Nowadays, when people sail the friendly skies, it’s usually by jet. But if you want a captivating, bird’s-eye
view of the world that you’ll never forget, nothing beats a ride in a hot air balloon.
Hot air balloons have been around for a long time— perhaps even longer than we’d imagine. Some historians speculate that the Nazca, an ancient Peruvian culture, used hot air balloons to create their spectacular ground drawings, which are only visible from high altitudes. Chinese records show that nearly two millennia ago, wily military leaders launched small balloons, known as Kongming lanterns, to relay signals to their troops during battles. However, the first confirmed manned balloon flight occurred in 1783, when two Frenchmen embarked on a 20-minute journey over Paris. Although outdated as a practical form of transportation, hot air balloons continue to fascinate people to this day. The Lorraine Mondial Air Balloon Rally, which is held biannually in France, is one of the most celebrated balloon festivals around. In 2009, pilots turned the French skyline into a stage for graceful air ballet, as over 300 multi-colored balloons simultaneously took flight. Santa Paula, California is home to another noteworthy festival: the Citrus Classic. Visitors can hobnob with pilots and enjoy live music and refreshments as they watch the balloons sail over rolling hills and citrus orchards.
So, if you’re ever in the area when a hot air balloon festival floats through town, be sure to check it out. The experience is sure to inflate your spirits and put the wind in your sails— and that’s not a lot of hot air.