloons. There are other companies in and around Sedona, but the other balloons didn’t seem to fly over as high as we did, nor did they get as close to the rock formations as our balloons did. The price for a flight is pretty steep (figure $200/per person) but the scenery and the memories are worth it.
The only bad part of the ballooning experience is the time you have to get up to take the flight – before dawn, which for us meant around 5:00 am. Yawn!
There were grumbles from my boys, but their eyes widened when we got to the take-off field and watched the huge balloons inflate. Oh and did I mention it was cold, too?
Brr . . . we were bundled in hats and coats but we didn’t mind.
By the time the sun was up, the balloons were inflated and we were assigned a basket with two other families and a couple.
We climbed in and we were off!
I loved the gentle ascent and the (mostly) quiet ride. We whispered as we lifted off, the only sound the clicking of cameras. And then they released the gas jet to heat the air, inflate the balloon, and make it rise . . .
And my oldest son almost jumped out of the wicker gondola.
It turns out that while he may be fearless when it comes to roller coasters, daredevil stunts, and other “boy” things, he’s not a fan of hot-air ballooning. I guess the loud gas release (which sounded like a roar) spooked him.
In any case, he couldn’t wait to get down and off. So as he huddled into his coat, flinching every time the gas jet released, we enjoyed the gorgeous red rock scenery of Sedona.
The pilots were amazing and got us close to buttes and mesas, then swooped down to graze the tops of trees.
Before long, we landed in an open field and waited for the chase vehicles to come pick us up. We bounced along back roads and back into Sedona and headed to a roadside park where we were greeted with certificates of our accomplishment and a champagne breakfast.
Why champagne? Legend has it that early French balloonists would carry bottles of champagne to soothe the ruffled feathers of farmers whose fields they landed in.
In any case, the light breakfast was a welcome meal for my hungry boys (although they passed on the champagne!)
We were at the end of our Arizona adventure and I wanted to know what my guys (especially my oldest) thought of our hot-air excursion.
He gave me a sour look, shook his head, and pointed to the back of the truck where they were selling t-shirts.
“I want one of those,” he said pointing to a specific shirt, “and I’m never doing this again.”
Sigh. If you can’t read the back of the shirt, it simply says: “Been there, done that, bought a t-shirt.”
Oh well, 32 down, 468 to go.