Top off your day aloft over Woodinville’s Wine Country on a Hot Air Balloon Ride…..
Our evening sunset Hot Air Balloon Rides are, in fact, Seattle’s most popular. Since the evening flight meets 2 hours and 15 minutes before sunset, this may be something that can be done after a long summer day of activities. It is the perfect time to unwind and marvel at the beauty of Western Washington on a sunset cruise over Woodinville's Wine Country. With such proximity to Seattle our hot air balloon rides deliver undeniably the most spectacular views of the Seattle skyline and the world renowned Space Needle.
Centrally located between Mt. Rainer, Mt. Baker and the Olympic and Cascade Mountain ranges. Overlooking Lake Washington, Lake Union and many other smaller lakes. All of the gorgeous vistas Puget Sound has to offer will feel like they are just beyond your fingertips…..
There are several valleys within flying distance of Woodinville in different directions, with great landing sites that can become destinations. This allows us to fly with different wind speeds and directions. With more flexibility, we can offer the longest sunset hot air balloon rides in the Seattle area. Our Seattle Ballooning location in Woodinville gives you the easiest access to and from Seattle for your hot air balloon experience. We are only 20 miles from downtown Seattle by car or 13 miles as the crow flies; we definitely recommend driving!
The Launch Site
Our Seattle Sunset Hot Air Balloon Rides near Seattle meet at, Suite C’s Vino and Wine Bar in Woodinville. The meeting time for the sunset flight is 2 hours and 15 minutes before sunset and you will need to allocate 3-3 ½ hours after your arrival at Suite C`s for this event. This allows us time to meet everyone and board the vans for the 10-15 minute drive to the launch site. While you were busy checking in, the pilots were continuing to scrutinize the local winds and weather and choosing the launch site for the evening, preparing for your arrival. After a quick briefing from your captain, he will ask for a couple of volunteers so if you would like to take part with the inflation – here’s your chance! Or if you would prefer to watch and take pictures, that’s okay too!
Our goal is to have the balloons all set for launch approximately an hour to an hour and a half before sunset. This allows us enough time to achieve maximum flight duration for your enjoyment!
The meeting times are not flexible for safety reasons….The last 2 hours before sunset traditionally provide the most conducive wind conditions. Our evening sunset hot air balloon ride meeting times fluctuate drastically throughout the summer depending on what time sunset occurs. In June we meet around 7:00pm. Although meeting times get earlier every week and by late September we are meeting around 4:30pm. If this works with your plans for the evening after a long summer day; allowing for commute time, work, a day of touring, dinner plans, babysitter, etc., we would love to see you this summer on Seattle's favorite hot air balloon ride!
Let's go Ballooning
With our volunteers and crew in position it's time to start the inflator fans which are noisy. They will force air into the fabric part of the balloon, known as the envelope, as it is stretched out horizontally on the ground. The volunteers will keep the balloon open to make it easier for the air from the fans to enter. Approximately 180,000 cubic feet of air will need to be pushed inside the balloon. Everyone is always quite surprised to see how huge the balloon is and how rapidly the inflation goes; often only 10 to 15 minutes! Before you know it the balloon is getting fat and round – still basically horizontal. Your pilot will have conducted a thorough Pre-Flight Inspection of all parts of the system. When your Captain is comfortable, that everything is as it should be, he blasts the burners – also loud, to heat the air the envelope has collected. You may know that hot air rises and so the balloon becomes upright bringing the basket up with it. Now, the fans can be shut off so we eliminate a lot of the noise. The system is ready to leave the ground! Everyone climbs into the basket and once all are in position, the Pilot will provide a short briefing with instructions for our passengers on procedures for take-off and landing. As the balloon warms up the crew begins to loosen the tether. And so the adventure begins!
