Below are some of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to our hot air balloon operations. We encourage you to take a moment reading our FAQ’s and if you have any additional questions afterwards, please contact us.
What Times Are Available For A Hot Air Balloon Ride In Sonoma?
We only fly once per day, around sunrise (weather permitting) and our departure times are listed below. Winds are generally most favorable the first hours after sunrise. In the morning, it takes a few hours for the sun to heat the earth’s surface enough to generate the thermal activity that creates wind and unstable conditions. Ideal winds are three to six miles per hour on the surface. Remember, reservations are required in advance. We do not take “walk-ins.”
Please give yourselves plenty of time for parking and check-in. Our staff will reach out to confirm with you the evening before your flight. Be sure to have your cell phone on and ensure that you can receive voicemail/text messages. We will shuttle all guests directly to the designated launch site for the morning accordingly. Like any outdoor sporting activity, there is no set end time, so plan to be with us anywhere between 3-4 hours in total.
|December – January||7:00 AM|
|February & March||6:30 AM|
|May – August||5:30 AM|
|October 1 – 15||6:30 AM|
|October 16 – Day Light Savings Time||6:45 AM|
|Day Light Savings Time – November||6:15 AM|
*Times may be subject to change, so please refer to your reservation confirmation and keep your cell phones on to receive any calls or text message updates from our team as you get closer to your flight date. Guests should give themselves plenty of time to arrive as we cannot wait for late arrivals.
If you miss your flight, your payment remains forfeited (“no shows” will not be rebooked).
There is free parking at Sonoma Skypark. Please plan to arrive 10-15 minutes prior to departure so you have time to park, secure your belongings and get checked in. If you are staying at one of our area partnering hotels in Sonoma, complimentary pick-up and drop-off is available.*
*As a courtesy to other guests who want to truly enjoy the post-flight champagne toast celebration, we find that individuals who have other plans (winery tastings, brunch reservations, etc.) afterwards are best suited to drive themselves. If you absolutely need transportation and want to be sure you are staying at a local Sonoma hotel that qualifies for pick-up and drop-off, please call the reservation team at 707-819-9223.
How Long Is The Flight?
The average flight lasts between 45 minutes to 1 Hour based on wind conditions for the morning. With travel time to and from the launch and landing sites, ballooning logistics and the flight itself, plus the post-flight celebration, anticipate on being with us anywhere between 3-4 Hours. As an outdoor adventure sport, there is no definitive end time, therefore please plan your itineraries accordingly.
Is Hot Air Ballooning Safe?
Yes! With decades of experience we demand safety first and it is a culture not an act. All of our pilots have a FAA Certified Lighter Than Air Commercial Pilot’s license and undergo routine physicals. If our pilots do not deem the weather conditions safe, we will not fly. Feel free to check-out our safety section for more info.
Where Do You Take Off? Can I Meet You At The Launch Site?
Here in Sonoma, we have some wonderful launch locations to choose from! Our primary launch location is where we meet. We have several other launch sites within a few minutes shuttle ride from our meeting location. If weather does not permit a flight in Sonoma but allows for a safe flight at another one of the areas balloon ports (Napa, Windsor, Winters) you will be given the option to join us.
Where Do You Land?
We look for big open areas for landings, away from livestock and near a road for easy access to our shuttle vehicles. There are multiple properties that we’ve partnered with where the owners absolutely love seeing our balloons! Since we fly where the winds take us, some places we have not yet been and in that case, we will ask permission first.
What Is The Minimum Age Requirement?
Children must be 8 years old AND at least 54″ inches tall to participate. At no time are children allowed to be carried or picked up during flight. Your child must be able to understand directions, stand for the duration of the flight and not be fearful of loud noises (from the burners). Safety is a top priority, therefore if your pilot asks for your child’s proof of age, or your child does not meet the height requirement, you will not be permitted to fly. Any charges will be refunded in full. If you have any doubt that your child may be scared of this activity, it’s best that you leave him/her with a babysitter to ensure that all guests can enjoy the flight stress-free.
Can Pregnant Women Fly?
For the safety of mother and child, expecting mothers or those who may possibly be pregnant, are not permitted to fly.
What Are The Physical Requirements?
