Tag Archive: black hills balloons

  1. COVID19 SAFETY MESSAGE

    Comments Off on COVID19 SAFETY MESSAGE

    FROM THE DESK OF KEELY

    COVID19 SAFETY MESSAGE – 2021 UPDATE

    2020 was a challenging year for us all.  Like so many, Black Hills Balloons was forced to monitor and adapt throughout the year; to ensure the safest environment possible during our 2020 flying season. South Dakota quickly became a popular destination for visitors who chose to get outside, get fresh air, and explore our wide-open spaces. Although a challenging year, it was also a successful one, sharing the beautiful skies with guests from all over the US, all while maintaining a healthy and happy covid-free staff.

    We are lucky and grateful we were able to operate with minor changes to our standard practices and ensure the best experience for all.  And we are very much looking forward to our 2021 season.  Not only do we look forward to a little more normalcy, but we are more confident going into the season, knowing our 2020 operational procedures were so successful.

    As the 2021 flying season is upon us, we will continue focusing on health safety procedures as well as maintaining the strict aviation safety protocols already in place.

    In addition to standard operational procedures, including drug and alcohol policies, emergency procedures, disaster management, risk assessment, and day-to-day cleaning of equipment, we will continue the below items implemented in 2020.

    • A relationship with an expert in cleaning and sanitation is important to us. We have partnered with Black Hills Chemical and Janitorial Supply who are the leading sanitation company in the Black Hills.  They provide supplies for cleaning anything and everything that our guests and staff encounter.
    • Our welcome area, vehicles, and balloons will be sanitized before and after each use.
    • Hand sanitizer will always be available.
    • If requested, only one group at a time will be allowed in the welcome area to sign waivers, use the bathroom, and purchase merchandise. Between groups, we will clean the area, including any pens used to sign waivers.
    • Complimentary face masks and anti-fog safety glasses are available for all our guests.
    • As always, our crew will set up and pack the balloon, allowing guests to step back and enjoy the experience without close interaction. The crew will ride in a separate vehicle from our guests.
    • We are limiting the number of passengers per balloon and baskets are compartmentalized, creating more distance between parties.
    • Our crew will wear masks when near guests and will only work if they are feeling healthy and not showing symptoms.
    • We ask that anyone who feels ill has a fever, or shows symptoms stay at home. A balloon ride can wait for another day and we will be here to fly you.  And we honor that request to stay home, by providing one of the most lenient cancelation policies around.

    Ballooning is an outdoor activity that allows passengers to enjoy fresh air and wide-open spaces.  Although the quarters are somewhat close, you are looking out, taking in the views, and taking photos.

    Safety is our highest priority (it always has been) and we will go above and beyond to ensure the safety of our guests and staff.  We appreciate your business in these tough times.  We could not do this without you.  With your support, we will all continue to make memories with our loved ones for years to come.

    South Dakota is prioritizing safe travel and is ready and waiting to welcome you to our Great Faces and Great Places. Wide-open spaces and outdoor attractions provide ideal opportunities for safe & accessible travel.  For more information, click HERE.

    See you soon!

    Damien and Keely Mahony

  2. 48 HOURS IN THE BLACK HILLS

    Comments Off on 48 HOURS IN THE BLACK HILLS
    FROM THE DESK OF KEELY

    48 HOURS IN THE BLACK HILLS – For the Outdoor Adventurer

    Damien and I often joke that we “traded in our 9 to 5, for a 5 to 9”, but it’s not entirely wrong. Before purchasing Black Hills Balloons in 2015, we often dreamed of owning our own business and creating a better life for ourselves; one that allowed us to enjoy the outdoors, be a bit healthier and spend more time with each other. It’s hard to believe we’re prepping for our 6th season, doing what we love and living that dream of ours.

    We’re often asked about our favorite restaurants, hikes and day trips here in the Black Hills. It’s such a beautiful place full of hidden gems, its easy to get overwhelmed by all there is to do. And there’s SO MUCH TO DO, for everyone… how lucky we are to live in a place with something for everyone.

