Frequently Asked Questions




Are balloon rides available?


Yes, if weather conditions are favorable for safely inflating and flying hot air balloons.


Do I need a reservation for a ride in a balloon?


That depends upon whether it is for a tethered or an untethered flight. As long as the balloons are flying, tickets may be purchased for tethered flights at the festival. Plenty are generally available for everyone wishing to take a flight. However, due to limited availability, reservations are required for untethered flights. For more information about reserving a flight on an untethered balloon, please contact our Balloonmeister at the following email address: balloonists@scballoonfest.com.


What does a balloon ride cost?


Untethered rides are $200 per person for morning flights, and $225 per person for evening flights. Tethered rides are $15 per person.


What is the difference between tethered and untethered balloon rides?


On tethered rides, passengers ride in the basket of a hot air balloon that remains attached to the ground by ropes. The balloon and basket ascend about 100 feet into the air where passengers get a breathtaking view of the festival grounds, the URI campus and surrounding South County countryside. On untethered rides, passengers ride in the basket of a hot air balloon that is launched freely, unattached to anything other than the balloon itself, guided only by the wind, and the skill of the experienced pilot. Passengers ascend 1,000 feet or more and peacefully float through the skies of South County on what will surely be a memorable journey.


Where are the balloons?


If the weather is favorable, visitors will typically see inflated hot air balloons on the field late Friday and Saturday afternoon, and early Saturday and Sunday morning. At other times, as long as winds aren't too troublesome, a partially inflated hot air balloon will be available for visitors to get up close and personal with or even take a walk inside of.


What is considered favorable weather for hot air ballooning.


A hot air balloon can only be safely inflated and fly when wind conditions are optimal. Since they are "lighter than air" crafts, and have a lot of surface area exposed, it doesn't take much of a breeze or slight gust to make them difficult to control and unsafe to fly. Pop up thunderstorms can be particularly worrisome. Prior to each flight window the pilots conduct a flight briefing to discuss and decide whether it is safe to fly.


The weather forecast is calling for a beautiful day. Does that mean the balloons will be flying?


No. Even though it may be a beautiful day, the weather may not be favorable for flying hot air balloons.


What is a flight briefing?


About a half hour prior to each flight opportunity, a special weather briefing and pilot's meeting is held at the balloonist's tent, which includes a live discussion by phone with a NOAA meteorologist. Flight and weather conditions are analyzed and discussed. Based upon this, a decision is made to fly or not.


Why can't hot air balloons fly at times other than early morning or late afternoon?


This time of year, and in this area, winds are typically calmest for only a few hours right after sunrise, and for a few hours before sunset. At other times, the winds are typically more pronounced, gusty and unpredictable, making it difficult and unsafe to inflate or fly a hot air balloon.


How can we know ahead of time if balloons will be flying? I am more than an hour away, and don't want to drive there if they will not be flying.


Unfortunately, it is not possible to give any advance notification. Even the balloon pilots don't know for certain if they will be flying until after the flight weather briefing, usually held at approximately 5:30 am, for morning flights, and around 5:30 pm, for afternoon flights. Once the decision has been made, a special color coded flag will be raised indicating the flight conditions. If the decision is a go, pilots will usually begin inflating their balloons immediately.


Can I call in or check on the web site to see if you are going to fly?


No, you must be on the field. Balloonist are not given an OK to fly in advance. That decision is made at the flight briefing.


How far do the Balloons go?


That depends on the winds. In RI we are limited by the ocean and airport.


Where is the flag posted to let the public know the conditions?


The flag is posted at the briefing tent. The announcer on the field can see the flag and is therefore, able to alert the crowd to the conditions.


What do the different colors on the flag mean?


Red -- no flight at this time.

Yellow – Balloons on standby.

Green – Balloonists have permission to launch.

Blue – Balloonists have permission to tether only.


Can children fly?


Yes, if they are 7 or older, but check with the pilot or field personnel first. Younger children tend to get bored and could get injured should the landing be a hard one.


How many people can go up in a balloon?


That depends on the balloon and the combined weight of the people riding. The pilot will let you know how much weight his/her balloon will carry.


Are there any restrictions?


Yes, age (no one under 7 or over 80 as a general rule of thumb) If there are health limitations it may not be wise to try a free flight. Sometimes the landings can be hard – check with your doctor if you are unsure. You will be required to sign a certificate stating that you are safe to fly.


Are dogs allowed at the Festival?


Yes, well behaved dogs, under control and on a leash at all times, are allowed.


Where can we purchase tickets?


Tickets are purchased at the Gate on the days of the Festival.


Is there a charge for parking?


No, parking is free.


Do we have to pay admission for infants and todlers?


No, children under five accompanied by a parent with paid admission are Free.


Can I get a refund if the balloons don't fly?


Sorry, no refunds.