Take a hot air balloon ride 1,500 feet above Charlotte for $250

Take a hot air balloon ride 1,500 feet above Charlotte for $250

All photos by Emma Way/Axios or courtesy SkyCab Balloon Promotions.

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This guide is proudly presented by OrthoCarolina – our partners in healthy living. If you want more outdoor itinerary inspiration, check out OrthoCarolina’s blog. Happy exploring.

Kentucky-based SkyCab Balloon Promotions recently expanded to the Charlotte area, offering 1-hour flights for $250+ per person.

A hot air balloon ride has long been on my bucket list, so I decided to give it a try with Axios’ Katie Peralta Soloff as my riding buddy on an early morning in June.

First, some background: Ballooning has been in the McClinton family for generations, Adam McClinton tells me. He’s in charge of the Charlotte operations, and his dad and brother run the original SkyCab business in Louisville.

  • Adam’s lived in Charlotte for a few years and works as a pilot and flight instructor out of Monroe Executive Airport in addition to running SkyCab Charlotte.

That’s Adam, our pilot for the morning.

How it works: Book your trip online or reach out to the Charlotte SkyCab team via Instagram, email at info@skycab-balloons.com or by phone at 502-228-8955. Flights are scheduled based on the weather. If it’s too windy or if it’s overcast or rainy, your trip will need to be rescheduled.

  • Trips usually take about an hour, but they can be as short as 45 minutes or as long as 90 minutes depending on variety of factors like wind.
  • Rides are scheduled during sunrise or sunset when conditions are typically best. I booked a sunrise flight, which meant I had to be there by 5:30am.

Cost: $250/person for a shared hot air balloon ride (up to five people). Or $750-$800 for a private ride for two people.

Getting there: Before you get up in the air, Adam will meet you in the parking lot of Monroe Executive Airport by his SkyCab van (the one with the giant hot air balloon basket on the back — you can’t miss it). Here you’ll sign a waiver and have an opportunity to use the bathroom if you want. And then you’ll hop in the van and go to the launch point.

  • The exact address is 3900 Paul J Helms Dr. in Monroe, about 30 minutes east of Charlotte.

Taking off: Adam and his longtime friend and business partner Daniel Sasser have been ballooning for years, so set up goes fast. It’s fascinating to watch the balloon roll out from the van and quickly expand with the help of a commercial fan, and then hot air.

Once the balloon is set up, Katie and I climbed into the basket, and Adam took off with Daniel following us in the van. Throughout the ride, Adam and Daniel communicated via walkie talkie so when we landed Daniel knew where to find us.

Katie and I stand inside the balloon as it inflates.

Ready for takeoff!

By the numbers:

  • The balloon we rode in was 90,000 cubic feet, which can fit two to three people in addition to the pilot. SkyCab also has a larger 140,000-cubic-foot balloon, which can fit up to five.
  • The balloon and all its equipment weigh 500 pounds – before people step onboard.
  • 75 feet — That’s how tall the balloon is.
  • You’ll get up to 1,000-1,500 feet in the balloon.
  • The balloon will travel about 8-15 miles depending on the strength of the wind.

“The world’s going on but this is just calm. It doesn’t get old.”

That’s what Adam told us once we got up in the air. It really is magical. As someone who’s moderately afraid of heights, I found the ride surprisingly peaceful.

There were no sudden drops or turbulence. It felt like I was standing on a moving walkway at the airport.

  • You’ll be miles from Uptown but you’ll still get a nice view of the skyline unless it’s hazy.

Landing: Finding a spot to land is one of the most unpredictable parts of the ride. No matter how many times Adam and Daniel go up in the air, every ride is different. They land wherever the air takes them.

  • We scoped out a few publicly owned fields using Google Maps and ended up landing on a football field called B&R Body Shop Stadium inside Noel Williams Park in a rural town called Unionville.

We landed inside this gate so Daniel and Adam had to maneuver the basket over the fence with the help of some hot air.

Post-ride toast: Every ride concludes with a champagne toast (and OJ since it was 7:30am) and a recitation that’s apparently known in the industry as the “Balloonist Prayer“:

“The winds have welcomed us with softness. The sun has blessed us with its warm hands. God has joined us in laughter, and Mother Nature has set us gently back into the loving arms of Mother Earth.”

Here’s a closer look at the experience:

Once enough air has gone into the ballon from the commercial fan, they switch to hot air.

Take off at 6:30am — the sun is just coming up.

Sunrise over Independence Boulevard, I-74.

Katie looking out at the countryside.

The view.

Adam would pull this lever to release more hot air (aka fire) every few seconds.

Looking for more ways to get outside this summer? Check out our guides to the Whitewater Center, local hikes, lakefront beaches and more.

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"It's good. I promise." - Emma   Emma Way