Float Balloon Tours offers the Scottsdale-Phoenix area’s most artfully crafted hot air balloon experiences. Lift off and soar thousands of feet over the Sonoran desert at sunrise or sunset and enjoy a gourmet brunch or candlelit dinner right where you land.
Spending this past Valentine’s Day in Arizona, I thought it would be fun to book a hot air balloon ride for Alexandria and I. Because that’s a thing you should definitely do in Arizona! Bucket list ✅
Now, I should mention, Alex is extremely afraid of heights. And falling. This plan is off to a great start…
Side note: Over the years, I can't describe how proud I've been of Alex pushing those fears aside to conquer certain experiences, like Utah's Olympic Park Rope Course, climbing Mount Superior, or even just walking up the Eiffel Tower's grated stairs 377-feet up. We were actually years into dating before Alex ever admitted this fear of heights! She was always just going along with these adventures I planned and fighting through the fear, which is pretty awesome. This time would be no different.
We arrived at Float Balloon Tours HQ (inside the Melinda Industrial Park across from the Phoenix Deer Valley Airport) at 3:45 PM to get checked in and ready for our sunset voyage.
After a quick rundown of safety procedures and need-to-knows, accompanied by yummy cookies and coffee by Cartel Coffee Lab, our group piled into the van and left for the launch site.
Upon arriving, we see the pilot releasing a small party balloon to gauge the wind direction and speed, and the actual balloon being hoisted out of the basket and unfolded by the Float Balloon Tours team.
The crew got to work fast, firing up the fans, untangling any internal rigging, and getting this beautiful mammoth of a balloon afloat. The rest of us were circling in awe snapping pictures as fire and air breathed life into the dragon we’d soon be riding above fields of Sonoran saguaro cacti.
As the basket began to tip upright under the now vertical balloon, we were called aboard.
Up, Up, and Away!
The actual flight could not have been smoother! I couldn’t believe how fast we gained altitude.
There is a certain point—which I’ve noticed is a major fear threshold difference between skydiving and bungee jumping—when you’re within a few hundred feet of the ground, it’s close enough to feel the fear of falling. But the higher your rise, the sprawling vista and ground below begins to look more picturesque and calming, certainly with less immediate consequence. At least that’s my take! Alex may say different 😂
We were in the air for an hour and 20 minutes, flying over the Sonoran Desert, the Bradshaw Mountains, Lake Pleasant, and on the horizon, more mountains than I could count. It was truly breathtaking.
And we lucked out with our flying group as well! We shared our side of the basket with some very cool travel nurses and friends who had come down from Flagstaff for the flight. It’s easy to make friends when you’re standing shoulder to shoulder 6,000 feet up in the air.
Down We Go!
Before going up in a hot air balloon, I never really thought about the fact that you are, in a very big way, subject to the winds. The pilot and crew have a general idea of where we’ll go, but that trajectory could always change. You go up, and you come down, but the lateral direction is different every time.
Additionally, I can’t say I gave the landing much thought either, but that was WAY more exhilarating than I expected!
Prior to flying, Float explained there are three types of balloon landings—A, B, and C. These variable landings depend on the wind conditions for your flight and the speed at which you touch down.
We were fortunate to experience a B-landing for our flight. Nothing too crazy or dangerous, but more exciting than just floating peacefully and perfectly back to earth. All of us were cracking up and cheering on our bumpy landing!
Before We’re Done, A Taste of Cloth & Flame
Now, just because the hot air balloon ride was over didn’t mean our experience was. This is where Float Balloon Tours does it different, and better.
After hopping out of the basket, we stood around talking, laughing, and watching the sun set behind a beautiful landscape of towering saguaros. Meanwhile, the Float crew split in two, with one group packing down the balloon, and the other setting an impromptu candlelit picnic, complete with bistro style lighting, right there in the desert.
Once our places were set, we took seats around the beer garden style table, celebrated our flight in traditional ballooning style with a champagne toast, and then dug into the local fare which consisted of a spread of fresh berries, the most delicious tacos (and they even sautéed jackfruit as a vegetarian option), and rounded the night out with caramel brownies.
These post flight meals served as the inspiration for Float Balloon Tours’ sister company, Cloth & Flame—also by founders, Olivia and Matt. Cloth & Flame is a wilderness and outdoor dining company offering dramatically crafted dining experiences in inspiring outdoor spaces.
Packages start at $205 per person. Book a ride with Float Balloon Tours today and go cross this one off the bucket list! (Reservations required)