The big balloon at Downtown Disney is properly known as Characters in Flight. I saw it every day during my internship and NEVER had any desire to ride it!
The second day of the program, after Traditions on the first day, is called ‘Our Town’ where you meet up with the new CPs at your location and get your costume for the first time. Then, you go on a tour of your location to learn where all the shops and restaurants are, in case guests ask for directions.
I changed into my new Pin Traders costume and put my business casual clothes into the locker I was assigned to. We walked over to the ferry with our leader and headed out onto the bay.
He says, “There’s only two rides at Downtown Disney, this ferry and that big balloon over there, Characters in Flight. And, you all will be getting to ride BOTH today!”
This threw everyone into ‘dread’ mode as we watched the balloon slowly rise 400 feet. A summer breeze was blowing across the bay and that platform was not level! No way was I getting in that!
We docked by Cirque du Soleil on the West Side, right next to Characters in Flight, which was floating up high at the end of its tether. Our leader talked on and on about how it’s the largest helium balloon, the platform can hold 30 people…..we were all looking very reluctant when he finally finished his spiel and said, “Well, it’s actually not included in today’s activities, you’ll have to come back on your own and pay to ride it!” RELIEF!!!
In just a short time, I realized that Characters in Flight was the most popular location to get engaged at in Downtown Disney. About a month later, we had a newly engaged couple come into my store and the guest talked about how her new fiancé proposed to her 15 minutes ago in front of Characters. She couldn’t figure out why he proposed there as she doesn’t like heights and they didn’t ride the flight.
We decided to make it a Magical Moment for them and gave them some free PhotoPass pictures of the engagement moment, along with a Magical Moment card and some other Disney stuff. That was a lot of fun!
Characters in Flight is the world’s largest tethered helium balloon. The balloon’s 19-foot-diameter basket holds up to 29 people plus one Aérophile-certified balloon pilot per “flight.” You stand on a narrow inner circular platform as the balloon lifts off, ascending 400 feet in the air over Downtown Disney.
Then, for 8 to 10 minutes, guests experience a breathtaking 360-degree view of the Downtown Disney area at Walt Disney World Resort. Soar high above the white peaked tents of the Cirque du Soleil Theater and get a view of the theme parks and Resort hotels off in the distance – you can make out the Epcot ball and see in every direction for 10 miles.
Maximum ride capacity is affected by wind speeds. The balloon will not fly if winds exceed 22 mph or if there is a storm. Please note that the balloon is tethered and will not travel beyond 400 feet at any time.
It costs $18/guest for a ride. Cast members get a discount.
This attraction is not recommended for those prone to motion sickness, vertigo, heart problems or any other condition that may be aggravated by flight.
We’ve written a book about our year working at Disney: Two Girls and a Mouse Tale.
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