It was an early start for us, the day that we got up to go ride a balloon in Phoenix, thanks to Rainbow Ryders. When we left our hostel, it was still dark and for once, the temperature outside was actually pleasant!
We took our car and got onto the freeway, Google Maps directing us to the launch point. After a short drive we got to their office where there were a number of people gathered excitedly. We waited for a few more folks to join and then jumped into a van to go and test the wind – literally! Basically, to figure out the day’s launch point, Rainbow Ryders need to let go a preliminary balloon that will give a hint towards where we should launch, to get the best experience. The quality of your balloon ride depends on this crucial step – that’s because a hot air balloon doesn’t have propellers. The only way to move horizontally is by catching air currents by moving vertically. Basically, your pilot is going to increase or decrease your elevation so as to ride out different air currents in various directions. This is why the launch site is extremely important. To jump ahead, our balloon pilot was incredibly skilled and we ended up covering over 10 MILES drifting over the beautiful desert. There were a few duds out there that just kept bobbing up and down and didn’t really manage to go anywhere.
Once we determined our launch site, we headed towards it. After about 5 minutes, we left our van and the guys got to work with fixing up the balloon. The balloon itself is a massive contraption that needs proper setup. They have to get the actual balloon, the gas burner (to fill it), fans to blow in the air more efficiently, the basket (where you sit) and a dozen more items! However, as we are with trained and experienced professionals, the setup took around 20 minutes. There were a few kids in our party who were absolutely delighted to help out with the preparations. At the end, the balloon finally went up, the basket went horizontal and we were asked to hop in! The moment was finally here, we were going to rise up into the sky in nothing but a basket! It was exciting and we were nervous at the same time.
By now, the sun was on it’s way up and if you’ve ever been to Phoenix, you’ll know that it starts to warm up pretty fast! We jumped in, and luckily as we started to rise – the wind got our hair and boy did it feel good! As we floated higher and higher we saw tons of cactus, horses, houses and neighborhoods, and even got to see a waterhole! Our pilot was really good and he made sure that we spotted things such as coyotes, wild rabbits, and even the occasional cow! It was so surreal, floating weightlessly over the Arizona desert, the wind in your hair and the hills below you!
As we drifted around, we went over hills and gorges, we saw in the distance the big reservoir that supplies all of Phoenix’s water supply. Our pilot took us all over the place, telling us stories about the areas surrounding the city and how things came about to be the way they are today. It was a really interesting literal overview of Phoenix!
The balloon ride is supposed to last for an hour but our pilot was so passionate that we ended up being afloat for about an hour and a half! Finally when we came down, he asked us to bend our knees when we landed but the landing was super smooth and it was quite unnecessary, still, for the sake of health and safety we complied :)
After we were down and the balloon was securely anchored (it has a tendency to fly away once everyone gets out of the basket! ;)) we were served apple cider and breakfast treats! (granola bars, cakes, etc.)
Rainbow Ryders were really good and ensured the highest standards of safety. Our pilot was amazingly passionate and the team was super professional. We had a wonderful time, floating dreamily over the Arizona desert. There’s truly nothing like seeing the shadows grow shorter from up above!
They operate two rides a day in Phoenix (and some more in Albuquerque) – one at sunrise and the other at sunset. We took the ride at sunrise because it would have been cooler in terms of temperature but the sunset ride would be fun too! (because you get to see the sun setting from the balloon!)
If you head to Phoenix, this is an experience you shouldn’t miss! Everyone on our balloon was absolutely delighted and we had a grand time clicking pictures of everything from up above.
When in Phoenix, hit up Rainbow Ryders for an awesome balloon ride over the desert!
Launch sites in Phoenix and Albuquerque, USA
Hot air balloon ride starts at USD195 for adults.