Some may consider a 4.30am wake up on a holiday a chore, but for Tim and I having the opportunity to spend sunrise over vineyards in Napa, from a Hot Air Balloon was one activity we were happy to lose some sleep over. After spending several hours researching the various balloon rides available in Napa I felt that Napa Valley Aloft were the best choice. I hope my Napa Valley Aloft Review helps to give you that nudge to take a hot air balloon ride!
Napa like San Francisco, is known for it’s early morning fog, and unfortunately this can hinder a hot air balloon ride, luckily Napa Valley Aloft being one of the oldest companies to operate from Napa has several back-up plans. The primary location is from Yountville, but given the fog on the morning of my flight we opted for Plan B, which was from the historical Pope Valley Winery, just northeast of St. Helena. Plan C (which is optional), is an option for a flight from Paradisa Valley, 1 hour away from Napa. Note: They are the only company to have access to Pope Valley, all other companies in the area have Plan B flights from Davis, California.
After check-in and a quick safety briefing at the Yountville, I helped myself to the complimentary light breakfast and we were then split up into groups – there were between 10 and 12 to a balloon, plus the pilot of course. We then began the short-drive to Pope Valley Winery, during which most people napped, I admired the fog over the vineyards and just took the time to enjoy the view.
Upon arrival at the site we were greeted by 3 colourful hot air balloons being inflated in the car park and what a sight it was, surrounded by vineyards, a gorgeous lake and the hills. Our pilot quickly introduced himself to the group and explained a bit more about the technicalities and also warned us to keep away from the burners while the balloons were being inflated as it is very, very hot!
One tip I’d suggest is make sure you wear the appropriate clothing and footwear, ladies wearing a dress or a skirt is not advisable as you will need to climb or jump in and out of the basket. I’d also suggest making sure that you wear layers as it can be very chilly!
Once in the basket the team on the ground were great, and assisted us in taking a few pictures in the basket. The pilot explained a bit more about our plan inside the hot air balloon and after taking off from the launch site at the same time as the other two balloons we were soon 800 ft in the air. The views from the hot air balloon were fantastic, we were able to see miles and miles of vineyards and the sunrise in the distance with the views of Napa/Yountville in the distance in fog. We were also able to watch the teams on the vineyards maintaining the vines, and also another team preparing a new field for 2019!
It was great to see how the pilots were able to control the height, speed and direction of the hot air balloon. They even lowered the hot air balloon to touch the lake so that we were able to take a picture of the lake with a reflection of our balloon, and because a few in the group missed the perfect shot our pilot was kind enough to lower the balloon back down again for a second go at the shot of the balloon reflection. The pilot was informative and patient/happy to answer the 101 questions I fired at him.
We spent a little over an hour up in the air and the landing was quite comfortable (do remember to bend your knees!!). After landing the ground team quickly set about deflating the balloon and once safe to do so, assisted us in climbing out of the baskets and we were swiftly whisked away back to the Yountville office, for those who had chosen to do so they could opt for a brunch, I opted to make my payment for the ride and head back to Napa to pick up my friend VP for other plans we had for the day. On the subject of payment, the balloon flight cost $220 and they only take payment after your flight as sometimes the weather does hinder the plan to launch from sites A, B and C.
I’d highly recommend taking your hot air balloon ride with Napa Valley Aloft, they are one of the best established firms within the valley. Below are a bunch of pictures from my trip. I hope you enjoyed reading my Napa Valley Aloft Review!
If you have any questions about my Napa Valley Aloft Review, please leave a comment below or send me an email from my About Me page!
NAPA VALLEY ALOFT REVIEW