Hot Air Ballooning
Another near-unique Wine Country experience is rising into the morning sun over the valley in a brightly colored hot air balloon. Be sure to make your reservations in advance as trips can fill up quickly, especially during the high season (which extends well into fall in Napa). You must be an early riser, since most balloon trips depart shortly after dawn. You’ll float serenely over the vineyards of Napa Valley on your trip, before a gentle descent into a predetermined spot.
Calistoga Balloons (888/995-7700, www.calistogaballoons.com) is the only company offering regular flights in the north end of Napa Valley, so they’ve got the lock on some of the prettiest scenery around. In addition to the vineyards, wineries, spas, and charming town of Calistoga, you’ll get to see Mount St. Helena and the lush forests of the hills surrounding this lovely area.
On the other end of Napa, Balloons Above the Valley (800/464-6824, www.balloonrides.com) offers the full package—from lodging packages that include transportation to the launch site to included-with-every-ride champagne brunch after you touch down. Be sure to bring your camera to capture those otherwise-impossible shots of the vineyards and wineries from above!
© Liz Hamill Scott from Moon California, 2nd Edition