When many guests think of Downtown Disney (DTD), they think of it primarily as – even only as – a shopping and dining destination. Yet DTD also offers Disney guests some of the most fun, active experiences at Walt Disney World (WDW). Among them is one of my favorites, Characters in Flight at DTD West Side.
Characters in Flight is a short balloon ride, about 10 minutes from take-off to landing, that takes you up in the air in a tethered balloon called the Aéro30, built and operated by Aérophile S.A. When it’s your turn, you and up to 28 other guests, plus a FAA-certified balloon pilot, board the 19-diameter-feet gondola which is attached to the helium-filled balloon. (The number of guests vary with demand and with weather conditions.)
Characters in Flight take guests to new Disney heights
After purchasing tickets, guests can watch other flights and talk to the knowledgeable ground crew while waiting for their flight (there may be a wait depending on how busy it is).
Characters in Flight is pleasant and fun for those who have held on to their childhood dreams of flying without a plane, a desire captured in the balloon’s silhouette images of Peter Pan, Dumbo, Aladdin and Mary Poppins and other Disney characters. It’s an especially rewarding experience for photographers who would like to capture some aeriel shots of Disney, and I highly recommend everyone plan on taking some pictures.
As you hover approximately 400 feet in the air, you can enjoy a 360-degree look at the WDW. On clear days you can see up to 10 miles away, with familiar icons from Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom and some Disney Resorts. Of course, some of the most impressive sights are of DTD and surrounding area such as Saratoga Springs Resort. The ride is designed to provide breathtaking views during both day and night, providing two different visual experiences.
Yet the balloon ride also a (surprisingly?) fun time for those who are a little hesitant about moving heights, in part because the experience is smooth and safe. Not only is the ride tethered, but guests are surrounded by a solid wall that is approximately waist-high (adult). Above the waist level, wall there is loose netting with spaces large enough to push a camera lens through. There is also a handrail for additional steadiness.
Ticket and ride information for Downtown Disney’s Characters in Flight
Characters in Flight is located at Downtown Disney West Side. The balloon ride is open to guests of all ages and is wheelchair accessible with assistance. (Guests in Electric Convenience Vehicles can also ride, but will need to transfer to a Disney wheelchair as the ECVs are too large for the gondola. The same may be true for personal wheelchairs.)
Because of its DTD location, guests need not purchase Walt Disney World park tickets to ride this attraction, although it does have its own cost. No reservations are required.
- $18 adults (ages 10 and up, tax included)
- $12 children (ages 3 – 9, tax included)
Children 2 years and under ride free.
Characters in Flight operates daily from 9 a.m. to midnight, weather permitting. The number of passengers on each flight depends, primarily on wind conditions; the windier the weather, the fewer guests ride at one time.