Hot air ballooning is one of those things that tourists would love to do when visiting Napa Valley, California. Indeed, it has been one of the most popular things to do in the Wine Country ever since this form of leisure was started by some enterprising locals.
A hot air balloon is a lighter-than-air aircraft. The first untethered and manned flight was successfully carried out in Paris on November 21, 1783, by pioneers Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and François Laurent d’Arlandes. Before that, flight tests were performed with hot air balloons tethered to the ground and animals were actually the first passengers!
Hot air balloons were then redesigned and fitted with engines, becoming dirigibles. They became the chief means of transporting passengers and cargo. Dirigibles were even used as war airships, although during the World War II airplanes were being more heavily favored.
Since after the war, hot air balloons are still in use although they are no longer the major means of transportation. Nowadays, they are sometimes used in science, surveillance, and advertising, but most hot air ballooning activities are taken purely for adventure, pleasure, or sport.
Napa Valley is famous for its luxury hot air balloon tours. Although the first recorded hot air balloon flight happened in Napa way back in the mid-19th century, it wasn’t until the 1970s that hot air ballooning began to be seen as a means of getting around Napa in a more pleasurable way, especially for tourists.
Before the Judgment of Paris that brought California and Napa Valley wines into global prominence, Napa was then a quiet region with only a few vineyards and wineries. But a professional hot air balloon pilot named Bob Barbarick was already envisioning providing tourists a unique traveling experience in the region. That vision became true in 1976 when he founded Balloons Above the Valley, the first company providing flights in the biggest hot air balloons in the US.
For the next 40 years or so, Balloons Above the Valley built up its solid reputation to become one of the prominent hot air balloon aviation companies in the US. It has surpassed all the industry, quality, and safety standards plus the warm Napa hospitality that it extends to its visitors and guests are unmatched.
Balloons Above the Valley partners with some of the wineries, resorts, and restaurants in the valley to create upscale hot air balloon and wine tours packages. While all packages include at least a pre-flight breakfast, most packages also include an after-flight champagne brunch, and some of them even offer chauffeured tours from San Francisco to the Wine Country.
The hot air ballooning history of Napa Valley has come a long way from its humble beginnings. Just the feeling of flying alone already makes for an utterly unforgettable experience — and what’s more is you get to see stunning views of the Napa Valley, California. It’s guaranteed to take your breath away.