Hot Air Balloon Rides in Temecula, CA

If you’ve read my Things To Do in Temecula post, then you know that I surprised Daniel with a trip to Temecula for his birthday.  Specifically to attend the Balloon and Wine Festival, but also to give him a gift of a lifetime – a hot air balloon ride through Temecula wine country!

You may remember me mentioning that there are hot air balloon rides in Temecula, coordinated through the Balloon and Wine Festival, but that I decided to spoil my guy and take him on a private balloon ride for two!  Out of all the balloon companies in Temecula, A Grape Escape had the best reviews and the least expensive private rides.  A private ride will cost around $599-799 per couple.  For a more inexpensive option, you can choose rides where you’ll be in a basket with other people, which are around $126-156 per person.  If you take a flight coordinated through the Ballon and Wine Festival it will cost about $200 per person, and includes same day admission to the festival.

Birthday Hot Air Balloon Ride in Temecula

Whether you’re taking a private ride or a group ride, if it’s a special occasion, be sure to let them know.  They will have a banner for the occasion draped over your basket to make your experience even more special!  Daniel was happily surprised when he saw his birthday banner!

When you’re taking a hot air balloon ride at sunrise, be prepared to get there bright and early!  On the morning of, we were wishing we had thought more about that while we were having a little too much fun at the Balloon and Wine Festival.  They will give you an estimated call time when the date is getting closer, and then your actual call time a day or two before.

You’ll want to dress in layers, as it will be cold in the morning and very hot once the sun comes up.  When you’re in the air, it will also be hot because of the flame above your head, which is why I’d also recommend wearing a hat of some kind.  I’d also highly suggest wearing sunglasses, as the sun is pretty brutal.  Oh, and don’t forget your cameras!  You will not want to miss the opportunity to take a million photos!

Hot Air Balloon Rides in TemeculaIn the morning, you’ll meet up with everyone else that’s taking a hot air balloon ride that morning.  There may be other balloon companies there as well, so make sure you know which one you should be looking for.  One note about that:  apparently a lot of the companies in the area work together on flights.  If for some reason the company you booked with had a change in schedule or over booked, they may pass you off to another company.  This actually happened to us, and since I’m the type of customer that likes everything upfront before I pay, I was a little irked when I found out.  In the end every thing worked out just fine, and the company we flew with was great.  But since I would have personally liked knowing prior to booking, I thought I’d give you all a heads up!

Once everyone is checked in, you’re then shuttled to the actual takeoff area.  If I’m remembering correctly, I believe it was about a 30-45 minute drive – you can try to grab a little more shut eye on the way!

After arriving it’s another 30-45 minute wait while they fill the balloons with air.  This is a great photo opportunity as well.  It’s pretty incredible to see the balloons so up close!  Some balloons are already in the air too, which is also an amazing sight to see.  Take a look at some of our pre-flight photos!

Hot Air Balloon Flying over Temecula Wine Country
Inflating a Hot Air Balloon in Temecula
Daniel and Michele Take a Hot Air Balloon Ride in Temecula
Setting Up the Hot Air Balloon in Temecula

After enough air has been pumped into the massive balloon you’re ready for takeoff, it’s a bit of a mad dash to get into the basket while they hold it down (so it doesn’t float away before you’re in it!).  Tip:  Don’t wear a skirt!  Unless you want to flash everyone while you’re haphazardly trying to get into the basket.

Taking a hot air balloon ride was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had.  My favorite moment was taking off, it felt exactly how you’d think floating away in a balloon would feel like.  It’s a feeling you really can’t describe properly and simply must experience yourself.  And that was just the takeoff!  When you’re actually in the air it is completely breathtaking and exhilarating.  Being able to see the balloons on the ground still being filled with air, other balloons taking off, the view of wine country, and the other hot air balloons in the air…  It was incredible!

Here are some of my favorite pictures.

View of Hot Air Balloons During Takeoff
View During a Hot Air Balloon Ride in Temecula Wine Country
Rolling Fog Over Temecula California
Hot Air Balloon Rides in Temecula
View of Temecula Wine Country from a Hot Air Balloon
Packing Up the Hot Air Balloon

I can’t remember exactly how long we were in the air for, but it may have been as much as 60-90 minutes.  When it’s time to come down, I have a few words of advice:  hold on tight.  Like, really really tight.  Landing a hot air balloon isn’t exact science, and wind is a huge factor.  Be prepared that it may be very bumpy, and you may end up in a bush.  I thought I was holding on tight, but when we crashed (I mean, landed) I almost flew out of the basket.  Luckily, my boyfriend caught me just in time!

After your adventurous landing, you’ll have the chance to see them pack up the balloon.  Then you’ll be shuttled to a picnic area for a complimentary breakfast (champagne included!).  Don’t expect anything too fancy, it’s basically just plastic wrapped snack cakes, but it was still a really nice and appreciated touch to end an overall amazing experience.

Daniel's Birthday Hot Air Balloon Ride

Taking a hot air balloon ride in Temecula was a once in a lifetime experience (although, I hope I get to do it again soon!), and I was so happy I could give and share the experience with Daniel.

