A Hot Air Balloon Ride Over Orlando

A gentle hot air balloon ride gives a fresh perspective of Central Florida.

It seems to be on the bucket list of every traveler, at least every traveler in my party anyway. An hour before dawn on a chilly December morning, a few dozen sleepy-eyed strangers gather together at Orlando Balloon Rides. Hailing from everywhere from Saudi Arabia to Germany and from Miami to Alabama, we are all ready to check a common box on our bucket list: a hot air balloon ride. 

"I wanted to see the Grand Canyon, the Statue of Liberty, Vegas and the Liberty Bell, and this and Niagra Falls were still on my list," says Pat Naylor, who's 85 and accompanied by one of her 24 grandchildren. "It's been on my bucket list for 25 years."

The other passengers, from families of four to honeymooners, all say the same thing: it's something they've always wanted to do.

As soon as the balloon lifts off the ground and floats gently over citrus groves and Florida wetlands, it's easy to understand why so many people dream of this experience—getting a beautiful perspective of the world at sunrise and going wherever the wind blows.

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(Photos ©Laura Anders Lee)