It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s a hot air balloon waiting carry you and your family to new heights! There’s nothing quite like seeing Portland and its surrounding areas from above, but families rarely consider booking a hot air balloon ride. If you haven’t yet, you should! It’s an experience that your kids will tell their kids some day and the memories of their smiles and fantastic views will stay with you a lifetime. Read on for everything you need to know to book your first (or next ride).

photo: Vista Balloon Adventures via Yelp

Ballooning With Kids

Balloon rides are exhilarating and exciting for passengers young and old. Children are guaranteed to enjoy themselves especially if they are prepared for the experience in advance.

A standard hot air balloon adventure runs from one hour up to three or four, depending on what you choose. Some flights lift off during the early morning hours, so be prepared to get up before the sun rises. When you arrive at the airfield, staff are available to help you get in the basket at take-off and out after you have landed. One of the biggest barriers to a child’s enjoyment of the ride, is their ability to see. You want to make sure in advance that they are tall enough. Some businesses have steps that boost young or short riders for a better view.

Be prepared, burners can be loud. If your child is sensitive to noise, bring a set of noise-cancelling headphones or ear plugs. While rides are exciting, they are not appropriate for kids who aren’t yet able to stand still for longer periods of time. This is important to consider before you take off. In general, children ages 5 and up do well on these adventures.

Most ballooning businesses include food with longer tours. Check in advance. You don’t want a hungry youngster stuck in the air. Also, make sure to use the bathroom before you go! There’s not potty stops on these treks.

The typical Ballooning season runs from April to October.

Types of Rides

There are three main types of Balloon rides available. Private rides are organized to allow for a personal experience. Shared rides are usually conducted in larger balloons and give you the chance to make new friends as additional individuals and families join you. Tethered rides allow you to ascend in the air and see an area from a bird’s eye view, but you do not travel. This kind of ride is perfect for shorter experiences or those who may be a little timid about the whole experience.

photo: Portland Rose Hot Air Balloons via facebook

Portland Rose Hot Air Balloons

This awesome business flies seven days a week and gives its passengers views of the the Oregon countryside, Mt. Hood and the Willamette Valley. Take off is stationed at the Aurora Airport. It’s advised to call before your flight to make sure the weather hasn’t affected your trip. The adventure begins promptly thirty minutes before dawn, so get your coffee down in advance.

You will be invited aboard to while the crew prepares for flight and invited to help with the inflation, so expect a true hands-on experience. The direction the flight takes you depends completely on the winds, so this is a true adventure! Once you have landed, the adults in your crew will be provided with champagne to toast the whole experiences.

Cost: $199/person, $185/person for parties of 4 or more, $145 for kids ages 5-12
Launch Site: Willamette Aviation Service
23115 Airport Rd. NE
Phone: 503-638-1301

photo:Paul VanDerWerf via flickr

Vista Balloon Adventures

This family-owned business flies up to seven balloons on any given day. Located just outside of portland in Newberg, Oregon, you can expect to take in 10 volcanoes and the best of the Willamette Valley wine country. Their balloons come in varying sizes with the largest capable of holding up to 10 passengers and the smallest fitted for two—for perhaps a more romantic experience.

The Vista adventure begins at dawn. Passengers enjoy watching the balloons inflate and can join as well. Once inflated, you board the beautiful beasts and take flight. The trip takes approximately one hour and the direction depends on where the wind blows. Some of the sights you may see are the Willamette Valley and river, 10 mountain peaks, and of course the other balloons in the fleet.

Once you land, the crew comes to deflate the balloons. Kids love watching the whole process. A van then arrives to pick you up and take you to the launch site where you enjoy a gourmet brunch. The entire experience lasts about three hours.

Cost: $220/person
1050 Commerce Parkway
Phone: 503-625-7385

Soaring Sports

This company offers shared, private and tethered rides. If you want to stick close to home, you can take of from their Portland location. If you want to tie your ride into an Oregon road trip, they have sites in Bend, Eugene and Medford as well. Their Portland experience experience gives you a fantastic view of the city, the Columbia and Willamette rivers and even the snowcapped Cascade Range. This service includes chase vehicles on the ground that are in constant contact with the balloons in the air to ensure a smooth experience.

Cost: private ride: $999, shared ride: $249, contact to find out about tethered options.

Ballooning Reservation Center
Portland, Or

Have you ever taken a hot air balloon ride with children?  Tell us about it!

—Annette Benedetti


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