All guests must be able to stand unassisted during the entire flight and be in good overall health, able bodied and can understand and follow instructions. Guests must also be able to climb into and out of the gondola (balloon basket) unassisted, and often times those shorter in stature, may need to hop down. We have step holes built into the gondolas to make entry and exiting easier. Guests should also be able to walk/hike unassisted as it’s not uncommon for us to land in park-like settings with tall grass or slightly uneven terrain. If you have any medical concerns you should consult your physician. Please view our safety video, which will give you a good indicator on if Sonoma hot air ballooning is appropriate for you. Our gondolas are not wheelchair accessible, nor can they accommodate service dogs, oxygen tanks, crutches, canes, etc.
How High Do You Fly?
The average flight altitude is from tree top level to 3,000 feet. The flight plan depends upon wind velocity and direction therefore there is no set minimum or maximum height.
What Fuels The Hot Air Balloon?
The balloon is fueled by propane.
How Do You Steer/Fly The Hot Air Balloon?
Balloons operate through the basic principles of gravity and heat transfer. As air inside the balloon is heated, it rises. As the air inside the balloon cools, it descends. We also have control lines to let hot air vent out should we want to descend at a faster rate or during landing. Winds determine a balloon’s direction. Balloonists don’t have steering wheels like airplane pilots, but rather they “guide” a balloon by adjusting the balloon’s altitude to make use of different wind speeds and directions.
What Should I Wear, Bring & Leave Behind?
The attire for ballooning is casual. To maximize your enjoyment, dress appropriately for the outside air temperature. We recommend pants, workout bottoms, tennis or hiking shoes and a sweater, sweatshirt or jacket if it’s a little chilly. Open toed and high-heeled shoes are not permitted (you don’t want to stub a toe, break a high heel on uneven terrain or get an ankle roll do you?). Since you’ll be climbing in and out of the basket and we take off and land in open fields, you’ll definitely want to save those fancy shoes and dresses/skirts for wine tasting instead. 😉 Due to heat generated by the balloon’s burners, a hat may be preferable for our taller passengers. Sunglasses and sunscreen also come in handy.
We encourage you to BRING the following for your hot air balloon Sonoma tour:
- Appetite for Adventure
- Sense of Humor
- Cellphone/Camera (Camera bags are not allowed, so be sure to bring a neck strap.)
For the safety and enjoyment of all, the following are NOT permitted:
- Animals (including service/emotional support animals)
- Babies/Infants (remember, children must be at least 8 years of age AND 54 inches tall). At no time are children allowed to be picked-up or carried during flight.
- Backpacks, Purses, Camera Bags (these items can be left in our shuttle van or office at your own discretion, or lock them in the trunk of your car)
- Selfie Sticks (for the safety and enjoyment of others, no selfie sticks are permitted, unless you book a Private Flight)
- Food Or Drink (these items are not permitted in the hot air balloon)
What If I’m Afraid Of Heights? Will I Get Motion Sickness?
Our modern baskets provide security, comfort and safety with 48-inch high sides and padded sidewalls. The balloon moves with the wind so unlike other aircraft motion sickness is also extremely rare.
What Is The Gondola/Balloon Made Out Of?
Each gondola or hot air balloon “basket” is individually hand woven rattan into a rigid frame making them light weight and extremely durable. While the majority of landings are smooth, the gondola is designed to handle landings that might occur at higher speeds due to wind surface conditions. This is what balloonists call an exciting “rodeo landing!“
The balloon envelope is typically constructed using fire-treated nylon and a highly durable fire-treated fabric.
Do You Do Anything For Birthdays Or Special Occasions?
Please let us know ahead of time and we will make it extra special.
What If We Get Weathered Out?
If we cancel due to inclement weather (rain, fog, high winds), we will do our best to reschedule you for another day that you’re in town, otherwise you will be refunded in full if charges have already been made.
Why Should I Hot Air Balloon Sonoma Versus Hot Air Balloon Napa?
Our team is dedicated to giving you a fun adventure, offering an experience like no other! Enjoy an invigorating sunrise flight above corridors of grapes, the Sonoma Valley Gateway & Sonoma’s world renowned landscape with us. One of the most attractive aspects about our flight corridor is the famed Carneros region, which is the only AVA (American Viticultural Area) in the United States that is located in two counties – Sonoma and Napa! That being said, it’s not uncommon for us to fly into (balloon) Napa Valley itself, depending on the winds of course! Our guests also love our flights because they get to see so much of wine country, including panoramic views of Sonoma Valley, historic downtown Sonoma, the gateway to Napa Valley along with the rolling hills of Petaluma, and on clear days, outlying views of the San Francisco Bay and more!
