The Phoenix area is a popular location for hot air ballooning. The weather is good most of the year, and we have beautiful sunrises and sunsets. Mountains surround the Valley of the Sun and there are still enough open spaces to allow for safe hot air ballooning. There are several companies in the Phoenix and Scottsdale areas that offer hot air balloon rides. Today's adventure was with Rainbow Ryders, a company that began offering hot air balloon rides in 1982.
Rainbow Ryders offers sunrise balloon rides most days of the year and sunset rides during the cooler months. If you are visiting from out of town, they can arrange to pick you up from your hotel. Locals will meet Rainbow Ryders at a designated location, usually in either north Phoenix or north Scottsdale. The hot air balloon ride lasts about an hour, not including pre-flight balloon inflation and post-flight celebration.
Who Should Take a Hot Air Balloon Flight
Rainbow Ryders handles large group events (up to 100 people at a time) and smaller group events including corporate outings, weddings, and other special occasions. The largest number of passengers that they can accommodate in one balloon is 12 passengers. All passengers will be required to sign a release prior to the hot air balloon flight, which is standard procedure for all reputable balloon companies.
- Pregnant people, or those that may be pregnant, may not fly.
- People may not bring oxygen tanks on the hot air balloon flight.
- No smoking is permitted during the balloon flight.
- Children who are shorter than about 4 feet tall will not be able to see out of the balloon. No babies or toddlers are allowed on the flight.
- People who are afraid of heights or are claustrophobic might not enjoy the ride. Use your own judgment.
What To Expect During Your Hot Air Balloon Ride
Aside from the more legal guidelines used by every hot air balloon company, there are some things that you should know before you arrange a hot air balloon ride.
- Sunrise flights are more popular than sunset flights.
- Bottles of water are available from Rainbow Ryders.
- Don't bring bulky items like backpacks and large purses on your hot air balloon ride.
- Wear closed-toed shoes. You might be inflating the balloon in dirt fields or landing in the brush.
- There may be other people with you in the hot air balloon unless you have arranged in advance to have the balloon to yourselves.
- You'll be standing for the entire hot air balloon flight, about an hour.
- Bring your camera, and use the wrist strap!
- The hot air balloon will most likely not be landing in the same place as where it took off. The balloon chase vehicle will meet you at the landing to help you out of the balloon, deflate it, pack it up, have any closing celebration and drive you back to your vehicle.
- Most hot air balloon companies have some sort of closing celebration. At Rainbow Ryders, guests were offered food, beverages, certificates, and pins.
- Hot air balloon company employees appreciate tips if you had an enjoyable flight. Typically, if they did a good job, a 10% tip for each passenger is appropriate.
Tips and FAQ
Here are some tips about hot air ballooning.
- Just because you reserved and gave a deposit for a hot air balloon ride doesn't mean that it will happen. Safety is always the company's first concern, and they can only take people up in a balloon if the conditions are right. If the conditions are uncertain, the hot air balloon company will follow through with the agreed upon meeting and the pilot will make a determination as to whether or not to fly at sunrise (for sunrise flights). That means that you might have gotten up very early and driven across town and waited for another hour only to find out that the hot air balloon ride has to be postponed. It happens. If you are visiting from out of town, don't wait until your last day to schedule your hot air balloon ride. That way, if your ride is postponed, you can try for another date.
- Young children, even if they can see over the edge of the hot air balloon basket, might have a tendency to get bored after the first few minutes. Then there will still be a better part of an hour that they are standing and doing nothing. If you are unsure of your child's ability to handle it, you shouldn't take them for the ride.
- I don't recommend wearing a dress or a skirt; it is awkward climbing in and out of the balloon basket.
- The balloons fly at an elevation that is, at most, a couple thousand feet. Typically, it isn't much cooler up there than it is on the ground. For sunrise flights, dress in layers. It will be cool or cold in the morning, depending on the time of year, and warm up in an hour or two. Note: If your balloon flight is in northern Arizona, elevation could make more of a difference.
- There are no bathrooms where you are going. Hot air balloons are inflated in open fields and packed away after the flight in similar areas. You spend several hours without restroom facilities nearby, so don't load up on cups of coffee in the morning, and make a restroom stop wherever you are parking your car and meeting the balloon company.
- Even though flights are called "sunrise flights" and "sunset flights" you will experience neither sunrise nor sunset while up in the balloon. You'll be on the ground. They can't fly when it's dark.
- Most hot air balloon companies in the Phoenix and Scottsdale areas give you the choice of helping to inflate the balloon or just letting the balloon crew do it.
- Because there is no threat of darkness immediately after sunrise, the pilot has a little more leeway on the flight with respect to time. For the sunset trips, when dusk approaches, the pilot has no leeway; he has to land the balloon.
- Between meeting, getting to the balloon take-off area, inflating the balloon, the balloon flight, landing, packing up, celebrating and returning to your vehicle, you can expect to spend 3 to 4 hours, not including your driving time.
- My personal opinion is that the Scottsdale flights are more scenic than the Phoenix flights if you have a choice.
Landing in Your Hot Air Balloon
Your hot air balloon ride is coming to an end, and the pilot is beginning the gradual descent to a targeted landing area. Your pilot should have already given you a rundown of what the options are here. depending on the wind and other factors, your hot air balloon landing can be smooth, bouncy, hard, or you could even tip over. There may be bushes or uneven ground in the landing area. Just follow your pilot's instructions and you should be just fine.
Just like at the inflation of the balloon, you'll have an opportunity at the end of the flight to either help or opt out of helping to deflate the balloon and pack it up. Usually, when the balloon is all packed, it's time to break out the celebratory snacks, take some final pictures with your pilot and crew, and head back to your car. Don't forget to tip!
On my hot air balloon ride, a bunch of neighborhood kids came running out into the field to greet us after landing. Our balloon pilot was very patient and encouraging, talking to all the children and lifting them up to see what it is like inside the balloon basket. Being a good neighbor is part of being a hot air balloon pilot!
Location, Cost, Contact
I have been on several hot air balloon rides during my years in the Phoenix area, but the photos displayed in this photo tour were taken during a hot air balloon flight over Phoenix with Rainbow Ryders, Inc. Rainbow Ryders specializes in flights in the Phoenix and Albuquerque areas. They have been operational for more than 25 years and have flown over 120,000 passengers. Rainbow Ryders adheres strictly to FAA regulations and exceeds industry standards for balloon maintenance.
Rainbow Ryders Mailing Address:
1725 Williams Drive, Bldg. D Suite 39
Phoenix, AZ 85027
Rainbow Ryders Meeting Site for Phoenix Launch:
Deer Valley Airport, 702 W Deer Valley Rd., Phoenix, AZ 85027
Rainbow Ryders Meeting Site for Scottsdale Launch:
Starbucks, 7000 E. Mayo Blvd. Scottsdale, AZ 85054
Rainbow Ryders Phone:
877-771-0776 or 480-299-0154
Rainbow Riders Online: www.rainbowryders.com
Reservations for your hot air balloon flight with Rainbow Ryders must be made in advance and can be completed online. Rainbow Ryders does not include their pricing on their website. A standard ride in 2010 was priced at $160 per person. Different rates may apply for groups, conventions, and special services, and there may be an additional charge for hotel pick-up and drop-off. Gift certificates are available for purchase.
As is common in the industry, the writer was provided with a complimentary flight for purposes of this photo tour. While it has not influenced this content, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our ethics policy. All prices and offerings mentioned herein are subject to change without notice. 01/11