It’s one thing to observe the breathtaking beauty of the Shenandoah Valley from the ground—running, hiking, biking, scenic driving. But it a whole different experience to explore it from the air, looking down on all of the sights and sounds from an exhilarating aerial view. One local company that allows you this memorable experience is Monticello Country Ballooning in Charlottesville.
My daughter Ariel and I took to the skies for a balloon ride, and we thoroughly enjoyed the “Google Earth” type of perspective on the land below. (Also, did you know that the sound of the air being heated drives dogs crazy? Yes, they bark incessantly at hot air balloons.)
Monticello Country Ballooning includes “your digital photographs, celebratory toast, and flight certificates (additional memorabilia can be purchased upon request) as well as transportation to and from the launch site if you are staying locally.” If you’re concerned about safety, you can rest assured that not only are the balloons immensely safe, but they are incredibly comfortable as well. (You’ll even find padded floors for soft landings.) According to the ballooning company, “In addition to having a perfect safety record, we want our passengers to know that if the conditions are not ideal, we won’t force you to go…We want our passengers to have the best flight possible” (Virginia Hot Air Balloon).
Flights are usually spent at an altitude of 500-1,000 feet for around an hour, and the process of ballooning is fascinating: “A balloon drifts in the same direction and at the same speed as the wind. The skill is for the pilot to pick the altitude that has the most desired wind direction.” A chase crew follows the balloon during its flight and helps it to land smoothly.
Monticello Country Ballooning offers both sunrise and sunset launches, so it’s perfect for both the early bird and the night owl.