Aerial Spectacular: Napa Valley Ballooning

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Imagine this: You and your special someone are floating 2,000 feet above mist-shrouded vineyards bathed in early morning light, with no sound to accompany your reverie except the soft whistling of the wind itself.  As you turn to your companion to remark on the unmatched beauty of the spectacle below, you realize that you've never been suspended so high in the air with just a simple wicker basket for support - and also that you've never felt so blissfully removed from the frenetic pace of your life.  
Get Carried Away
Startlingly exhilarating and superbly safe (whew!), ballooning is a pastime that's come back into vogue in the last decade after more than a century of being mostly eclipsed by the airplane.  But the history of ballooning is anything but banal: Turns out the French pioneered the practice in the 18th Century, even sending a noble into the air for the first human flight!   

Here in Napa, you don't need to be an aristocrat to partake of the ballooning craze, though you do need to be an early riser: Flights leave in the early morning hours to take advantage of mellow wind patterns.  Balloons Above the Valley (, which offers one-hour flights leaving from downtown Napa, rewards its early rising riders with an optional après-excursion Champagne brunch - with views overlooking the Napa River, natch.  Pre-flight, all participants are invited to fuel up on the likes of freshly baked muffins, local coffee and hot chocolate.

Calling All Adventuresome Aeronauts
When Martha Stewart Living sent a team up into a Balloons Above the Valley craft to film a segment on Napa, producers shared impressions such as "calm, peaceful and quiet," "once in a lifetime experience," "pretty amazing," and "you've gotta try it" after touching back down to the valley floor.  (Still more amazing: their trip landed in a vineyard, from which they descended to taste wines just steps away!)  We think ballooning sounds divine wherever you land (and however you dine before and after), because the real treat here is the view.  To wit, once engines are turned off at cruising altitude, flights are blissfully quiet, allowing an almost Zen-like peacefulness to take over as you feast on valley vistas.     

Accordingly, Balloons Above the Valley founder Bob Barbarick - who piloted his first balloon flight in 1977 - relates ballooning to an art form. He must be onto something, because this self-described "mild mannered adventurer" has been ferrying happy valley visitors high above its storied acreage for decades.  Asked about his best ballooning memory, Barbarick demurs, "they're all experiences of a lifetime - I just get to have them over and over again."   

For more on packages and how to get on board, visit Balloons Above the Valley online.

(707) 253-2222 * 603 California Blvd., Napa CA 94559 

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