You’ll float too as you embark on this 1980s adventure into the sewers. Follow along as these seven children try to figure out why kids keep disappearing from the town of Derry, Maine. [Read more…]
The “Characters In Flight” balloon at Disney Springs has been renamed to reflect the new look that was unveiled this past January. [Read more…]
The Characters in Flight tethered helium balloon ride at Downtown Disney was removed for a thorough inspection last Friday night after an incident involving a similar balloon in Hong Kong. [Read more…]
Orlando Balloons Rides added another balloon to its fleet today. But it’s not just another hot air balloon. This balloon is 11 stories high when fully inflated and carries up to 24 passengers. It’s the largest hot air balloon in the U.S. [Read more…]
In our current Spring issue, we have a story and photo spread about seeing Orlando from above by helicopter. We also have written about the Characters in Flight tethered balloon ride at Downtown Disney. Now a new option has opened up with Old Town Balloon Ride.
Lynn and Dave Rigby opened the new attraction in Old Town, the small shopping and attractions complex on U.S. 192, just a couple of weeks ago. The balloon is very noticeable when up but you may not have seen it yet since they’re grounded when the winds get too strong.
The balloon itself is very similar to the Characters in Flight one. Both are filled with helium and are tethered by cable to a motor on the ground. But that’s about where the similarities end. While the balloon at Disney lifts a large circular platform holding up to 30 guests. The Old Town Balloon ride lifts a basket which holds up to five people (or 900 total pounds). This gives the Old Town Balloon more of an intimate feel, like a true hot air balloon ride.
Because the basket is small, the staff doesn’t ride up with you, but a walkie-talkie is provided in the basket so you can contact the staff below. The ride lasts eight to 10 minutes, but if they’re not busy they may let you float a while longer.
The balloon takes you about 300 feet in the air. The views are fantastic from that altitude. Different times of the day also bring different views – from bright sunlight, to sunset, to seeing the lights of the night. They’re also offering morning sunrise rides by reservation. Besides the U.S. 192 area, you’ll see views of Disney and downtown Orlando in the distance.
Owner Dave Rigby has been a pilot for 20 years and all of the staff took part in training from the aerostat balloon manufacturer. If the worst should happen and the balloon is somehow released from its tether, once it reaches 1,000 feet a release value will let the helium leak out, bringing you slowly to the ground. The owners are always monitoring the wind from multiple locations. They won’t operate the balloon if the wind gusts get above 18 miles per hour. They typically like to only go up with the winds are at seven or eight miles per hour.
Right now the balloon is a solid off-white color but owner Lynn Rigby said they’re still deciding on a final design.
The rides are $15 per adult and $10 for children. They operate from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. every day. The balloon is lit from the inside at night. Old Town Balloon Ride can be reached at 321-284-7506.
Since 2002, Universal Studios has partnered with Macy’s to bring elements of the famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to Orlando during the holiday season. In addition to shipping down memorable floats featured in the annual New York parade, Macy’s brings several of the giganic balloons that have made the parade so popular over the decades.
But guests visiting Universal Studios have a chance to do much more than simply watch the parade pass by. Each day, park guests have the opportunity to actually become “balloon handlers,” helping to guide inflated characters through Universal’s streets. On Dec. 15, I (along with Orlando Attractions Magazine editor Matt Roseboom) had a chance to take part in leading Universal’s and Macy’s newest balloon, Big Man Santa, around the parade route to see what the balloon handling experience is all about.
Before I give you my impressions, here’s a summary video featuring interviews with Universal show director Michael Aiello and design director for Macy’s Parade Studio Jerry Ospa as well as a look inside the backlot building where they park the inflated balloons and a bit of balloon handler training… and a glimpse at myself and Matt as balloon handlers:
In short, being a balloon handler is a lot of fun. The “training” process begins as guests are each given a jumpsuit, gloves, and a Santa hat. Jumpsuits come in a variety of colors, depending on the balloon.
As you saw in the video above, we were assigned to Universal’s newest balloon, Big Man Santa, which apparently requires black jumpsuits. While they’re not the best color for dealing with Florida’s sun (yes, it’s hot even in December here), we lucked out with enough cloud cover to keep us cool. The padded gloves were even welcome as holding onto the “bone” (as they call it) attached to the balloon’s string would be horribly uncomfortable without them. And, of course, the Santa hat adds a little festive style to the otherwise bland costume.