The liftoff is gradual and you can’t help but notice how the ground below shrinks. The buildings, houses, cars, trucks – even trees and especially people look smaller and smaller like Monopoly pieces as the burners periodically heat the air in the balloon. Up and up and away! It doesn’t take long to realize all the panoramic views. 360 degrees of all the landmarks Seattle is famous for – the Space Needle next to the Seattle skyline with Puget Sound beyond. Then in the background are the Olympic mountains. As you turn more to the south, you are stunned how close Mt. Rainier seems! To the east are the majestic Cascade mountains with miles and miles of forested land dotted with a few structures here and there. Looking to the north is Mt. Baker with the Snohomish Valley in between. That’s what is in sight up high. All of this as you carefully float over the Woodinville Wine Country,
It’s so exciting but for some people the highlight of the flight is time spent at treetop level with a few smaller lakes breaking up the greenery you’ll fly over. And sometimes, the balloon has a bird’s eye view as it meanders over neighborhoods of homes including some that can only be described as estates. Residents on the ground often excitedly rush to find a spot to best watch you fly over. Many of the local Woodinville residents like to take stunning pictures and share them with their neighbors by posting them on Woodinville Neighbors | Facebook They often wave and shout “hellos” hoping to get a return greeting.
This event is truly an adventure. The launch site isn’t selected until the last minute – literally while you were checking in. We use about a dozen locations based on carefully analyzed weather gathered from a few official sites. Much of the time summer evening Hot-Air Balloon flights are affected by winds which more often than not are out of the northwest. Again the ample field behind the well known Maltby Cafe which is actually located in the south end of Snohomish County this is one of our favorite launch sites.
From there the Hot Air Balloon ferries you over some of the most beautiful scenery in the Pacific Northwest. In full view to the east is the foothills leading to the sweeping Cascade Mt. range. Then off to the west you will observe Puget Sound and several islands, the beautiful skylines of Seattle, Bellevue, Everett and urban areas with the majestic Olympic Mountains as a backdrop as we effortlessly sail back towards the Woodinville Wine Country skimming over the forested area of the Paradise Valley Conservation Area inhabited by (and occasionally spotted from the Hot Air Balloons) deer, bear, coyote, bald eagles, several species of fish, including migrating salmon, and birds. It’s not unusual for our guests to get a very close vantage point to see many smaller local lakes. Often people are thrilled to pass right over treetops – looking down on them is a unique viewpoint.
Actually, no one knows exactly where the Hot Air Balloon will set down either. The pilot has a goal which was a factor in choosing the launch site. While aloft you’ll observe that burners render complete control for the pilot of ascending and descending. But, the Hot Air Balloon is propelled by the wind with speeds and directions that usually vary at different altitudes. The use of those diversities is what showcases the Pilot’s skill as he maneuvers taking full advantage of what the heavens are furnishing at that moment.
The crew has been following along on the ground and staying in contact with the Captain providing observations of the wind conditions all along the way.
When the Pilot has spotted a satisfactory place to set down, he informs the crew and they immediately zoom in, ready to assist as necessary to provide a nice soft landing. A majority of the time, the landing is quite surprising to see how gently the balloon sets down on terra firma. Occasionally, if there is a little more wind than usual, the basket may tip over. Passengers find that scenario to be very exhilarating! After touching down, the envelope lies back down on the ground just as it started.
The Hot Air Balloon Ride part of the evening has now concluded, so it’s time to deboard. The crew begins packing everything back up. It’s hard to believe it all really fits into the bag it came out of!
Next, you’ll hop back into the van you rode in to the launch site. We’ll take you back to Suite C’s Vino. The evening isn’t over – now it’s time to celebrate!
Once back to Suite C’s you will be treated to a wine tasting – or beer or a hard cider if they are more enticing to your palette (of course, sparkling cider and water are available) along with a light prepackaged snack. Once everyone has a glass in hand, the pilot recounts the beginning of ballooning explaining how wine became a customary ending and finishes by reciting the traditional post-flight toast as all glasses are raised. After that is the opportunity for guests to exchange phone numbers and/or addresses with new friends. People go through the many photos taken during their flight and they also get exchanged between fellow passengers. It’s a relaxing and festive time.
Some people need to rush off to a dinner or other event or to accommodate babysitters, etc. Some prefer to linger. Some purchase wine to enjoy there or to take home for future enjoyment. Since everyone’s vehicle is there, you are free to go when you’ve had as much fun as you can stand! Such a great way to top off a day -- the peak of a crescendo!!
Suite C`s is a tasting room and not an individual winery, so they are able to offer tastings from some of Washington's favorite wineries and other wines from around the world.