Hot air balloons were originally designed as sky prisons for bullies to spend the rest of their natural lives cruelly mocking the weightlessness of timid clouds. Enjoy a less insulting application of aeronautics with today's Groupon: for $125, you get a one-hour hot air balloon ride from R.O. Franks Aviation Company in Asheville (a $250 value).
For 15 years, third-generation sky engineer R. Addison M. Brown has hoisted panorama-junkies into the heavens by harnessing the power of hot, blustery air. Prospective serenity-seekers meet at dawn and usually lift off a few miles north of downtown Asheville, weather permitting, in time to watch the sun rise over the Blue Ridge Mountains. Rising up to 5,000 feet above the surrounding forests, passengers may even be treated to an intimate and peaceful view of the city as Captain Addison points out local landmarks, such as the historic Biltmore Estate and the mysterious Mothra-shaped crater. Group size is limited to four riders, or three riders and an overweight scarecrow. Bring a warm hat and coat, and be sure to book as [early in advance as possible], especially for next autumn's fall-leaf-season rides.
Six Google Mappers give R.O. Franks Aviation Company five stars:
-   - Once you launch, the peacefulness overcomes you. Our pilot Addison was great, with a cool command of the balloon, while still pointing out landmarks, all while giving us the opportunity to soak the scenery in. Sailor
-   - Ok, I have to admit, I was nervous when my boyfriend suggested going on a balloon ride. But I went anyway because I knew that if I had missed this opportunity I would have regretted it. I am SO SO glad that I took the ride. Carol
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