My motto for vacations has always been, if you’re going to do something: go big. It’s not everyday that you can enjoy time away from work, kids, and everyday life, so when the opportunity presents itself, I’m all for enjoying the moment to the full extent. Not even I imagined however, that during my recent trip to Kissimmee, Florida that I would take my motto literally, taking part in a sunrise ride in the nation’s largest hot air balloon!

Soaring over the Central Florida skies, Orlando Balloon Rides hosts an 11 story high balloon, that requires nearly a half-million cubic feet of hot air! Saying their balloons are huge would be an understatement, and taking in such an incredible experience overlooking such a breathtaking location, was truly a bucket-list item I was excited to check off my list. 

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The perfect conditions for flying is when there’s stable air, so while sunrise hot air balloon rides are beautiful, it also serves as a purpose as well. We woke up at 5 am to make our way to the Radisson Resort Orlando as the meeting time for flights is exactly one hour prior to sunrise. Flight locations can vary due to weather, so meeting at the hotel allows for all guests to have a landmark location to park at, before getting shuttled away in search of the perfect take-off location. Of all the launch sites, our morning launch allowed us to ascend from a beautiful open field that had a thin layer of morning fog covering the ground and with only trees around us, made for a breathtaking location to watch the day begin. 

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2014-04-12 10.30.08 amAn awesome aspect of Orlando Balloon Rides is they love getting guests involved in the hot air balloon process. I was chosen to help hold the balloon as it inflated (which took 20 minutes, wow!) while others helped with the unfolding and loading. Our host, Mark, was a fully licensed and insured pilot who was FAA certified, and was very helpful letting us know how we could contribute to the morning flight. 
2014-04-12 10.35.30 amWhen everything was set to go, and ground photos were taken, we were ready to be airborne! The ascent happens so quickly, and before you know it, you’re overlooking some of the most spectacular sights in the area, ranging from orange groves, to forests and swamps that seem to have been left untouched for thousands of years. 

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One of my favorite views was watching the sun begin to touch The Walt Disney World Resort, with Epcot peaking out through the morning fog. It was truly an awe-inspiring adventure, and our pilot Mark did an incredible job telling jokes, pointing out points of interest and providing a variety of fun facts that the journey was filled with high spirits. 

2014-04-12 10.43.32 amAfter landing, we were driven to The Showcase of Citrus, where we were treated to a champagne toast, and mimosas made from freshly picked Florida oranges. It was a bit too early for me to take part in the celebratory toast, but I still had a sip and raised my glass as we took part in reciting the Balloonist’s Irish Blessing: 

May the wind welcome you with softness

May the sun bless you with warm hands

May you fly so high and so well

That God joins you in laughter

& may He sit you gently back again

Into the loving arms of Mother Earth

Leaving the hot air balloon ride was bittersweet, as I was feeling at peace and completely alive after the experience, yet part of me wanted to be back up in the sky. I highly suggest whether you’re a solo traveler, on a romantic getaway, or with friends or loved ones to take the opportunity and go for a sunrise hot air balloon ride if given the opportunity, as it won’t be an experience you soon forget. 

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For more information on Orlando Balloons, including availability and pricing, visit their website at http://www.orlandoballoonrides.com/

Huge thank you to Experience Kissimmee for providing me with a complimentary ride aboard the Orlando Balloons. All opinions remain my own. 

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