Riding in a hot air balloon is a priceless experience. As you glide against the sky, watching the sun rise, and enjoying a mimosa - you'll understand the appeal! It's an other worldly experience, one that you can enjoy with a close friend, your husband or wife or even a group of total strangers. And although you may be a bit fearful at first, your nerves will soon calm down. The overwhelming sense of contentment that the balloon provides will take over.

So, what is a ride like? Hot air ballooning is serene, peaceful and most of all - fun! The balloon moves with the flow of the wind, so you don't hear an engine or anything else really, except nature. Of course, once in a while you'll hear the flame heating the envelope.

There are many great places to experience a hot air balloon ride. Rides are usually scheduled in the very early in the morning or late in the day because these are the best times for low wind conditions. Why? The sun influences the rise of wind. For this reason, you'll probably never see a hot air balloon in flight in the middle of the day.

So, how much does a hot air balloon ride cost? Hot air balloon companies typically charge between $100-250 per person for a ride with a licensed, commercial balloonist. How long will your flight last? Around an hour or so. Some people have wondered why the balloon doesn't ever catch on fire. This is because the area of the balloon near the flame is usually made of fire resistant material such as Nomex. The rest of the balloon is nylon.

How the Balloon Works

You would remember learning that hot air rises in science class, back at school. That's really all you need to know about the workings of a hot air balloon. The various parts of a hot air balloon are:
  • The envelope: the large nylon bag that holds the hot air. Bright, colorful and easy to see, it can be formed in a variety of shapes, but is usually egg-shaped.
  • The burner: Located directly above the passenger's heads, it produces a huge flame, which heats the air in the envelope based on where the pilot wants to go.
  • The basket: Made of lightweight, flexible wicker for obvious reasons. It is the place where the riders stand.
So, when you want the balloon to rise, what would you do? Simply heat the air inside the envelope. If the pilot wants to lose altitude, they allow the air to cool.

How does the pilot know where it's going? Before the balloon is launched, the pilot watches to see where the wind is blowing. Wherever it's going is where the balloon will go as well. Technically, the pilot cannot steer the balloon, but they will find a "layer" of air that will allow the balloon to change direction. Air pockets form in layers and can be moving in opposite directions. How do you get back to where you started when you're not really sure where you will land? Thankfully, a "chase crew" follows the hot air balloon ride the entire way so you can be picked up easily.