    When we host a houseguest, we gear their visit to what they like most; fine-tuning itineraries for friends from different backgrounds. It’s so fun to share our favorite spots with friends and family, we just had to share it with all of you. Here is our take on “48 hours in the Black Hills”, for the outdoor adventurer; a person who wants to get out and experience nature and the Black Hills in all her glory.

    48 Hours in the Black Hills – For the Outdoor Adventurer

    Day 1:

    A balloon flight with Black Hills Balloons, of course! You can’t miss an opportunity to soar over the Black Hills in a hot air balloon. Flying over the areas unique landscapes, valleys and granite formations is a great way to enjoy the beauty of the area. Paired with a serene sunrise, wildlife, and a celebratory toast of champagne, the experience is once in a lifetime.  We always recommend you schedule your flight on your first day of vacation. That way, if Mother Nature isn’t cooperating, we have plenty of backup opportunities during your stay.

    After your flight, rent a paddleboard or kayak from the South Dakota Outdoor Shop. Located next door to our passenger meeting location, the SD Outdoor Shop is not only convenient but offers fantastic advice and rentals for the adventurer looking to explore our beautiful area. Visit Custer State Parks Sylvan Lake for a picturesque paddle or Legion Lake for a relaxing day in the sun.

    If you’re looking for something a little more unique to the area, try rock climbing with Sylvan Rocks Climbing Guides. Ranging from 3 hours to full-day adventures for first-timers or experienced climbers, the guides at Sylvan Rocks will ensure you are safe while climbing some of the nation’s most recognized rock formations. They even offer a day of climbing Devils Tower, if you’re up for it!

    Outdoor rentals, gear and advice for the South Dakota Black Hills

    Day 2:

    Rent an ATV from Adventure Rentals! Offering full or half-day rentals, Adventure Rentals is an official Polaris outfitter, so you know they’ll always have the best machines. The Black Hills have nearly 4,000 miles of off-road trails to explore and the team at Adventure Rentals are regularly praised for their personalized approach to planning a guest’s perfect day.

    Stop along your ATV travels for a hike to round out your day. Custer State Park offers hikes requiring a variety of skill levels. Just make sure you take plenty of water, and your camera to take full advantage of the amazing views. And while you’re at it, drive the Wildlife Loop in Custer State Park for an up-close-and-personal visit with our area’s famous bison herd before you return your ATV.

    If an ATV isn’t your style, tour the Badlands on a bicycle with Black Hills Tour Company. The private day tours can manage up to 8 guests, includes local transportation, your gear, a guide, and a picnic lunch. Catch stunning views of Badlands while you peddle 30 miles through the pinnacles and lower shale formations that make up the historic national park.

    Black Hills Tour Company custom VW limo bus

    But who are we kidding? With so much adventure in the Black Hills, you’ll likely need more than 48 hours. Try yoga, biking our famous 100+ mile Mickelson trail, fly in a helicopter over Mount Rushmore, explore underground at Wind Cave National Park or Jewel Cave National Monument, which are recognized as being two of the largest cave systems in the world, or just spend a day wildlife watching along the miles and miles of trails offered in Custer State Park and surrounding Black Hills National Forest. And once you’ve done it all, you need to come back when the snow falls for fat biking, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, ice fishing and more… It’s so overwhelming you’ll likely want to visit again and again. We encourage it!

    View Custer State Park and the Needles from the air.

    A best-kept secret, we’re not only lucky to live here in the Black Hills, but we’re also happy to share it and recommend our favorite things to do. Let us know if you’d like some advice on enjoying our beautiful Black Hills. And let us know if you’ve enjoyed any of the activities shared here.

     

  3. 48 HOURS IN THE BLACK HILLS

    Comments Off on 48 HOURS IN THE BLACK HILLS
    From the desk of Keely

    48 HOURS IN THE BLACK HILLS – For the Foodie

    Quite often when customers call to book a hot air balloon flight with Black Hills Balloons, Damien And I are asked about our favorite restaurants, hikes and day trips here in the Black Hills.  It’s such a beautiful place full of hidden gems, its easy to get overwhelmed by all there is to do.  And there’s SO MUCH TO DO, for everyone really… how lucky we are to live in a place with something for everyone.