If you ever have the opportunity take a hot air balloon ride, TAKE IT TAKE IT TAKE IT!  It will be the most amazing adventure that you will never forget!

Rockaway Beach Old-Growth Cedar Wetlands Preserve

If you read my romantic getaway post about Rockaway Beach, you know I had searched long and hard to find things to do in the area.  Since we went in the off-season, beach activities (which is the main attraction in the summer) were kind of limited.  While we loved enjoying the awesome vacation home we were staying in, I still thought it would be nice to have some outside activities during our stay.  We had already stopped at the Tillamook Cheese Factory on our way there, so that didn’t leave much more to do unless we wanted to drive up to Seaside.

Cedar Tree ReserveLuckily, I came across an article about the Rockaway Beach Old-Growth Cedar Wetlands Preserve.  It is a 45-acre home to some of the remaining giant red cedar trees in Oregon – how lucky that it’s right in town!  It is somewhat of a hidden gem, mostly only known by the locals.

Makes sense, as it was pretty hard to find any information about it, even just how to get to there!  The article I found was written in 2009, and unfortunately it seems the trail has changed a lot since then.  By following the directions from the article, we ended up entering a trailhead that you really don’t want to go through.

Very overgrown and fallen trees everywhere, it would be very easy to get turned around, as the trail is no longer a clear path.


One upside of going the wrong way was that we got to see this humongous trunk and all of its roots!

Cedar Tree Trunk

Scale of Cedar Tree Trunk

After taking pictures, we were about to give up since we really weren’t sure where the actual trail was.  Fortunately, we heard a couple coming towards us!  They told us how to stay on the path and where the real trailhead was!  The trail you want to take is on Washington and Island.  Directions:  Take Washington St., which is right off the 101 freeway.  You want to take Washington away from the ocean and towards Island St.  Turn left on Island, and there you will find the trailhead.

It’s a very easy and beautiful hike, and it’s only about 1-mile.  Tip:  There are some flat stones on the path that, what I believe, are meant to be stepping-stones.  Be very careful if you step on them, as they are incredibly slippery.  I would also advise dressing in layers, and in shoes you don’t mind getting muddy.

When you get to end of the trail, you will find one of the biggest trees in Oregon, with a circumference of 49 feet!  Take a look at these photos!

Cedar Tree in Rockaway Beach

Old Cedar Tree

Huge Cedar Tree

Daniel & Michele at Cedar Tree Reserve

So hard to get the scale of this tree in pictures, it really needs to be seen in person.  As you can see from some of the photos, there is a boardwalk surrounding the tree for viewing, and there are benches on the boardwalk as well (not shown).  It was such a beautiful, quiet, and peaceful spot – it would make a great place to eat lunch.  We are definitely going to pack some sandwiches next time we go!  This tree, as well as others in the Wetland Preserve, were truly amazing to see.  If you are in Rockaway Beach, I hope you get the chance to visit this spot.  It is worth it!

Tillamook Cheese Factory in Oregon

Tillamook Cheese Factory

If you’re visiting the Oregon Coast, a main attraction besides the ocean is the Tillamook Cheese Factory.  Daniel had been to the factory once before, so he already knew how awesome it was.  But I had never been, and it just so happened to be on the way to Rockaway Beach.  Clearly we had to make a stop!

Tillamook Cheese has a long history in Oregon, and the factory is the perfect place to learn more.  They have historical facts and videos all over the place, and you can also learn more about the cheese industry itself with a self-guided tour.  Plus, you can see how it’s made and packaged as there are multiple viewing areas.  Tip:  If you really want to see the full production in action, don’t go on a Sunday.  That’s when we went, and although it was nice that it was less busy, the production line was all but shut down.

Tillamook used to only be accessible by water, and this is the original ship that brought their cheese to Portland.

Tillamook Cheese Ship

While the history is incredibly fascinating, the real attraction is the cheese!  Here you can see Tillamook provides a bunch of cheese samples.

Tillamook Cheese Samples

This, of course, leads you into where the cheese for purchase is!  Here is just one small case of what they have to offer.

Tillamook Cheese Case

But they don’t stop with just cheese.  They also have fudge!  We came home with far too much cheese and a slice of pumpkin fudge.  So good!

Tillamook Fudge

And don’t forget to get a scoop (or two) of ice cream!

Tillamook Ice Cream

We saw a couple of fun photo opportunities throughout the factory, and this one was the best (we thought).  Be sure to get a picture in the Tillamook Van!

Daniel & Michele in Tillamook Van

This is dairy heaven, I tell you!  The Tillamook Cheese Factory is definitely worth a stop!

Fat Dog PizzaWhile we later found out that the cheese factory also serves food, we didn’t know that at the time, so we stopped for lunch in the main part of town.

We ate at a really small, but really amazing place called Fat Dog Pizza.  If you’re looking to explore more of the town, there are a variety of restaurants in the area.  If you’re in the mood for pizza, check this place out!

If you already read my Rockaway Beach post, then you know if you’re staying in town, there aren’t that many food and activity options there.  Luckily, Tillamook is only about a 20-minute drive from Rockaway, and can easily add variety to your getaway if you’re looking for more restaurants and excursions.