Destination Balloon Rides
By Lauren Wong
See Arizona from new heights as you soar through the sky. From up above, gain a new perspective of Arizona’s ravishing desert-mountain terrain. As the sun rises above the horizon, find peace in the grounding revelation that we truly are microscopic in scale to this vast world we call home.
The set up
Reaching heights between 1,000 – 5,000 feet, Destination Balloon Rides offer small group hot air balloon rides starting at $225, as well as private flights that start at $900.
The moon will still be the only light illuminating the sky as you take your seat in their van. Even if you’re not an early riser, I promise you that the second the sun starts peeking up over the mountains, that tired fogginess clouding your brain will be overrun with pure awe.
By releasing a lit up balloon into the night sky, the wind and natural elements will be tested to ensure a safe flight. Once that’s done, the set up begins. Slowly, but surely, the balloon will fill up with air until the basket, that’ll be your floating inflight platform, lifts itself upright.
“Can I say that as a child I dreamt of growing up to be a hot air balloon pilot? No, but I can say that it’s been the most exciting thing I have ever done and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
- Shawn Wix, owner and chief pilot of Destination Balloon Rides
“Hot air balloons make people happy. I love that I can be part of this, and that I’m able to help them fulfill a dream, to check something off their bucket list.”
Originally from Delaware, Wix became interested in ballooning while spending his first winter in Phoenix with his wife, Sharon. His newfound dream brought him to begin work as ground crew for a local commercial balloon company, that is, until he decided it was time to work towards becoming a pilot. His goal was to offer more intimate balloon flights with smaller groups to allow guests to be hands on with set up. That is exactly what he’s created with Destination Balloon Rides. Since beginning he’s logged over 1300 hours flying in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Washington, Idaho, Montana, and California.
The take off is so smooth that a lot of the time guests don’t even know they’ve left the ground until they watch as the world below them starts to get smaller and smaller. Traveling with the wind, there will be no sensation of movement throughout your flight. “The sights are honestly, at times, unbelievable. You are floating along, looking around and down at everything and you just can’t believe you are up there,” Wix says. “Landing is the feeling of the unknown… we have experienced all types of landing as they are all different and generally lots of fun.”
Those who are afraid of heights probably don’t have hot air ballooning on their bucket list, but you shouldn’t let that fear deter you. Wix himself even admits to having a fear of heights and says that the beauty and peacefulness of the desert offsets that fear. “There is nothing that I can think of that can compare to watching the sunrise from the air, not even from a plane or helicopter,” Wix says. “Soaring over, just above the desert, also known as virtual hiking, and through the mountains is a magnificent way to view what our beautiful city of Phoenix has to offer.” And, once you land, you have a champagne toast to look forward to.
To end their Arizona vacation after touring ASU, Shauna and Jamie Ryder surprised their daughter, Morgan, with these tickets. Collectively they shared that “there aren’t enough words to describe the first class experience we had with Destination Balloon Rides.” They give thanks to Shawn and Sharon for giving them a morning that they’ll remember for a lifetime.
To end on a note from the pilots wife, Sharon would just like to express how proud she is of Shawn and all he has accomplished. “He truly cares about this business and puts in the work to take excellent care of our passengers, giving them the best views and best customer service,” she says. “I would fly with him anywhere! I have pictures and memories that I don’t even believe and all the while I’ve got this big grin plastered on my face… I’m seriously like a kid in a candy store every time I get to go out and I can’t see ballooning ever getting old! #pilotwife”