Vegas attractions: Hot air balloon rides soar high in the desert

Photo courtesy of Vegas Balloon Rides.

Up, up and away!

How many chances do you get to ride in a hot air balloon? This was something I always wanted to check off my bucket list (or in this case, “basket” list). And ever since I saw the Pixar movie, “Up,” I was even more determined to travel the skies.

I couldn’t have flown at a better time. The weather was perfect and I got to experience Vegas Balloon Rides with my husband, who enjoyed it as much as I did. And since it was our first time in a hot air balloon, it made it that more special. Even though we’re both leery of heights, that didn’t stop us from climbing aboard. After seeing these balloons in the sky for months during our morning drives, we weren’t going to let anything stop us. It also helped that our pilots and the crew were extremely personable — they made everyone feel at ease. We were ready for takeoff.

The takeoff happened so fast and smooth, that I didn’t even realize we were up 800 feet in a matter of minutes! The balloon flies over the southwest part of the valley. You’ll be able to see the Las Vegas Strip and downtown, but the views of Red Rock Canyon and the Spring Mountain range to me were a lot more appealing. I’ve ridden in airplanes and helicopters, but being in a balloon is a completely different story.

“It’s totally a whole other world,” said Jason Abbott, director of sales and marketing for Vegas Balloon Rides. “It’s amazing.  When I first did the balloons, I was like, ‘Wow.’ It’s such a unique form of flight because you don’t have any moving parts. It’s just you, the wind and the hot air balloon.”

We also liked how quiet and peaceful it was during our trip. The propane went off every once in a while, but it didn’t affect the experience one bit. The ride can last between 45 minutes to an hour, depending on winds. Either way, you’ll have plenty to time to admire the scenery below you. At one point, we even saw a wild animal scurry in the desert.

Since winds vary each day, you may fly directly over residential areas. You might even see people waving at you from the outside of their houses.

“You feel like a celebrity in the balloon,” said Abbott.

We may have felt like VIPs that day, but I was snapping pictures  like I was paparazzi. Taking pictures on a balloon ride is definitely a rush. When I took a photo from my phone (seen at right), I felt the same thrill I get when I raise my hands up on a roller coaster ride, sans the screaming and queasiness.

A hot air balloon ride is also a perfect way to spend time with your sweetie. In fact, we were in a balloon with three other couples. It was like being on a quadruple date.

“It’s extremely romantic,” said Abbott. “What’s so cool about it is when you get up in the air, it’s kind of surreal. You don’t even feel like you’re moving. It feels like you’re standing still. It’s a unique sense when you’re in a balloon — motionless, but moving.”

First-time balloon rider Scott Vanek (who was visiting from Washington, D.C.) loved it.

Photo courtesy of Vegas Balloon Rides.

“I wasn’t sure I would like it because I don’t like heights,” he said. “But once you’re up there, it’s quite calm and very enjoyable. And doing something new and exciting is nice.”

Don’t let a fear of heights hinder you from trying it out.

“A lot of people – when it comes to ballooning – there’s some hesitation,” said Abbott.  “People go, ‘Oh wow, it’s just me in a basket?’ True, you are in a basket [but] you’ve got two major components — the basket and the envelope. In an airplane or helicopter, you have thousands of moving parts, so there’s a lot more room for error versus a balloon.”

In addition, the wicker basket we stood in was a lot more stable than we thought.  “The wicker goes around reinforced metal [so] it’s very secure,” said Abbott. “The double stitching gives it that extra security and safety.”

Everything about the trip was pleasant. The hardest part for us was waking up and meeting the crew at the crack of dawn. But it was definitely worth it. The total experience is about three hours. You’ll have a chance to see the crew inflate and deflate the balloons and even get a chance to participate in helping with the process. Not many people can say they’ve done that. The trip ends with a picnic, celebrating your accomplishment for braving the sky. During this time, your pilot will also share fun history about hot air balloons.

In a city full of parties, excitement and energy, a journey on the Vegas Balloon Rides is a great way to  unwind and escape the hustle and bustle.

“Most people come to Vegas to gamble or hang out in the Strip,” said Vanek. “It’s nice to get outside, do something different.”


Most folks take their Vegas jackpot winnings back home, but my dad decided to stay here instead. That’s how I left Seattle almost 20 years ago. I moved from greenery and rainy days to hot summers, palm trees and desert. As much as I love my hometown, I decided to stick around Vegas. This city just has so much to offer. You don’t even have to be a gambler, bar hopper or an all-night partier. I love Vegas for its awesome vegan-friendly spots, concerts, swanky hotel suites and spas so big, they’re like castles. The pool scene is not too shabby either, which is why I love taking stay-cations. Besides living it up -- Vegas style -- I’m hanging out with my handsome hubby, adorable baby girl, two cats and super-fluffy Shih-Tzu. I’m also a huge fan of '90s music, shows and movies. You can find me on Google+ and Twitter.