Yesterday I got to experience the wonder of soaring 2,700 feet above sea level in a hot air balloon at the 35th annual Temecula Valley Balloon & Wine Festival.
The festival is located near Temecula in Winchester at the Lake Skinner Park. At 6:30 a.m., I met with my pilot David and his crew Lauren, Helen and Skip. They are Gypsy Flights Hot Air Balloon Adventures. David and Lauren are married, Helen is a retired teacher from Burbank and Skip is a sailor and Lauren’s brother. Together they inflated the blue and white balloon on a grassy lawn before rising to the clouds.
David and Lauren have been balloon operators for over 20 years. About 10 years ago they retired to become full time balloonists. They travel to balloon festivals all around America giving rides to newbies and aficionados in the mornings. Later, they gather with their balloon friends to enjoy the food, wine and music at each festival.
Once the balloon was ready, I climbed into the two person basket with Pilot David to start our ascent.
David calmly guided us over the park to take it the picturesque birds eye views. After about a 45 minute ride, David gently piloted the balloon down, and with the help of the chase crew (Lauren, Helen and Skip) guided us to a smooth and safe landing.
Another fun part of the adventure is helping to deflate the balloon and get it back up into the truck. Other balloons were coming down right near us, so we all gathered to help those balloons too.
We went back to the festival lawn to celebrate our adventure with a champagne toast, and fun tailgate fare before saying our goodbyes.
Here are four experiences for you to get up close and personal with a hot air balloon this weekend at the Temecula Valley Balloon and Wine Festival.
- Come early around 6:30 a.m. to observe the beauty of 40+ hot air balloons soaring above Lake Skinner park. Check in at 5:30 a.m. for your three hour adventure. The flight lasts about 45-60 minutes depending on the weather conditions. Riders may reach 3,000 feet above sea level before coming back down. Your ride includes same day festival admission, champagne toast and souvenir certificate of flight. Morning flights are $225 per person.
- Around 7:30 a.m. festival ticket holders can take a complimentary tethered balloon ride. Rides are first come, first served). Step inside the bucket of a hot air balloon that is anchored to the ground with special ropes that allow the balloon to rise to a low altitude of 50 to 70 ft. Toyota Dealers of Southern California sponsor these free rides.
- Be sure to stay until dusk to experience the evening hot air balloon glow show. Check in at the Wine Stage at 8 p.m. Watch how a group of hot air balloons glow in color when inflated by propane burners. These balloons stay on the ground fully inflated and a visually spectacular to see while the propane burners roar.
- Help out a Chase crew. You can help inflate, deflate and milk a hot air balloon. Volunteer positions are available register here .
To learn more about the Temecula Valley Balloon & Wine Festival Click here.