    We also find that when we host a houseguest, we try to gear their visit to what they like most; fine-tuning itineraries for friends from different backgrounds.  It’s so much fun to share our favorite spots with friends and family and make suggestions to those that inquire over the phone, we just had to share it with all of you.  Here is our take on “48 hours in the Black Hills”, geared towards The Foodie; a person who not only loves food but considers it a hobby.

    48 Hours in the Black Hills – The Foodie

    Day 1:
    Breakfast

    Try Skogen Kitchen in Custer.  Focusing on breakfast and dinner, this restaurant could compete with any high-end restaurant in NYC, and yet it’s located in Custer SD, population 2000.  Choose the Morning Walleye with potato-bacon hash, mint emulsion and sunny side up egg, the Ma & Paul Pancakes topped with fried chicken, franks hot sauce and maple syrup, or the Avocado Toast featuring 9-grain bread, avocado, shaved red onion, chopped eggs, sprouts, and lemon pepper.  Just make sure you make reservations (they only serve breakfast on Saturday and Sunday) and be prepared to be blown away.

    Walleye breakfast skogen kitchen
    Lunch

    Your 48 hours in the Black Hills wouldn’t be complete without a brewery tour with Black Hills Tour Company. Allow them to escort you to multiple Black Hills breweries in their custom VW limo bus.  Along the way, skip lunch while sampling brews at Lost Cabin, Miner Brewing, Mount Rushmore Brewing Company and more.  Most of the breweries have food available via full kitchen or visiting food truck to tide you over until dinner.

    Black Hills Tour Company custom VW limo bus
    Dinner

    South Dakota might not be known for its curries, but maybe it should be.  For dinner, we recommend Everest Cuisine in Rapid City for some of the best lamb curries you can find in the states… it’s true!  The cozy restaurant greets you at the door with that delicious smell of curry, friendly smiles and a menu full of all your favorites.  It’s almost impossible to stick to one item, so bring friends and share to get the best variety on your plate.

    Day 2:
    Breakfast

    Start traditional with Jerry’s Cakes and Donuts or modern with Harriet and Oak, either way, you’ll need to save room for lunch and dinner.  Jerry’s is one of those neat old donut shops that has stood the test of time.  Get there early because they sell out almost daily and enjoy a traditional donut and cup of joe.  Or, Harriet and Oak for a house-roasted coffee drink and a sweet potato breakfast burrito, acai bowl or organic oatmeal.  If you are vegan or gluten-free, they can accommodate, and they do it well.

    Lunch

    No visit to the Black Hills is complete without a visit to Mt Rushmore’s Carvers Cafe for a bowl of bison chili.  The monument’s restaurant is full of delicious items but it’s the homemade chili featuring locally sourced bison, that continually keeps us coming back for more.  The view isn’t so bad either and if you can manage it, their famous Monumental Scoops of ice cream makes for the perfect presidential selfie.  Did you know Thomas Jefferson brought the first recipe to the states?  Mount Rushmore is the only place you can get a scoop.

    The Custer Wolf Pub Sandwich
    Dinner

    For dinner, head to The Custer Wolf.  Named after a legendary wolf who tormented the area in the 1920s, the restaurant is anything but scary.  A local hotspot full of craft beer and fresh-made menu items, the Wolf is known for its wall of beer steins, each assigned to a regular customer.  Stop in for Walleye Ceviche, added to the menu after the owners traveled to Belize, it’s a fresh South Dakota take on the popular seafood dish, the Shredded Buffalo Sandwich or their signature Bread Pudding topped with Whiskey Caramel Sauce.  You won’t be disappointed.  Grab a board game and a pint for a fun evening in this cozy spot.  The friendly place will treat you like family.  It’s the perfect spot to wrap up your 48 hours of the Black Hills.

    The Custer Wolf - food and drink in Custer South Dakota

    Of course, speaking of wrapping up.  If you’re looking for a nightcap, check out The Custer Beacon.  The new Custer venue regularly hosts touring and local musicians, serves wine and beer and has a fun late night menu.  A mix of comfy couches and tall wooden tables, you’re guaranteed to find a good spot to absorb some local tunes, digest and reminisce.

