It was a gorgeous Friday night. What better way to treat my visiting Dad (who rocks, by the way) than take him up on a beautiful balloon ride to view the evening lights of Orlando from 400 feet in the air? Characters in Flight is located in Downtown Disney and offers guests the chance to enjoy the sites of Walt Disney World and Orlando from a very unique perspective.
According to our receipt (or “Boarding Pass”), my father and I were guests number 108,080 (and 81, I presume) to take part in this adventure. It was $18.00 for each of us (tax included–$12 for children ages 3-8), to ride for about 10 minutes including ascent and descent, which feels much longer (in a good way), as it offers you plenty of time to take in all the sights.
As I mentioned previously, my dad is awesome. Here’s a pic:
Somewhere around the moment I took this picture I remembered, suddenly and profoundly, my fear of heights. 400 feet in the air does not sound that high. Once you approach the balloon and see how small the people are inside of it as opposed to what you imagined in your head, reality sets in. YIPES!
The ascent was peaceful and smooth, and the views from the top really were amazing. Our driver (Conductor? Flyer? Guide? What’s the proper title here ?) was funny, approachable, and friendly. So friendly, in fact, that when he noticed my dad and I trying to take photos of each other, he offered to take one for us—truly, sincerely nice. All I could think, though, when he let go of the wheel, was, “Excuse me, but don’t you have other things to do… like MAKING SURE WE DON’T DIE, FOR INSTANCE??” In all honesty, I’m certain he was very skilled and knew exactly what he was doing. That was just me freaking out—as evidenced by this extremely unflattering photo of me with a death-grip on the balloon rails (which you are free to let go of to take in all angles of the view, once you’re up in the air):
Something to note: when Dad and I first arrived, there was a sign posted informing that, due to high winds, Characters in Flight was not running at that moment. We checked with an Aerophile staff member (the company WDW has contracted for this experience), and they recommended checking back in an hour. We strolled over to the far end of the Downtown Disney Marketplace, enjoyed a ride on the Sassagoula River Boat to Port Orleans and back, returned in just over an hour and it was up and running again. Don’t be too discouraged if that sign greets you right away—conditions can change quickly, and you’ll be thankful that winds are light once you’re up in the air.
If you are afraid of heights like me, it’s worth putting that into consideration before purchasing your Boarding Pass. This attraction may be a bit much for you. But I really think Disney has provided a terrific opportunity to take in the sights of The World from an amazing perspective. And if you time it right, you may see some fireworks from 400 feet up. Not bad for a Friday night .
UPDATE: As of October 2012, there is a gorgeous new balloon for the same great experience!
HAPPY FLYING !