My weekend adventure in Calistoga, California
It is not every day that I have the opportunity to check a very exciting, thrilling activity off my bucket list. And no I do not mean borrowing a Lexus SUV for my weekend trip to Calistoga, which also did happen! The snazzy bright blue Lexus NS Hybrid (shown above), was my mode of transportation from San Francisco up to Calistoga for my weekend adventure which including a ride on a Hot Air Balloon ride and attending the annual Calistoga Harvest Table (read more about that here). Being able to get away for a weekend to Wine Country, one of my favorite escapes in the luxurious comfort of my loaner wheels was pretty incredible and I quickly fell in love with this car! Not only because of the amazing fuel efficient gas mileage since it is a hybrid, but also the sporty look and feel. After driving this car for 3 days it was pretty hard to give up but I did love being spoiled for the weekend with all the perks the car offered including a navigation system, sunroof, rear camera as well as the Lexus Assist, a benefit I learned over the years from my Mom who uses it literally daily in her Lexus SUV. A huge thanks to Lexus of San Francisco for the loan. I wish I needed a new car as I would be thrilled to have my own Lexus NS Hybrid.
My adventure started in San Francisco with Lexus and concluded in Calistoga where I was invited by Napa Valley Balloons for a Hot Air Balloon ride. I was thrilled to jump on board and check out this adventurous activity I had never done before. For those of you like me who have never been on a hot air balloon ride, pay attention to the below and decide for yourself if you’re up for the thrill. It is $239 per person and lasts about a 3.5 – 4 hours concluding at The Solage Hotel for brunch. So, not only do you get a fun adventurous activity but after the one hour ride you enjoy a lovely brunch at The Solage.
The morning started bright and early around 6am in downtown Calistoga at the charming train depot (shown above). Depending on the weather we were told we would either ride in Calistoga or drive another 25 minutes into Lake County where there is typically less wind and less fog. Both wine and fog are critical to balloon riding conditions since the wind AND the hot air are basically what is powering you and determining how smooth and peaceful the ride is. It was my lucky day. We had an extremely calm morning with very little wind. Yay!
After driving to the launch spot which was a field with not much else near bye (including no power lines or anything you could possibly hit) we watched as the team assembled the balloon. Part of the fun of the experience was seeing it come together and the hot air getting warmed up and ready for flight. After about 15-20 minutes of set up we were ready to go. We boarded (by boarding we hopped into the basket) the balloon and were given safety instructions before heading up. I was extremely nervous to ascend however quickly saw the slow relaxing pace and was reassured feeling very comfortable and secure with our slow peaceful speed.
The balloon being set up pre flight adventure
The balloon was huge, if you can tell the size in proportion to me. I loved the bright vivid color of our balloons it was so beautiful!
Getting the flames warmed up and ready for the flight
Bon voyage this was taken as we departed into the air. If you’re noticing my scarf (aka really a sarong) around my neck that is because I did not properly pack for this cool morning. So take it from me bring a coat, scarf and some layers as it is extremely chilly in the morning when you take off.
Our fearless balloon driver who was incredible. He explained the entire process to us, reassured me as I was inquiring about the wind speeds and really make the experience very fun, safe and enjoyable!
The spectacular view as we rose in the air
I made it as we are safely landing after a very smooth, calm, enjoyable ride
De boarding the balloon after our ride
Thank you to the Napa Valley Balloons Company for hosting me for this incredible experience.