Everyone has a bucket list, but do you have a basket list? These woven wicker vessels will carry you to the highest heights to see landscapes from awe-inspiring angles. From hovering over waterfalls and deserts, to splashing down on rivers, these 10 amazing hot air balloon rides are sure to change your perspective. —Zachary Laks
Albuquerque is famous for its annual International Balloon Fiesta, which brings hundreds of hot air balloons together for an incredible sight, but you don’t have to wait until next October to take part in the aerial fun. Rainbow Ryders operates hot air balloon tours along the Rio Grande almost 300 days a year. Guided by FAA-certified pilots, the balloons move using wind currents and shift directions by changing altitudes. With baskets that can fit up to 12, bring a group along to party in the cool air of the desert morning.
Balloons Over New England
Float above the rolling hills and evergreens of central Vermont as you level with the clouds. Offering views of several national parks and preserves, Balloons Over New England in Quechee organizes hot air balloon tours seven days a week, weather permitting. Hover over the scenic Lake Pinneo at altitudes so low you can watch birds chasing their breakfasts. You'll soar over the Quechee Gorge for a great view of the white water creek and picturesque bridge.
Napa Valley Balloons
Discover the symmetry and wonder of the vineyards of northern California's wine country with the guides of Napa Valley Balloons. For the ultimate day in wine country, choose one of the company's day packages, which can include biking through Napa Valley, a day of guided wine tasting, and a fine dining offer with local acclaimed eatery Etoile.
Balloons Over Letchworth
Rise above Letchworth State Park in Castile, New York, for prime views of its 20 waterfalls and impressive gorges that reach up to 600 feet. Balloons Over Letchworth operates hot air balloon tours from April through October, with September and October noted as favorite months for the vibrant foliage. Known to many as “The Grand Canyon of the East,” the natural rock formations and beautifully built bridges make for an unforgettable experience.
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Arizona Balloon Safaris
Just outside of Phoenix, Arizona Balloon Safaris in Cave Creek offers hot air balloon rides through the Sonoran Desert. Floating down to tree-level, the unique sunrise tour offers passengers the chance to see jackrabbits, roadrunners, and coyotes among the cacti. The balloons can rise to a dizzying 5,000 feet off the ground, where, on clear days, you can see north to Flagstaff and beyond. The flight becomes a first-class experience as the guides provide muffins, eggs, fresh fruit, orange juice, and bottled water upon landing.
For more of the best hot air balloon rides in the U.S., including a splash-and-dash brush with a river in Oregon, visit Fodor's.