Lancaster Balloon Rides (operated by The US Hot Air Balloon Team) is incredibly well run, staffed and entertaining. My wife and I flew out of the Bird-in-Hand location near Lancaster for a sunrise flight on a cool October morning. We had initially aimed for a sunset flight, but after two years of cancellations (due to weather on our dates) and a jammed sunset schedule, we decided to try sunrise instead. It was an incredible experience.
We arrived a few minutes before 7:00 am, were in the air by 7:15, and watching a beautiful sunrise by 7:20. We flew with Lucas and about 6 other passengers. Don’t let the numbers fool you – this can still very much be a personal experience with whoever you’re going with. All the other guests were very nice but most everyone kept to themselves and their family/significant other to enjoy the experience.
Lucas was a fantastic pilot, joking with us the entire time and sharing a ton of knowledge about what we were seeing below us around the Lancaster County landscape. October is a GREAT time to fly; you’ll see incredible patterning in the farm fields due to the various staggered harvests. And if you’re lucky (like us), you’ll be treated with incredible views of the fog sitting in the rolling valleys of the farms.
After nearly landing in an Amish school house (the kids were begging us to put it down in their school yard), we landed just a stone’s throw away in a…surprise…Amish farm. Standing by and having the opportunity to interact with the really kind Amish farmers was an added bonus and experience unto itself.
I’ve been on one other flight, and it was not nearly as well run as this. We were up for the promised 60 minutes (maybe a little longer), and the entire experience lasted no longer than the estimated 2.5 hours.
NOTE: Their gift certificates never expire, and they fly year round. There’s always time to schedule a flight with these guys if you’re flexible.