Hot Air Ballooning, Phoenix
Our adventurous Filipino-Chinese friend Marian (included in one of pictures under “Bringing friends to Grand Canyon” in my Grand Canyon travelogues) decided to go on a hot air balloon ride. So, we brought her early in the morning for a ride which she enjoyed immensely. She said that the company taught them what to expect and how to react to “landing”. It was a bit scary at first but she eventually enjoyed the whole ride and had one experience she’ll never forget.
Go with FAA-certified companies like Hot Air Expeditions, Inc (www.HotAirExpeditions.com) which was rated best balloon flight in Phoenix by Fodors Travel.
The Thunderbird Balloon classic is an awesome sight at night. Hundreds of Hot air balloons from all over the country light up the night sky. (they are tethered to the ground) The vendors are high priced, but that is to be expected. This event used to be held in Scottsdale, but was moved to the west side of Phoenix in Glendale.
Phoenix is the Ballooning capital of the United States, mostly because the weather is perfect to do it year round.
All the Balloon companies launch in the empty desert to the north of the city between Phoenix and Cave Creek. I used to have an apartment near there and it would make my heart soar every morning to see anywhere from eight to twenty hot air balloons in the sky.
If you are in Phoenix and you can afford it, a hot air balloon ride is something you shouldn't miss. There usually isn't a cloud in the sky in Phoenix, so you can see the whole valley when you get up there. We could see coyotes and lots of beautiful desert scenery.
All the major balloon companies serve you a delicious gourmet Champagne Breakfast when you land and then drive you back to your car.
My last trip was with Hot Air Expeditions (http://www.hotairexpeditions.com) and was excellent. Our pilot had been doing it for a long time (he claimed he has never had an accident) and he was a great guy. He carefully explained everything to us and pointed out landmarks and told us lots of stories about ballooning (he has been a pilot in France and Canada and in addition to Phoenix). He landed the balloon softly and made it all look easy.
There are a lot of Balloon companies in Phoenix (just do a web search) so I think you can shop around on price. I think most people pay between $100 and $200.
A lot of people use also use Unicorn. Just check with your hotel. Usually they work with a particular company and have package deals.