As photos and video of experiences on Downtown Disney’s newest venture emerge onto the interwebs, I started to see a sharp decline in my own personal enthusiasm for being able to experience the 400 foot flight on a tethered balloon myself. I kid you not, I was very excited at the proposition – initially. Despite the $16 price tag, I was all set to ride this thing 10x minimum: sunrise, sunset and everything in-between. What could possibly have changed my mind, you ask? Let me count the ways.
1) PRICE. $16 per person for a 6 minute voyage. That’s $2.70 per minute. I have spent the past couple of days racking my brain trying to determine what I have ever spent that kind of money on. I’m the king of frivolous spending and even for intangibles, $2.70 seemed like an impossible spending goal to reach. For a family of four, that could be anywhere from $52 – $64 — for six minutes. Imagine paying $250 for a movie or $2000 for a day in the parks — per person. I also have to assume that the time it takes to reach the maximum height of 400 feet as well as being lowered back to the ground is included in that timeframe, not leaving a heck of a lot of time to enjoy whatever view you may have.
2) VIEW. Judging by what’s been on display so far, on a clear day, you might see Spaceship Earth (if you can recognize it). For the most part, it just seems to be a view of the West Side at Downtown Disney and the parking lot. I guess if you’re extra lucky, you’ll get a prime viewing spot for the Jesus Loves U skywriter.
3) WEATHER. It runs weather permitting and occupancy levels and height vary based on wind conditions if it does run (and so far, it doesn’t seem to have a stellar track record based on reports). No reservations, just a matter of going out of your way to get there, hoping the line is short and the weather is cooperative.
4) GUESTS. I don’t know how crowded it is when there are 30 guests up there, but I imagine mobility is extremely limited which means you’re stuck with whatever view you’re stuck with (hint: paint a giant orange X on the roof of your car to help you spot it). And you know how kids freak out when Ariel reaches through the screen arms wide open during Mickey’s Philharmagic? You guessed it. No doubt many of those kids who insist that mommy and daddy take them up in the big balloon are going to start screaming and crying when they reach 100 feet, let alone 400. On second thought, maybe five minutes would be better. Not to take away anything from the adults either, because there will be some of them freaking out too.
5) NOVELTY. The truth is, I’ve done it before elsewhere: over the Inner Harbor area in Baltimore, Maryland when it had the Hiflyer. It went higher and had an arguably better view. And while I would do it all over again, I wouldn’t do it a second time.
All that said, I probably will give Characters in Flight a test flight. Because I am the king of frivolous spending. But if I manage to make it, my expectations will remain 400 feet below me.