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A&A Balloon Rides gives patrons unbeatable views of the North Shore—and the thrill of a lifetime. 

It wasn’t until 1783, when French brothers etienne and Joseph Montgolfier hovered over Paris for 20 minutes that the lofty idea for passenger flights in a hot-air balloon was born. In the centuries since then, hot-air ballooning has grown in popularity among tourists and tour operators, but the notion still carries with it an air of luxury and the unknown.

One person who does know a few things about these beautiful balloons is Andre J. Boucher of A&A Balloon Rides,  who has been a pilot for more than 25 years. Boucher’s love of ballooning started when he saw a hot-air balloon in the sky over 20 years ago and decided to follow it. Since becoming a commercial pilot, he’s put in more than 2,000 hours of flight time.

Boucher says the sensation of flying over trees, lakes, and streams and spotting wildlife is the ultimate unforgettable experience. “You don’t feel the wind; you’re part of it, almost not even realizing you’re moving,” he says. A&A balloons float gracefully at heights of 500 to 2,000 feet, affording a bird’s-eye view of southern New Hampshire and the North Shore. Hot-air balloons are shepherded by the breeze, so there’s very little sensation of movement—and no vertigo.

Boucher says most clients celebrate special occasions during their flights, like birthdays, anniversaries, wedding proposals, and even weddings. His baskets hold as many as nine passengers and include celebratory Champagne toasts. “Sunrise flights are popular because the winds are the calmest,” he says.

Boucher’s son, Jason, operates a companion company called Infinity and Beyond. It’s not uncommon for hot-air balloon passengers to see another hot-air balloon in the distance while enjoying their own ride. “It’s great for taking pictures and seeing what you look like up in the sky,” says the elder Boucher.

Clients meet Boucher in nearby Salem, New Hampshire, and should plan for a three-hour experience, with actual flight time averaging about an hour. The cost per person is $200, but if you have $40,000 to $60,000 to spare and can wait four to five months, Boucher can arrange for you to fly in a custom balloon and basket made just for you or your company.