Spotlight on: Sky’s the Limit Ballooning Adventures

Although Sky’s the Limit has been flying hot air balloons for only six months in Santa Barbara County, California, USA, the family-owned business has been operating out of San Diego for more than 20 years.

For James Lawson, the co-owner and pilot of Sky’s the Limit Ballooning Adventures, hot air ballooning is more than a hobby: It’s his livelihood and passion, and it shows in the reviews the company gets online.

“We have all five-star reviews online, like on Yelp and Trip Advisor,” James’s wife, Renee, said.

The business also won Best Hot Air Balloon Company of 2013 on San Diego’s A-List. The couple picked Santa Barbara for their second location partly because there was nothing like it in the area.

“We wanted to do something different,” Renee said. “It’s so beautiful here, and we want people to be able to experience it from the air. We’ve developed a lot of relationships with wonderful people and the whole community has given us their support about flying.”

James is currently the pilot at the Santa Barbara location and has both his commercial pilot and Lighter-than-Air (LTA) private licenses.

“[James] was flying planes one day when he saw a hot air balloon,” Renee said. “He decided that was what he really wanted to do, got the license and his own balloon, and started flying.”

He started flying family members before launching the company in 1994. Most of the Lawsons’ customers fit into two categories: those who are celebrating a special occasion and those who just want to try something they’ve never done before.

“[Flying] is an amazing experience and sometimes people find it hard to put into words,” Renee said. “It’s very peaceful, beautiful, and what you see from above is so different than from passing by on the street.”

Renee added that hot air ballooning can be a romantic adventure, and sometimes people propose while they’re up in the air, and, occasionally, people even get married. Sky’s the Limit also prides themselves on accommodating a wide array of passengers from the terminally ill to the handicapped to the elderly.

“We flew a little boy who was 9 years old who was a part of the ‘Make a Wish’ Foundation,” Renee said. “We also flew a 101-year-old lady.”

Safety is something that the Lawson’s take very seriously. They have one of the best safety records of any balloon company in the United States, which they attribute to their impeccably maintained and inspected balloons.

Because wind conditions are more favorable in the morning hours, the Lawsons have only one flight that departs at their location in Santa Ynez around 6:30 a.m. A seat on a non-private group flight is currently costs $200/per person (normally $225). Private group flights start at $1,250.

The sightseeing adventure includes continental breakfast with Danishes and pastries, as well as champagne and mimosas. Passengers spend about an hour in the balloon; the entire trip lasts around three hours from meeting time until the passengers return to their vehicles.

“They get to see the neighboring towns, and sometimes you can actually see all the way to the Channel Islands and the Pacific Ocean,” Renee said.

Reservations are recommended to be made at least one week in advance, but can be scheduled up to 24 hours before, if availability permits.

For more information, or to make a reservation, call 800-558-5828 or visit

via – Santa Maria Sun, CA.