Fly High With These 8 Hot Air Balloon Rides

Check a sky-high adventure off your bucket list with one of these options

A favorite fall festival among families in the South, the Carolina BalloonFest in Fayetteville, North Carolina, is popular for its tethered flights and weekendlong musical entertainment.


There are some experiences that are on almost everyone’s travel bucket list—and one of them is a ride in a hot air balloon. This classic way to fly offers epic views—and it’s much more serene than a plane ride. If you’re looking for affordability, head to a balloon festival, where you’ll find dramatic launches and affordable tether rides. Here are eight ways to catch some of the best hot air balloon rides in the U.S.

Float above the beautiful Southwest (Albuquerque, New Mexico and Phoenix, Arizona)

Rainbow Ryders operates hot air balloon tours along the Rio Grande almost 300 days each year. The company is the official hot air balloon ride operator at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta (typically held the second week in October) and offers $50 off balloon rides during festival weekdays. In Phoenix, the company offers sunset balloon rides from November through March starting at $149, or $159 on weekends. You can also charter private rides year-round at both locations and in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Get carried away over central Florida (Orlando, Florida)

Orlando is beautiful from the ground, but it’s even more scenic from the sky. Orlando Balloon Rides provides incredible hot air balloon rides in the city year-round. Sunrise flights start at $195 for adults, soaring several thousand feet high. Once you’re airborne, the pilot will point out spectacular sites, like the theme parks, the orange groves and forests, and the swamps that have gone untouched for thousands of years.

Rise above North Carolina (Statesville, North Carolina)

October’s Carolina BalloonFest is a fun-filled weekend of outstanding entertainment, attractions and family activities; it’s in Statesville, just a 60-minute drive from Charlotte. Enjoy the beautiful autumn weather while the sky fills with 50 colorful hot air balloons twice a day—once in the morning and again in the late afternoon. You can book a private charter (starting at $250), but tethered flights are just $10. Don’t forget your camera!

The sky’s the limit in Tennessee (Franklin, Tennessee)

Let Middle Tennessee Hot Air Adventures show you sky-high views of the Volunteer State’s hills and fields.

Middle Tennessee Hot Air Adventures is a family-owned business nestled in this quiet town south of Nashville. The company sends balloons over less-developed areas between April and November, lofting along hollows and hidden lakes and offering breathtaking views of wildlife and the rolling hills of Tennessee. Shared sunset or sunrise balloon rides are $200 per passenger and include a champagne toast.

The adventure of a lifetime in the Black Hills (Custer, South Dakota)

An hour southwest of Rapid City, Black Hills Balloons has been in operation since 1984. Flights take place at sunrise, weather permitting, from May through October. At $295 per person, it’s a little more of a splurge, but this is the only way to float over Custer Valley and the world-renowned Custer State Park—where elk, antelope, buffalo and mule deer live. If you're really lucky you might even see a mountain lion from the secure gondola (not to mention mountains, valleys, lakes and prairies).

Skyward you go in Ohio (Ravenna, Ohio)

The Ravenna Balloon-A-Fair—held in Ravenna, about 30 minutes from Akron—is held every September. The two-day festival with a quaint, small-town vibe kicks off with a parade and features helicopter rides, skies filled with balloons and an admission cost of just $5 per day. Check sites like Groupon for discounts on full festival access and a balloon ride ticket raffle.

Sky-high thrills galore in the Lone Star State (Plano, Texas)

September’s Plano Balloon Festival is one of the town’s biggest events. The weekend festival features live entertainment, fireworks on Saturday evening, skydivers and, of course, incredible hot air balloons. The balloons launch Friday at 6 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 7 a.m. and 6 p.m., weather permitting. Tethered rides are available for $25. Tip: Bring cash for the tethered rides and concessions.

Up, up and down in Georgia (Flowery Branch, Georgia)

Things are looking up at the Harvest Balloon Festival in Flowery Branch, Georgia, where colorful balloons dot the sky.

A 45-minute drive from Atlanta in Flowery Branch, the Harvest Balloon Festival typically falls in the third week in October at the Sterling on the Lake residential community. Admission is $10, and in 2017, the festival added a tethered ride that runs $15.



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