There are few better ways to get a new perspective on the desert than by gliding silently above it in a hot-air balloon. On calm days, the sky might be dotted with dozens of the colorful balloons, but inside the basket, the world feels like it’s all yours.
A Balloon Experience by Hot Air Expeditions (480/502-6999, www.hotairexpeditions.com ) flies its balloons about 400 feet above the desert floor, low enough to see critters like jackrabbits, roadrunners, and coyotes. But the best part might come after landing. A red-carpet welcome that includes either a champagne breakfast or full dinner catered by award-winning Arizona chef Vincent Gerithault’s restaurant, Vincent’s, awaits ($175). The company is FAA-certified and offers free hotel transfers.
Fliers on A Great American Balloon Co. (877/933-6359, www.wedoflyscottsdale.com ) celebrate every flight with a champagne toast, with prices starting at $170 an hour. The company is FAA-certified and has 30 years of experience flying.
Anyone short on time or transportation might want to try a combined jeep tour/balloon flight with Adventures Out West/Unicorn Balloons (480/991-3666, www.adventuresoutwest.com , $250 adult, $185 child). Jeeps pick you up at most hotels in Scottsdale , and guides fill the time driving out to the balloon-launch site by telling tales of Arizona’s Old West past. Following the flight, guides lead extended desert tours focused on plants and wildlife—adventurous souls might even partake in eating a cactus. If you’re not interested in the jeep tour you can opt for just the balloon flight ($135).