MICHIGAN—Physical gifts are out. Experiential gifts are in. And a hot air balloon ride is the perfect festive experience to enjoy with someone you love.
In a survey done by travel booking platform GetYourGuide during last year’s holiday season, 77% of Americans said they would prefer a gift involving an experience they could share as opposed to a physical product. Some experiential gifts involve an outdoor activity while others include surprise travel. With a hot air balloon ride, you can do both.
Hot air balloons make popular choices for birthdays, dates, proposals, anniversaries, or any special outings with coworkers, family, or friends. Michigan provides plenty of opportunities to drink in its gorgeous natural landscape from a scenic aerial view.
Hot air balloons most traditionally operate around sunrise or sunset, when wind patterns are calmest. Most hot air balloon flights take place in the most optimal weather conditions between March and October. So if you’ve been itching to try something new with a loved one (or two, or three), now is the time to consider hot air balloons.
Though fear of heights is a common affliction, hot air balloon rides are notably gentle. They don’t have the same turbulence as airplanes or other altitude-scaling devices like elevators. Since they coast along with the wind, you won’t feel any wind resistance.
Hot air balloons are the oldest and first successful flight technology capable of carrying humans. The first hot air balloon flight took place in Paris, France in 1783. The balloon was created by the Montgolfier brothers, and the “standard” hot air balloon model still carries the Montgolfier name today. More than 200 years later, we’re still mesmerized by these drifting beauties.
How does it work? Basic molecular science. The hot air balloon has a segregated pocket of air within it. By increasing the air temperature within the balloon, the air molecules move around faster. The heated air inside the balloon becomes less dense than the air surrounding it in the atmosphere. The result is a basket moving up, up, and away.
Of course, operating a hot air balloon is not quite that simple. Hot air balloons cannot be steered, meaning trained balloon pilots must carefully assess weather conditions and wind patterns to chart a flight path. But well-trained pilots make the descent stress-free, taking things slow and easy for everyone involved.
Hot air balloon companies usually offer two options for rides: shared flights and private flights. Like many other experiences, things are cheaper when you’re willing to join strangers and ride with more fellow passengers. Private rides are sometimes available for just a bit more money, and can include group rates if you bring your whole squad.
Also available are tethered rides, where riders only stay in the air a few minutes while remaining tethered to the ground.
Ready to get a bird’s eye view of the Mitten State? Here are some of the best options for booking your next hot air balloon flight.
Magic Clouds Balloon Corporation
126 Quail St., Battle Creek
Rates Starting At: $240/person
Battle Creek might be known as Michigan’s Cereal Capital, but the skies above show more rainbows than just the marshmallow ones. The Magic Clouds Balloon Corporation is one Battle Creek attraction that folks will drive for hours to experience.
Magic Clouds Balloon Corporation was started by Tyler Jaques, a professional pilot and Battle Creek native. Both Jaques and his father served as pilots for the Post Cereals company.
The Magic Clouds Balloon Corporation provides balloons with seats for up to four passengers. Flights last for 45 minutes to an hour and all flights provide a souvenir champagne flute.
Magic Clouds Balloon Corporation also offers both regular flights and tethered flights over Frankenmuth during the annual Balloons Over Bavarian Inn event on Memorial Day weekend. If you’re interested in tethered rides, contact the company for more information about upcoming events.
1255 Hunter Ridge, Battle Creek
Rates Starting At: $230/person
Altitude Endeavors is a second hot air balloon company based in Battle Creek. It provides local rides as well as rides in Traverse City and other select northern Michigan locations throughout the year.
The crew at Altitude Endeavors has earned a spotless safety record over their 25 years of operations, with zero aviation accidents or incidents. The company was started in 1997 by Phil Clinger, who became a pilot after taking a hot air balloon ride in 1994 and developing an instant fascination with the hobby.
Flights with Altitude Endeavors typically last about an hour, but can be anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour and a half. Their balloons accommodate up to six passengers on either shared group rides or private flights. Rides include free commemorative photos from a photographer. They also offer other services such as rentable tethered flights, flight instruction, and corporate advertising.