Northern California residents and those not staying in the immediate vicinity of Sonoma or Napa choose us for the easy drive in (check out approximate drive times here). Because hot air balloon bay area and hot air balloon San Francisco tours do not exist, individuals find that our flights offer the best experience for seeing some of those regions from afar. On exceptionally spectacular days, guests have witnessed Mt. Diablo in the East Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge tucked behind San Francisco’s fog and the San Francisco skyline. Guests have even seen as far as the Santa Cruz mountains, Mount Tam, Mount St. Helena and Point Reyes!
While there is no hot air ballooning in San Francisco, on exceptionally spectacular mornings, guests on our Sonoma hot air balloon ride have seen the San Francisco Skyline from a distance. This has included views of the Salesforce tower (a 1,070-foot office skyscraper in the South of Market district of downtown San Francisco), Treasure Island, Angel Island, Tiburon, San Rafael and Point Richmond from afar. Also, if it’s not too foggy in San Francisco, guests have caught glimpses of the Golden Gate Bridge from a distance as well. The photo seen here was captured by a professional photographer during one of our flights!
Another great benefit of taking a Sonoma Valley hot air balloon ride is that there are Sonoma hotels within short walking or driving distance from our meeting location! Often times with Napa Valley balloon rides, guests are in shuttle vehicles for a greater amount of time due to all of the pick-ups that take place and if they fly out of valley, drive times are even longer (over an hour). With us, our primary launch locations are about a 5-20 minute shuttle ride from our meeting location. Unlike hot air balloon Napa Valley operations, we DO NOT take our guests out of wine country for any alternate launch sites, so you won’t miss out on this region’s unparalleled views. Plus, because our meeting location is just a couple miles from downtown Sonoma Plaza, you have plenty of brunch options, historical sites to see, tasting rooms to choose from, shops and more to enjoy after your champagne toast! Why take a Napa hot air balloon ride, when the beauty, romance, adventure and history of Sonoma and this hidden gem of wine country are right at your finger tips?
We know that you may want to take in both Sonoma and Napa, so keep in mind our meeting location is less than 15 miles from downtown Napa and even closer if you’re staying towards Carneros, making it easy for you to hit up wineries in both Sonoma and Napa while you’re in town. While Sonoma Valley is actually the birthplace of California wine, and offers a whole other level of award-winning wines, we understand that you still might want to compare each region’s varietals! 😉
What Can I Expect The Morning Of My Sonoma Hot Air Balloon Ride?
Your adventure begins the moment you meet us at Sonoma Skypark in Sonoma, California. Check out every step of the experience:
- Check-In & Pilot Briefing – Our team will greet you in the morning and go over important pre-flight details.*
- Get ready for artistry in motion! Witness the set-up and balloon inflation process by your pilot and crew.
- Relax and simply enjoy the ride! Flights typically last between 45 minutes to 1 hour depending on the conditions for the morning.
- Post-Flight Celebration! Enjoy a champagne toast afterwards to commemorate becoming aeronauts!
*You may be shuttled to one of our designated wine country balloon launch locations depending on weather conditions. All are within a short 5-20 minute drive.
What’s Your Cancellation/Rescheduling Policy?
For our standard join-in flights, you must notify us three full days (72 hours) prior to your flight date. No shows will be charged in full. For our private flights, it is a 30 day cancellation/rescheduling policy and no shows will not receive a refund.
What’s The Weather Like In Sonoma Valley?
Our friends at the Sonoma Valley Visitor’s Bureau shares our average highs and lows for this region of wine country. Use this as a tool to help you plan on what to pack and wear for your Sonoma vacation. Sonoma Valley experiences a Mediterranean climate:
- January – High 57.4 °F, Low 36.8 °F, Rainfall 6.74″
- February – High 63.3 °F, Low 39.2 °F, Rainfall 5.06″
- March – High 66.5 °F, Low 40.2°F, Rainfall 4.10″
- April – High 71.6 °F, Low 41.6 °F, Rainfall 1.81″
- May – High 77.6 °F, Low 45.2 °F, Rainfall 0.61″
- June – High 84.5 °F, Low 49.2 °F, Rainfall 0.28″
- July – High 89.5 °F, Low 50.5°F, Rainfall 0.04″
- August – High 89.0 °F, Low 50.3 °F, Rainfall 0.12″
- September – High 87.0 °F, Low 48.8 °F, Rainfall 0.34″
- October – High 79.2 °F, Low 45.0 °F, Rainfall 1.60″
- November – High 66.1 °F, Low 40.2 °F, Rainfall 4.04″
- December – High 57.6 °F, Low 36.8 °F, Rainfall 5.05″