History of Hot Air Ballooning | Balloons Above the Valley - Balloon Rides Near Me

Have you ever looked up in the sky and seen a hot air balloon pass you by? Did this magnificent sight spark a question? How did these big colorful balloons end up soaring the skies? If you’ve ever searched balloon rides near me, perhaps that question has come to mind. We’re looking at the history of hot air ballooning and exactly how this popular activity came to be.

The Beginning

The classic Napa Valley hot air balloon ride we know and love was very different a few thousand years ago. The first balloons were unmanned and used in China during the Three Kingdoms era (220-280 AD). These lanterns were used for military signaling. Today, we recognize them as traditional Chinese lanterns, but they were, technically, the first hot air balloons. Fast-forward to the 18th century where Brazilian Jesuit priest Bartolomeu de Gusmão envisioned a Passarola, an aerial apparatus. This was to be an air vessel for strategic communication. John V of Portugal funded the creation and demonstration of such a device. This unmanned demo brought European attention to the project.

The First Manned Flight

In France on September 19, 1783, brothers Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier, demonstrated their unmanned hot air balloon publicly with a 10 minute flight. After various unmanned flights and flights with animals, Jean-Francois Pilatre de Rozier became the first man to fly a hot air balloon. A few weeks later, the first free flight with passengers occurred.

In 1794, during the battle of Fleurus, the French used the hot air balloon for observation during war. Searching for “balloon rides  near me” wouldn’t gain traction for another 200 years.


Napa Valley hot air balloon rides were still a few years away as there was still much to develop. In the 1950s, Ed Yost created the modern balloon with an onboard heat source. The first successful flight happened in October 1960.

Just 15 years later, Bob Barbarick was the pioneering Napa Valley hot air balloon pilot that began flying when there were very few vineyards. He started providing flights in the largest hot air balloons in America. He started Balloons Above the Valley to provide Napa Valley hot air balloon rides to passengers who were eager to experience the thrill of flight.

The popularity of hot air ballooning grew and more and more companies moved into the Valley. Balloons Above the Valley remains the original Napa Valley hot air balloon ride company in wine country offering guests an excellent customer service oriented experience.

Next time you search balloon rides near me, dive into he history of Balloons Above the Valley, and fly with the pioneering company of Napa. Your Napa Valley hot air balloon ride awaits!


Blog Updated: 3/22/22 Read it Here