Capt. Phogg Balloon Rides
2470 Grange Hall Road, Fenton
Rates Starting At: $359/person
This hot air ballooning company located in Metro Detroit provides balloon rides seven days a week and has a 50-year history.
Flights at Capt. Phogg Balloon Rides provide gorgeous views of the many inland lakes and rivers of Oakland County. All takeoffs happen on their private launch field. Flight times are anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and include a traditional champagne (or juice) at the end. First-time flyers get a “First Flight” certificate.
Capt. Phogg also accepts enthusiastic volunteers for its Platoon, members of which help get balloons in the air and follow it on the ground, all while they learn more about the sport of ballooning. Every 10 flights a Platoon member assists with earns them a free flight for one.
4191 Locust Valley Lane, Oxford
Rates Starting At: $200/person
Originally located in Rochester, Sky Adventures has been providing hot air balloons to the Detroit area for nearly 50 years. It is a full-service ballooning center, offering hot air balloon rides, pilot training, certified repairs, and even a sales representative for FireFly Balloons in case you’re interested in purchasing your own sport balloon.
A total of six pilots coordinate hot air balloon rides at Sky Adventures. Depending on the model, balloons can carry anywhere from two to six passengers. After the flight, passengers enjoy a traditional champagne celebration at Red Knapp’s American Grill. Passengers are also given a commemorative pin resembling the balloon they flew in.
Sky Adventures also accepts volunteers to do balloon chasing, offering special deals to the chase crews.
Michigan Hot Air Adventures
1561 Villa View Lane, Howell
Rates Starting At: $350/person
Michigan Hot Air Adventures provides a more exclusive experience than the previously listed companies, offering only private rides. They specialize in two-person rides perfect for that romantic getaway, but can accommodate private parties of up to four passengers.
Flights last around 45 minutes to an hour and include a champagne toast after the flight. The balloon travels over the natural flora and fauna of Livingston County. The pilot is Dennis Hall, who has been flying the Howell area for over 14 years. Hall founded Michigan Hot Air Adventures in 2018, a decade after acquiring his pilot license.
A variety of gift options are available to make your experience extra special, including champagne, champagne flutes, picture frames, and gift boxes.
Westwind Balloon Co.
1310 Maple St., Plymouth
Rates Starting At: $397/person
Quite possibly the oldest ballooning experience in Michigan, Westwind Balloon Co. has been providing hot air balloon rides since 1981. The company has been featured on WDIV TV and in a listicle by Hour Detroit.
The balloon rides at Westwind float over Michigan parks like Kensington Metropark and Island Lake Recreation Area, offering views of wildlife including white-tailed deer that won’t even be checking for you while you float overhead. The pilot is Scott Lorenz, a veteran pilot who has logged over 1,000 flight hours in multiple countries.
13080 Michelak’s Lane, South Lyon
Rates Starting At: $350/person
Majestic Adventures is a small family-based operation offering private balloon flights in the Detroit Metro seven days a week. The most impressive part of a balloon ride with this company is the chance to see the Detroit skyline, but there are also many inland lakes along the route to allow you to marvel at nature as well.
The pilot is Steve Miller, who started ballooning after a hot air balloon landed in his parents’ yard when he was 16. Majestic Adventures also offers corporate outings, hourly rentals for tethered rides, and advertising opportunities.
President Joe Biden on Friday issued a stark reminder about what’s at stake in the November election following a news report revealing that Donald...
BY ANNA LIZ NICHOLS, MICHIGAN ADVANCE MICHIGAN—Voters with disabilities can access new voter education videos featuring American Sign Language on...
A recent report from the state Office of Rural Prosperity identifies housing and workforce shortages as two of the biggest challenges facing rural...
We’re taking a tour to seven vibrant and stigma-shattering cannabis scenes in Michigan, curated by visionary Black entrepreneurs. MICHIGAN—When you...
FLINT—A Michigan man was charged Tuesday under the state's new law requiring safe storage of guns after his 2-year-old daughter shot herself in the...