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Sheli Mar 20th, 2002 07:09 AM

Hot Air Ballooning in Napa/Sonoma....take it or leave it???
Our Sonoma/Napa trip is 35 days away! First time we have been there, so I need a bit of advice.<BR><BR>Hot Air Ballooning. Should we do it....or pass? We have never been Ballooning, so it would be an experience, but does it take too much time? Speaking of much of my day will it take up? Is April a good time for this activity, or should we try to go back at Harvest in the future and balloon?<BR><BR>We are staying in Sonoma at the Trojan Horse Inn, about a mile from the Sonoma Plaza. Looking for some restaurant suggestions for that area as well.<BR><BR>Thanks!<BR><BR>Sheli

cindy Mar 20th, 2002 07:45 AM

I haven't been ballooning in that part of California, but I have ballooned in several other places so I can answer your question in general terms. <BR> Usually the balloons will go up either at dawn or sunset, because of the air currents that occur at those times of the day. If you opt for a morning ride, that means getting up pretty early - although it's a lovely time of day for a balloon trip and I've never found the early wake-up time to be a problem. Be aware that if the weather isn't right, they will cancel the trip for safety reasons; it would be a good idea to find out what they do about rescheduling or refunding, since you're only in the area for a limited period of time. The ride itself is a spectacular experience; the landing can be quite bumpy, though. I would guess that if you go for a morning ride, you'll be busy until lunch time or shortly before. Most ballooning companies offer a champagne brunch or something similar after the ride. <BR> Post again if there's anything more I can tell you. Have a great trip!

Joe Mar 20th, 2002 07:46 AM

Sheli: Definately do the balooning. It will take a morning. You will actually be in the air about an hour. Can't remeber if the mustard greens will still be in bloom in late April, but if they are, it is a perfect time for the ascent. The vinyards are beautiful with the yellow blooms filling the space between rows.<BR>As for restaurants, Try the Girl and the Fig in Sonoma Plaza. Great food, service, ambience, etc. John Ash in Santa Rosa and the Kenwood Restaurant out near Glenn Ellen are both easy and beautiful drives from Sonoma. Lot's of wineries along the way. At almost any shop, cafe, bar in Sonoma, you will find the free multi-page newspaper that has maps, wineries, restaurants, current activities, etc. Grab a copy, order a glass of wine and peruse the publication for what to see, what to do, what is happening, etc. There is a similar publication for the Napa Valley. Have a great time.

ar Mar 20th, 2002 08:02 AM

How much does a ballooning excursion cost? Can you book online? Any referrals?

kam Mar 20th, 2002 08:20 AM

Husband and son did this with Balloons Above the Valley. Costs about $175 for one hour including pre flight muffins etc. and post flight champagne brunch. They will not go if the weather is iffy. Sadly, mustard will be past its prime by then. It's been blooming for about a month now. and yes, you can book online. I would do it.

Suzie Mar 20th, 2002 09:06 AM

Restaurants in Sonoma:<BR><BR>Lunch: Bella Luna right on the Plaza. We ate outside. Yummy pastas salad and sandwiches.<BR><BR>Dinner: Della Santina's Trattoria or Cafe La Haye across the street. Both are great.

Chrissy Mar 20th, 2002 09:23 AM

Sheli - I would not do it. I did it once before in Napa and it was a letdown. Part of it could be the circumstances, part of it my huge expectations. You do get up very early. Not a big deal, except it takes HOURS before you go up in the balloon. That may be circumstances - we had a windy day and they kept waiting for the wind to die down. We finally did go, and then the trip didn't seem to last very long and we didn't go very far. The champagne brunch was ats some mexican restaurant where they pour you a little champagne. It if it was cheaper I wouldn't have regretted it, but we paid $200 each and I could think of a lot better ways to spend the money. If you have your heart set on it then you should do it so you don't say 'what if?', but I would find a reasonable rate so you don't kick yourself if it's a letdown.

deb Mar 20th, 2002 10:58 AM

Sheli,<BR><BR>Come to Albuquerque in October for the Hot Air balloon Festival instead! This is THE place to take a balloon ride!<BR><BR>Please report back about your trip. We will be in the same area in June and I would like to hear all your rants and raves.<BR><BR>Thanks.... have fun!

Cheryl Mar 21st, 2002 07:21 AM


Cheryl Mar 21st, 2002 07:22 AM


Maura Apr 3rd, 2002 08:13 AM

Hi Sheli- My husband and I just got 2 vouchers for Balloons Above the Valley in Napa Valley for $140 on EBAY! I have the vouchers in hand (the reg. price is $175 each!), Maybe if you got a good deal on EBAY it would be worth it. that is the only reason we are doing the balloon ride! Search on Napa and balloon.

Sheli Apr 3rd, 2002 08:32 AM

Maura:<BR><BR>Great idea...I'll check it out. Only problem I can think of is if I pay $140 bucks and then it rains on the day I plan to use the vouchers I'm out my cash. If I only book a reservation and pay when I get there...and the flight is cancelled, I don't lose my money.<BR><BR>Sheli

Dick Apr 3rd, 2002 08:44 AM

When the weather is iffy, not all balloon companies will cancel.<BR><BR>Whe our family balloned in southern Cal we found about 25 othere balloons being launched at the same place and time.<BR><BR>About 20 companies cancelled due to weather conditions..including ours.<BR><BR>I was glad that we had not bookded with one of the companies that launched the 4 or 5 ballons that went up that day.<BR><BR>It pays to find out how often they cancel flights.

Nina Apr 3rd, 2002 11:53 AM

Shelli, we went ballooning in Somoma several years ago, in October. Same company I believe. We loved watching all of the balloons being filled, and then taking off. It was truly a beautiful sight.<BR><BR>I am only 4'11", and at the last minute they took on two other people from another company. I couldn't see a thing, until the very end when I told my husband and he traded places with me. So make sure that you are by the rim of the basket.<BR><BR>Also don't be afraid of the landing. It wasn't bad at all.<BR><BR>We have since ballooned over the Serengetti in Tanzania and loved that too.<BR><BR>Also, the gas jet, or whatever they call it, is quite noisy. They fly fairly low so that you can see things on the ground. I wanted to soar off into space .. :-)<BR><BR>It may be a one time thing, so if you can spare the l/2 day, go for it. I think they picked us up at 4:00AM or 5:00AM, and we were brought back about 1:00PM.<BR><BR>Enjoy your stay.<BR><BR><BR><BR><BR><BR><BR><BR><BR><BR><BR>

karen Apr 4th, 2002 08:29 AM

The hot air balloon ride over Sonoma's Red Rock country was awesome! It provided a totally unique experience. The flights had been cancelled for four previous days, but our weather was perfect. It's beautiful and serene while in flight. Seeing the other balloons in the air from that vantage point is so much more interesting than watching them from the ground. The landing was just a little bumpy, and the champagne, muffins, and shared comments with travelers in other balloons helped cap a fulfilling morning. I'm not a "morning person" so getting up at 4 a.m. was something I would only do for a very special event. This was definitely worth it. When we hiked later in the day,<BR>I had a better sense of what the landscape was like. Considering the cost, it will probably be a "once in a lifetime" experience for me.<BR><BR>Karen

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