    Between meals, we recommend touring the beautiful area.  The Black Hills area is perfect for hiking, kayaking, hot air ballooning (obviously) and visiting local wildlife, but we’ll save specifics for our next “48 Hours in the Black Hills” list.  Have you checked out any of the restaurants we mentioned?  Any tips or locations we missed?  Please share, there’s just too much good food in the Hills for 48 hours, wouldn’t you agree?

     

  4. Love was in the air, literally.

    Comments Off on Love was in the air, literally.
    From the desk of Keely

    Love was in the air, literally.

    Quitting our jobs, moving, buying a business and finally, a wedding.

    Over the years, Damien and I have toyed with the idea of adding a blog to our ever-evolving business plan.  We constantly hear from friends, family and passengers, that our day-to-day stories need to be shared.  We meet such great people flying these gorgeous South Dakota Black Hills, it’s naturally the next step in our quest to share our story, the story of hot air ballooning, and the incredibly fun people that are drawn to it.

    As owners and operators of Black Hills Balloons, Damien and I have taken on many titles.  Pilot, Flight Instructor, Small Business Owner, FAA Certified Repairman and more, recently adding the most fun title of all; Husband and Wife.

    And so, after just celebrating our one year anniversary, I figured this was the perfect place to start.  (you can now finally add “Blogger” to the above mentioned titles…).

    Here is our story.

    After purchasing a business together, moving to the Black Hills, and a year of planning, our wedding day was finally approaching.  I kept calling it a “destination wedding for everyone but us”; knowing most would need to travel, but sharing this beautiful area was part of the plan.  We chose April 5th, knowing full-well that South Dakota Spring can be moody, and immediately researched “early April” weather history.  Over the last 5 years, temps varied from 14 degrees to 87 degrees.  Perfect…?

    As April 5th approached, one thing became apparent.  I hugged and greeted our arriving guests, happily stating “just wear everything you own to the ceremony”, with a wink.  I could see the terror in their eyes.  Snow was in the forecast and we weren’t going to budge.  You see, Damien and I chose the beautiful and historic Stratobowl as our ceremony site, and it wasn’t going to happen anywhere else.

    Quick side note.

    The Stratobowl, located just outside Rapid City, is the birthplace of space exploration.  In 1935, the Army Air Corps and National Geographic Society launched a manned balloon from this very location, reaching over 72,000 feet.  It was the first time human’s saw the curvature of the earth, pre-NASA and man’s first visit to the stratosphere.  Since then, there have been many record breaking balloon flights from this spot and it’s a ballooner’s paradise.

    The day arrived.

    Snow was in the forecast.  Guests from Hawaii, California, Florida, Ireland and more, bundled up and arrived to the Stratobowl….and it was stunning.  Like a ridiculously happy snow globe, giant flakes swirled around Damien and I while our guests sang, cheered and applauded throughout the ceremony.  It was like the snow and cold created this crazy “is this magic!?” mood that consumed everyone.  It was fantastic.  Each person who braved the weather and our little ceremony in the bowl, seemed to walk away with an attitude of awe.  The Black Hills, in all her glory, greeted our guests, and one by one they fell in love.

    This is why we love the Black Hills and why we feel privileged to fly here and share this beautiful place with travelers from every corner of the world.  On that day at her worst, while snow was falling and temps were in the twenties, she managed to find a place in everyone’s heart.  We dare you to visit, meet the locals, take in the views, and not fall in love.

    black hills wedding floral Black Hills SD wedding in the stratobowl bridal party posing in the south dakota black hills stratobowl wedding bar canoe Groomsmen in mixed blue suits vintage wooden chairs in the snow snowy vintage buffet wedding ceremony altar with oil lamps Snowy wedding altar in south dakota wedding grooms parents sing mid ceremony for bride, groom and guests wedding guests celebrating after ceremony

    A big thank you to everyone who made our Big Day special and helped make our guests feel at home!

    Jenny’s Floral

    Emily Costoupolous photography & design

    Black Hills Tour Company

    Hotel Alex Johnson

    Paddy O’Neills

    Vertex Sky Bar

    Timeless Wedding and Event

    The Vintage Lease

    Jerry’s Cakes & Donuts

    Stratobowl

    The Custer Wolf

    Blind Lion

    Lost Cabin