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.
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.
At the helm of his urban winery in the heart of the Cedros Design District, winemaker Adam Carruth handcrafts award-winning wines, including the 2011 San Francisco Chronicle Best in Class Alexander Valley Cabernet, from grapes he fastidiously collects from all over California. His team handles the production of each varietal from crush to finish, aging juices in barrels that line the walls of the industrial-chic tasting room. The final products—which range from a crisp sauvignon blanc to a bordeaux-style Surfing Madonna—slosh into customized stemware for patrons’ enjoyment seven days a week. Also in the tasting room, guests can peruse the exhibited work of local artists, break into crunchy baguettes from Bread & Cie or nibble on cheese.
Just off the coast of MIssion Bay, San Diego Powersports maintains an armada of rental jet-skis and boats. Seadoo GTX personal watercraft carve through the bay's gentle waves, carrying up to three passengers at exhilarating speeds. Like a team of horses towing a sports car, the jet-ski's four-stroke engine strikes a balance between performance and fuel efficiency. Cobalt boats carry up to 12 passengers in comfort, each vessel's deep hull providing complete stability. Both varieties of watercraft are easily captained by even novices after a brief lesson.