It’s a bird, it’s a plane… it’s the Orange County Great Park Balloon! The big orange sphere floats high above Irvine, casting shade on those below it and carrying passengers up and into the sky for an unbeatable birds-eye view of the city of Irvine. If you’ve never been to the Orange County Great Park, the name is very fitting and it quickly becomes clear once you get there why “great” is part of it. With everything from grassy areas and picnic tables to the vintage carousel, farmers market and art studio, the Great Park lives up to the expectations. But one of the first attractions that made the park so special was (and still is) the iconic orange balloon.
Standing at 118 feet tall, and full of 210,000 cubic feet of helium, the massive air balloon can be spotted from miles away. First taking flight in 2007 when it was donated to the park, the balloon is known to be environmentally friendly, considering the Great Park Balloon is in fact not a hot air balloon, but rather filled with helium. The balloon is one of the largest tethered helium balloons in the nation, with a ridership of roughly 20-25,000 people each year. The large gondola attached as a sort of anchor to the balloon has a capacity of up to 30 passengers and is wheelchair accessible.
Scared of heights but love a great photo op and a scenic view? Then you might be comforted in knowing that a steel cable, with a strength of nearly 100,000 pounds, tethers the balloon to the ground at all times. So although you feel as though you are floating away into the clouds, you are still anchored and can enjoy the approximately 10-minute ride with a little more peace of mind. While you’re in the air, the gondola is spacious enough that passengers can walk around, take pictures and feel the wind in your hair. What makes riding in the giant helium balloon even better? It was recently announced that the balloon rides are now free! Before this new adoption, adult tickets were $10 and children $5 to cover operating costs and park events, but since receiving additional funding, the park is now able to offer the balloon rides free of charge.
You know the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Well, the view from the Great Park Balloon is worth a thousand dollars! Whether you’re floating in the morning, the middle of the day, during sunset or even for a night ride, the landscape view is unbeatable. And although the ride isn’t very long, the balloon rises to an elevation of 400 feet above Irvine, with 360-degree views of the park and city below. On a clear day, passengers can see as far as 40 miles all around. You might even be able to see Main Street Village if you look hard enough! If you’d rather admire the balloon from somewhere in the park, the view from the ground is pretty impressive as well.
Whether you’re an Irvine native or you’ve only been here a little while, the Orange County Great Park Balloon ride is an iconic experience that should be added to your bucket list. Spend a day at the park, take a ride in the big orange balloon, and tag Main Street Village on Facebook and Instagram so we can be a part of the fun! While you’re at it, keep following the blog here for more local Irvine experiences.