Even at 2,500 feet in the air, you may have never have felt as still as you do inside one of Skysurfer's balloons. It's quiet—"There's no noise from engines," one passenger remarked—and balloons follow the wind's lead instead of resisting it, making the colorful aircraft's motion hardly noticeable. And because there are no windows between you and the sky, as team member Kaleena Brundage says, "You can reach out and feel the clouds that you're next to."
Skysurfer's team of FAA-certified pilots, many of whom have been with the company since its inception more than 35 years ago, boast a perfect safety record. They embark on two flights daily, one around sunrise over Temecula wine country, and one at sunset in Del Mar. Each flight can accommodate up to 12 people in the balloons' roomy wicker baskets, which are large enough for each passenger to comfortably stand at the basket's side and look out over the Pacific Ocean and surrounding countryside. Pilots pour chilled champagne to celebrate the excursion, each of which lasts from 45 to 60 minutes depending on conditions and the balloon's curfew.
The ROC Race is a 5K fun run with a catch?a dozen of them, to be exact. Twelve giant obstacles stand in the way of victory, including a wrecking ball that threatens to knock runners off their path. The various challenges draw their inspiration from the world's most extreme game shows, where contestants have to run through tires, swing on ropes, and swoosh down giant slides. To make things even more exciting, ROC's organizers encourage participants to dress up in wacky costumes like tutus or outfits inspired by superheroes such as the Fantastic 5K Finisher.
This epic event descends on cities across the U.S., welcoming runners ages 13 and up to fend off water and foam before greeting crowds of spectators at the finish line. A post-race experience keeps things going with even more foam and festivities.
Since the age of 7, Dr. Robert Stonebreaker shared a special affinity with all birds. Wanting to bring people closer to his feathered friends, he lent his passion to Free Flight in 1989, helping evolve the avian boarding-and-breeding center into a sanctuary where visitors could interact with the exotic creatures. Amid open air and emerald palm fronds, guests can let a yellow, orange, and green sun conure perch on their arm or pet a timneh grey while trading info on which local bird store carries the best sunflower seed. The tropical oasis also teems with koi lagoons, where schools of shimmering carp swim under the flaps of eclectus parrots and fluffy white cockatoos soaring through the aviary.
Dr. Stonebraker tragically passed away in 2010, but the team at Free Flight has upheld his tireless work by fostering human-avian relations and furthering visitors' understanding of parrots. Free Flights also encourages involvement through donation, membership, volunteer opportunities, and most notably, education programs.
Pumpkin Stations turn pumpkin shopping and family-park excursions into a one-stop trip. Each of the five Pumpkin Station locations houses a variety of family-fun activities, from giant slides and mini-trains to sky fighter rides and carousels. Mission Valley, for instance, enables visitors to get their sea legs with an on-site boat ride, while the El Cajon game zones gives them a place to rest in between activities. No matter the location, families, friends, and groups can stroll through an asphalt pumpkin patch to seek out a large, plump gourd to take home and carve into a jack-o-lantern.
Across the nation, the skies are filled with giant, kaleidoscopically colored balloons languidly soaring over snowcapped peaks and green valleys. This is partly due to Balloon Rides Online, whose network of nationwide hot-air balloons paints the sky each day. Employing a FAA-approved basket and a professional pilot who has completed at least 500 flight hours, the company floats passengers over mountains, forests, and streams of caramel for one hour. While gliding with the ease of a cloud, pilots encourage guests to snap photos of sprawling landscapes and capture the moment. After landing, crew members and passengers celebrate with a champagne, mimosa or orange-juice toast?an important tradition in hot-air ballooning and preparing for inevitable hovercraft uprisings. With passengers' safety in mind, Balloon Rides Online also keeps a minimum insurance liability of $100,000 per guest.
Commercial pilots certified by the Federal Aviation Administration welcome guests to tours of Southern California aboard hot air balloons. As guests enter into sheared baskets, the pilots offer them complimentary champagne and non-alcoholic beverages before taking off. Sightseeing trips include flights over Temecula Wine Country at sunrise as well as romantic rides along the Pacific coast at sunset.