Up, up and away! Bet you never imagined your family could go for a hot air balloon ride this summer. You’ll get the awesome (and rare) chance within just a few hours’ drive from Chicago. Go for a quick road trip to the following spots for a sky-high experience you won’t forget.


photo: Hamilton County Tourism

Connor Prairie Museum – Fishers, Indiana
The Launches: A massive, tethered helium balloon — one of five of its kind in the country — elevates you 350 feet above Connor Prairie, an outdoor museum in Hamilton County, Indiana. The park’s iconic 1859 Balloon Voyage sends you up for 10-15 minutes during which you’ll learn about the story of John Wise’s historic balloon voyage from Lafayette to Crawfordsville, Indiana. On clear days, you can see as far as the Indianapolis skyline (20 miles south!). It’s all part of a new exhibit about the history of manned flight that also includes activities, photo backdrops and storefronts modeled after Disney’s Main Street, USA.

While You’re There: Visit Prairietown, a re-created 19th-century village that show how life once was in Central Indiana. Study in the one-room schoolhouse, and earn wages to spend at Whitaker’s Store. You’ll also meet the residents of Prairietown as they go about their daily lives.

For More Info: Launches take place April thru October. Call 317-776-6000 or visit connorprairie.org.


photo: Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa

Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa – Galena, Illinois
The Launches: Local company Galena on the Fly launches hot air balloon flights from this awesome family resort just outside of town. One of the hot air balloons is one of the largest in the country, holding up to 14 passengers. These untethered flights take you over the rolling hills of the Galena Territory and historic downtown Galena with an experienced pilot. Apart from the daily launches, this year with be the 14th year over Father’s Day weekend that the resort hosts the Great Galena Balloon Race. Thousands come to watch the balloons take off from the resort each morning, and at night a magical balloon glow fills the resort grounds.

While You’re There: Splash around at Alice T. Virtue Water Park in Galena. The beautiful family water park has a water slide, drop slide, diving board and full-menu concession stand.

For More Info: Flights depart at sunrise and sunset at the resort; call 815-777-2747 or visit buyaballoonride.com. For a stay at Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa, call 815-777-5000 or visit eagleridge.com.


photo: Lisle Eyes to the Skies

Eyes to the Skies Festival – Lisle, Illinois
The Launches:  Hot air balloon launches are the highlights of this west suburban festival that draws onlookers from all over. Balloons in a multitude of colors (and wacky characters!) rise up at 5:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. daily from July 2-4, and tethered balloon rides are available throughout the day. You’ll be lifted 50-100 feet in the air and stay there for a short time so you snap photos of the earth below, see what the other balloons look like from the air, and then slowly descend.

While You’re There: The children’s area of the festival features a bubble show, karate demos, wild animals, hands-on exhibits, meet and greets with princesses, and more.

For More Info: Visit eyestotheskies.org.

What do you think of these soaring opportunities for families? Let us know in the Comments!

— Kelly Aiglon