Hot Air Balloon Flights
Florida Guide > Other Activities
As we all know, Florida is famous for its many attractions and theme parks, but one of the fewer known activities is a hot air balloon flight.
We have flown in a hot air balloon on 3 occasions now and each flight has been completely different and thoroughly enjoyable.
Our first flight was in July 2005 and, given it was our first experience, we were a little nervous about what to expect. As visitors from the UK, we decided to book our flights for our second day, because you have to arrive at the launch site before dawn, and we knew that our body clocks would still be on UK time!
So off we drove, in the dark of the morning, to be collected from a nearby supermarket car park. We were then driven to a field where we met with other vehicles loaded with other balloonists and passengers and a variety of colourful balloons.
All of the balloon workers were extremely friendly and provided great comedy and entertainment as the balloons (envelopes as they are called) were rolled out in the grass and flight baskets and propane canisters were unloaded.
Passengers are asked to get involved in the inflation of the balloon and so there we stood holding open the mouth of the balloon whilst a fan blew it up and the baskets were lifted upright and the propane canisters set up.
It really was such a spectacular sight to see approximately 8 colourful balloons rise out of the misty ground and into the breaking dawn. We then jumped into the baskets and gracefully and slowly ascended into the sky. It really was a triple “WOW” kind of moment!
Throughout the flight the pilot is very informative about the area you are floating over and it was fantastic to slide silently past a herd of cows, across a marshland area, through the tree tops. As we passed over homes, the dogs came out to bark, people in the street stopped to wave and even in some cases cars pulled over to take photos of us.
We were able to take some fabulous photos and had such a memorable flight, especially when we flew over our new home (quite by coincidence as the balloons have to go wherever the thermals take them and can only steer by rising or falling to catch the best ones).
We were warned that on landing the basket could tip and we had to be prepared to bounce out (!) but in fact the basket just took a short hop and then landed perfectly upright, thanks to the skills of our pilot – who by the way is one of the most hilarious men I have ever met and he kept us thoroughly entertained throughout the flight.
We went home fully determined to fly again at the next opportunity.
Our second flight was in April 2006 when I visited our home with 3 of my girlfriends. For two of them, this was their first flight whereas I now felt like a seasoned veteran. We went to a different launch site and took a different route and all seemed to be going perfectly well and we were busy looking around at the fabulous flights.
The pilots often talk to each other across their radios about the direction they’re heading in and the planned launch sites. We could hear them talking about “popping the balloons down in Walmart’s car park at Cagan’s Crossing. They are such jokers, that we thought “Yeah, right, not going to fall for that one”. You can imagine our surprise therefore when we started to descend just above the car park. Our pilot started having a conversation with a woman loading her car up with shopping. “Nice day for it” she says. “Yeah, we heard there was a sale on propane, so we thought we’d drop in” says our pilot!
As calm as can be, he just swooped across the car park, up over the roof and popped the balloon down into the loading bay area at the rear, which felt like the size of a dime! You might imagine we would be panicking by now, but it was all done in such a calm and casual manner and we had a perfect landing, that it all seemed perfectly normal to us. We then got out of the basket and had our champagne breakfast in Walmart’s car park! Our pilot was congratulated by other pilots who had also landed nearby on the fact that he had 4 women in his balloon and had managed to take them shopping. We said that we would have preferred the Florida Mall! We went home happy and with an exciting story to tell – what a fabulous time we had!
On my third trip we flew across Celebration and saw the beautiful homes and the lake and Market Street and the morning was particularly beautiful with the sun shining through the mist to turn the ground orange.
I can’t wait to go again and it is such a wonderful experience that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to anyone. I’m a little nervous about heights but this didn’t worry me at all because the speed is so slow and comfortable and the pilots are so obviously experienced and put you completely at ease.
If you do decide to go, here’s some advice:
Make sure you book your tickets early. We flew with Bluewater Balloons and tickets can be purchased through parktickets.com which is a very convenient way to buy.
Be sure to wear closed in shoes because you are launching from a field that usually has long grass.
If you’re tall, wear a cap, as the heat from the propane tank can feel warm.
If you’re visiting from the UK, book a date for early in your holiday so that it doesn’t feel so bad getting up early in the morning.
Be sure to take your camera for the spectacular views.
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