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Orange County Great Balloon – It’s Fun & It’s Free!

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Have you always wanted go up in a hot air balloon but you're a little too nervous? Or maybe you don't want to shell out hundreds of dollars for the flight? The Great Park Balloon in Orange County, California provides the perfect solution!

Orange County Balloon
Orange County Great Balloon

This helium balloon is FREE to anyone who wants to soar 400 feet in the air over Orange County. It is always tethered to the ground by a steel cable with the strength of 99,000 pounds, making it a safe adventure for all ages.

My toddler clung to me and said, “No! No! No!” as we entered the 30-passenger metal basket, but he quickly settled down and enjoyed our ascent. My roller-coaster-loving kindergartner had no qualms about taking to the air in the giant orange balloon. Although I tend to get airsick, the ride was mellow and short enough that I felt fine throughout. The whole family enjoyed the aerial view of the Great Park and beyond.

Orange County Balloon
Aerial view from the balloon

The Great Park Balloon is one of six such helium balloons in the United States, and is the only one on which you can ride for free. Those in wheelchairs can roll right on board. This orange balloon is also “green” – it is environmentally-friendly and non-polluting.

The balloon is used to draw interest to the Great Park. Plans for the 165-acre park include botanical gardens, a sports park and fields, picnic areas, and the Great Park Air Museum, where vintage aircraft will be displayed on remnants of former runways.

Children on Orange County Balloon
My kids aboard the Great Balloon

After our balloon adventure, we wandered through the park's Farmers Market, purchasing some healthy, juicy snacks to munch along the way.  There were also food trucks peddling more substantial fare like tacos and crepes. The Farmers Market is  held every Sunday from 10 am to 2 pm.

We didn't have time to take a spin on the Great Park Carousel, but that's free as well.

Food Trucks at Orange County Great Park
Food trucks at the Sunday Farmers Market

Many say the flame used to lift a hot air balloon is disturbingly noisy, but this balloon ride was quite peaceful. I still would like to take a ride in a hot air balloon someday (loud or not) but the Orange County Great Balloon in Irvine was a fun taste of flying up, up, up in the air like the Wizard of Oz.

What is one of your favorite free attractions? Please share your recommendations in the comments!

About Colleen Lanin

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of TravelMamas.com. As the author of her book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show, NBCNews.com, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

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