Get a free hot air balloon ride in Duluth this weekend

The Duluth Hot Air Balloon Festival kicks off on Friday.

There's just something special about spotting a hot air balloon flying in the sky. It doesn't happen very often, but when it does, people stop and watch.

Even more magical? Getting a ride in one.

Except that's super expensive. If you're like me and have ever thought it would be sweet to fly in a hot air balloon, you've probably gone online and had your dreams crushed.

A standard flight for one passenger at Stillwater Balloon is $245 (which is about average for Minnesota hot air balloon rides). And if you want to take a romantic flight for two with your sweetheart? That'll be $735.

Which is why if you've ever dreamed of taking off in one of those big baskets, you should head to Duluth this weekend.

The fourth annual Duluth Hot Air Balloon Festival kicks off at Bayfront Festival Park on Friday and runs through Sunday.

The family-friendly festival – also known as Le Festival des Montgolfières à Duluth – features craft beer, food vendors, a 5K color run, live music, kite flying, and a bunch of other activities.

And if the weather is just right, attendees will get to watch hot air balloons launch, as well as line up for free tethered rides.

What's a tethered air balloon ride?

That means the balloon will lift off to a low altitude and remain tethered to the ground, Seattle hot air balloon company Over the Rainbow explains.

So you won't be flying all over Duluth, but you'll still get a nice aerial view of the city.

Over the Rainbow says it's the safest possible way to experience a hot air balloon ride and ideal for people with fears of flying or heights.

But that depends on the weather

Before we get your hopes up, you should know that the whole launch and ride part of the festival is not guaranteed.

Hot air balloons can only launch under specific circumstances. Organizers in Duluth say these three things need to happen:

  • The cloud ceiling must be at least 2,000 feet off the ground, with 3 miles of visibility.
  • Winds at Bayfront must be under 9 miles per hour, and wind speeds 250 feet above ground must be under 13 miles per hour.
  • Wind direction must be off the lake and blowing in a 340 degree to 180 degree direction towards Duluth/Hermantown/Proctor.

If all of those are checked off, launch windows will open at these times: 5:15 p.m. Friday, 6:45 a.m. and 5:45 p.m. Saturday, and 6:45 a.m. Sunday. Tethered rides are offered first come, first served 15 minutes after each launch window opens. 

But if the weather doesn't cooperate, at least you can drink a craft beer and fly a kite.

See the full schedule of events here. Launch updates will be posted on the Duluth Balloon Festival Facebook page.

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