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Florida Guide > Disney General

New Balloon Flight at Downtown Disney Waterside

From April 2009 you can enjoy a new and exciting new thrill at Downtown Disney Waterside – not a roller coaster or simulator but the chance to fly high above the park to get a breathtaking view of Disney and the surrounding area.

Called ‘Characters in Flight, ’ this is a large tethered helium balloon which will take guests 400 ft into the air. This giant red and yellow balloon is decorated with various Disney characters including Mary Poppins, Aladdin, Dumbo and Peter Pan, and below it hangs a large circular gondola.

If the weather conditions are good you will see an amazing 360 degree panorama which could stretch to 10 miles. The flight lasts approximately 10 minutes, and the gondola can accommodate up to 30 people, although with this number there would be no room to move and less chance to see the whole panorama. The actual number of riders is determined by the wind speed, as this attraction is very much at the mercy of the weather.

If the wind is between 0-3 mph then 20 to 30 guests can be accommodated. However, at 3-12 mph this reduces to between 10 and 20 guests. Should the windspeed increase to between 12-22 mph then only 10 guests may take the flight, whilst at wind speeds above 22 mph the ride is cancelled.

Guests climb into the gondola before it ascends to 400 ft. The balloon is tethered, and although it can apparently withstand a Category 1 hurricane, it would not, of course be allowed to operate in these circumstances.

The ascent and descent takes approximately 2 minutes each way, giving you about 5 or 6 minutes in the air. The gondola is surrounded by a solid wall, above which is netting which is large enough for you to fit your camera through to take photos, but small enough to be safe. You will need to hold onto the hand rail as the balloon ascends and descends, as it tends to be a little jerky, but once aloft it is very peaceful and smooth. The one big advantage that this balloon ride has is that unlike a traditional air balloon which needs the balloon to be constantly heated, by turning on a noisy burner, this helium filled balloon is entirely silent.

The cost of a flight is $16 for adults and $10 for children aged between 3 and 9, but you cannot pre-book as flights depend on the weather conditions on the day. If you have time then try to take a night flight – you might even be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the fireworks. It goes without saying that you must take your camera along, as the views are spectacular.

As one who is too scared to try a real balloon flight I can' t wait to try this one!

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Page added on: 19 April 2009
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