ART + SCIENCE = MAGIC

As grapes turn into wine through the magic of art plus science, so too the lift of a hot air balloon. Because the air filling the inside of the balloon is heated, and therefore less dense than the air outside, it’s up, up, and away. Lift is maintained by the pilot’s burner being fired up, adding or venting more hot air as needed.

So much for the science. It’s the magic, not the chemistry, that makes this event so unlike any other. Excitement and anticipation mix with apprehension as a giant wicker basket detaches from the Earth without any motorized propulsion. Once afloat, the story for the next 45 to 60 minutes is about silence and awe as the balloon rises anywhere from 1,000 to 3,000 feet above the valley. Soak in panoramic views as the ground gently slips away. Watch the sun continue to rise and appreciate the total feeling of freedom, a sense of calm that simply cannot be matched.

Prevailing winds are usually in a south-by-southwest direction, so the journey is generally in a diagonal direction affording panoramic views of Napa’s famous vineyards,   rolling hills, and oak-covered landscapes cradled by Mayacamas and Vaca mountains. On the clearest of days, one can see west as far as the bay.

So much for the science. It’s the magic, not the chemistry, that makes this event so unlike any other. Excitement and anticipation mix with apprehension as a giant wicker basket detaches from the Earth without any motorized propulsion. Once afloat, the story for the next 45 to 60 minutes is about silence and awe as the balloon rises anywhere from 1,000 to 3,000 feet above the valley. Soak in panoramic views as the ground gently slips away. Watch the sun continue to rise and appreciate the total feeling of freedom, a sense of calm that simply cannot be matched.

Prevailing winds are usually in a south-by-southwest direction, so the journey is generally in a diagonal direction affording panoramic views of Napa’s famous vineyards,   rolling hills, and oak-covered landscapes cradled by Mayacamas and Vaca mountains. On the clearest of days, one can see west as far as the bay.

RISE AND SHINE

It’s    an    early    start.   Again, science is the reason. Flight dynamics mean that balloons must fly in the stable air just after daybreak before the ground surface warms up, and surface winds increase. Hot air balloon passengers arrive at the launch site around dawn. That timing varies by the month as the hour of sunrise changes, but it will always be made clear. First-timers frequently comment on the  size of hot air balloons, which look much smaller  when  they’re  in the sky. Some are as tall as   a 12-story building and hold  up  to  24  people. Most  hot  air balloon rides depart from Yountville or Oxbow Public Market in downtown Napa.

hot air balloon

PRACTICAL TIPS

The morning temperatures and elevations can be chilly, so it is advised to wear an extra layer for warmth and to pack lightly. Carry only a smartphone or other small camera that fits into a pocket or a bum bag. As ever,  safety  is paramount, and COVID-19 protective guidelines are in place. Social distancing is achieved by having groups of two to six guests in customized compartments within the balloon’s basket. Check with the vendor at the time of booking for current county restrictions, but as a rule, face masks are mandatory.

Snack bars and bottled water may be available, but health regulations may limit other types of  foodservice. It is advised to go light on the coffee intake before flight as there are  no  restrooms  in  the field where the balloon is inflated, and there are none in the sky.

Lastly, enjoy the adventure. It is one of the most exciting ways to experience Napa Valley from a heightened perspective. 

hot air balloonWhere to book

These experienced companies have been in the balloon business for decades.

Reservations are required and should be made online.

Complimentary hotel pickups can usually be arranged and coordinated at the time of booking.

Balloons Above the Valley balloonrides.com

Napa Valley Aloft: nvaloft.com

Napa Valley Balloons napavalleyballoons.com

 

 

 

Article By: Laure Jo Miller Farr