Leaf Peeping from the Sky

Written By: Lissa Poirot

FALL IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE times of year.

How can one hate a season where the humidity has disappeared, the air is crisp, the sky is a blue backdrop to the reds, oranges and golds of the foliage and there are festivals practically every weekend? Oh, wait.

Now that many of our favorite things have been canceled, from the North Georgia State Fair to the Georgia Apple Festival to Helen Festhalle’s Oktoberfest (all of which have been staples for nearly a half a century), it may feel fall won’t be much fun. This is time to think outside the box. Consider celebrating the season from above, far from the crowds in a space that is all your own.

A SLOW SOAR TO SEE THE SITES

There is just something alluring about seeing a hot air balloon soar peacefully overhead. Now is the best time to consider finally experiencing it for yourself. Just imagine: A cozy sweater, a bottle of wine and views that seem to last for days. Depending on the wind speed and direction, you can soar as high as several thousand feet or just over the treetops on an hour-long flight that you’ll never forget.

With a Balloons Over Georgia flight, you can see the foliage, the North Georgia mountains, the vineyards and the city far in the distance on a ride. You can plot your course on a private flight for two at $425 per person. Located in Cumming, you’ll meet your pilot before sunrise or sunset for the time of your choice, which way you want to see the sun hitting the foliage is entirely up to you. balloonsovergeorgia.com

You’ll find Wind Wizards Hot Air Balloon Adventures providing intimate excursions for those in the Marietta, Woodstock, Roswell, Alpharetta and Cumming area. Two people can share a 2- to 3-hour experience with a 1-hour flight that includes light snacks and champagne for $350. If you are more than 30 miles from 30328, the pilot will bring the balloon to you for $450 and travel expenses. balloonatl.com

If you are looking to take more people on your overhead excursion, Balloon Atlanta provides the romantic for-two rides as well as floats for up to six people for $350 per person. Balloon rides cover North Georgia areas including Alpharetta, Cartersville, Douglasville, Gainesville, Canton, Marietta and Roswell. balloonatlanta.com

FLY IN A FLYING MACHINE

Fly without wearing a face mask in a vintage biplane, the way flying originated. These two-winged planes were originally developed by the Wright brothers in the early 1900s and allow you to ride comfortably in the open-air to take in the views.

Relax and let the pilot do all the work or even take the control to experience flying yourself over the mountains, lakes, Stone Mountain and Atlanta with Biplane Adventures. You and a friend can take a flight from 25 minutes to an hour beginning $125 per person. biplaneride.com

Or choose to take to the air above the Blue Ridge Mountains with Great American Days. You’ll follow along the ridge of Pine Lodge Mountain with the forests awash in color in a flight for two departing from Kennesaw. greatamericandays.com

Fly high above Calhoun, Cleveland, Lake Allatoona, Barnsley Gardens and the North Georgia Mountains in a 30- or 60-minute flight with Southern Biplanes. Flights are $250 or $400 and can include—if you want—loops, rolls and other aerobatic flights. southern-biplanes.com

GLIDE LIKE AN EAGLE

If you have ever dreamed of what it would be like to fly, try a tandem hang gliding adventure from the mountains of North Georgia. (See our story about hang gliding in the Outer Banks.) You can soar 1,500 or 3,000 feet above the trees and red clay of Georgia higher than the Empire State Building—for as little as $149.

Hang glide from Lookout Mountain near Chattanooga, Tennessee, with an introductory experience with Lookout Mountain Flight Park with flights lasting up to 20 minutes depending on the air that that keeps you flowing. flylookout.com

Powered hang gliding that can assist with your time in the air can be found through Hang Glide North Georgia, which provides 20-minutes of flight starting at $119. With the power available you can even reach heights of 6,000 feet! For $285 and up you can fly into the mountains above Cleveland, Helen, Blairsville and the Blue Ridge Valley, where the trees will provide the most vibrant hues. Flights depart from Jackson County Airport in Jefferson. hangglidenorthgeorgia.com

TRAVEL TREE TO TREE ABOVE TREETOPS

If staying closer to the ground is more your speed, there are a number of adventure parks offering canopy tours from zip lines where you will be right in the colors of the fall.

You can enjoy 165 acres of the North Georgia Mountains in Blue Ridge with Zipline Canopy Tours that offers more than 6,000 feet of cable on 13 zips ranging from 250 to 1,000 feet, as well as three sky bridges. Adventures can last two hours on zips ranging from 25 to 75 feet in height. One-hour tours are $49.99 and two-hour tours are $89.99. zipblueridge.com

Don’t let the “Screaming Eagle” by Amicalola Zipline scare you away from enjoying canopy zip tours within Amicalola Falls State Park. The 829-acre park near Dawsonville has multiple levels based on experience starting at just $29. The top-level tour lasts four hours with 16 zip lines ranging from 75 to 2,000 feet and heights up to 250 feet above the trees. The company also provides zip lining in Unicoi State Park. amicalolazipline.com or unicoizipline.com

You’ll find additional treetop fun at Historic Banning Mills running through the Chattahoochee watershed and the Snake Creek Gorge southwest of Atlanta in Whitesburg. Tours include forests or woodlands with the extreme four-hour activity running up to 3,400 feet at speed of up to 75 miles per hour with prices beginning at $49. historicbanningmills.com

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