If you've ever tried to beat rush-hour traffic by tethering your car with helium-filled balloons, then you know that hot-air flight should be left to the professionals. The Federal Aviation Administration–certified pilots at Sky Drifters Hot Air Ballooning embark on journeys from the Sierra Nevada foothills daily, and their company has been named one of the 10Best attractions in Sacramento. Whether piloting a small group or private flight, the balloon captains show passengers a bird’s-eye view of the rolling hills, winding rivers and finely crafted comb-overs whose majesty can only be truly appreciated from above. Their aerial transports also play host to weddings in the sky and can provide a lift to those who enjoy BASE jumping from the clouds.
The FAA-certified instructors at Future Eagles Aviation put clients behind the controls of actual aircraft as they teach them the ins and outs of aviation. Students amass skills such as navigation and cockpit familiarity on the ground in adventure flight school before lifting off in a Cessna 172 training aircraft for 30 minutes of flight time. Kids can also take to the sky during Future Eagles Aviation’s youth aviation summer camp, a weeklong foray into the world of cloud skimming and Peter Pan mimicry during which kids aged 10 and older practice on simulators and log real flight hours in training aircraft.
Since 1981, Sacramento State Aquatic Center has rented fun and educational water vessels to local aquaphiles looking to skitter along the surface of Lake Natoma. Choose from several options for your hour of water-top fun: enjoy the natural landscape at a leisurely pace by cruising out onto the lake in a person-powered canoe, or opt for a tandem or cabo kayak rental for a slightly more X-treme canoe-like experience. If a missed morning spinning class has your legs feeling underworked and lazy, launch onto the lake in a hydro bike and ride over the waves on the pedal-powered pond skimmer.
To Jeff Putnam, fly-fishing isn't just a sport; it's also his work, his leisure, and a large part of his identity. He first pulled on fly-fishing gear at the age of 11, and at 16 began guiding fishermen through the trout- and bass-inhabited waters of Northern California. Since then, he's also worked as a fisherman's guide in Montana and Colorado and cast his line over waters as far away as Belize and Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean. During group and private lessons, Jeff demonstrates fly-fishing techniques before participants try them out themselves. With his guidance, they learn many ways to hook finned prey from streams and lakes, or to snag inflatable rafts from neighbor's swimming pools.
There's treasure hidden across California, though it's not the gold that once brought miners out west. This particular prize lies beneath the state's winding streams and wide coastal rivers: fish beyond a tartar sauce mogul's wildest dreams. That's where PW Fly Fishing & Guide Service takes over. Their guides work with anglers of all levels to take them on both wading and boat fishing trips. They can also teach people the finer points of fly fishing, and they can operate a camera with ease—which is good, since clients will likely want to pose for a photo once they reel in their treasure.