The year is 1859. Experienced balloonist John Wise attempts to deliver airmail for the first time in U.S. history. He plans to fly his balloon from Lafayette, Indiana, to New York City with a bag of 123 letters. Unfortunately, the wind blows in the wrong direction. Instead of flying northeast, the balloon flies southward. He gives up after 30 miles and lands in Crawfordsville, Indiana. Fast forward to 2017 and the Conner Prairie living history museum where one of the attractions, the 1859 Balloon Voyage, represents Wise’s airmail attempt.
I was excited to ride in the Conner Prairie 1859 Balloon Voyage because despite my fear of heights, a ride in a hot-air balloon is on my bucket list. The 1859 Balloon Voyage isn’t quite the same as a hot-air balloon ride, but it’s a step towards it.
1859 Balloon Voyage safety
The Conner Prairie balloon is inflated with helium, the same gas used in party balloons. Railings and netting around the gondola prevent you from falling out. And the balloon is tethered, so you go up about only 350 feet. I say only, but that’s as high as the Statue of Liberty.
The balloon operator instructed everyone to hold on to the railings during our ascent. Once we got to full height we were allowed to let go of the railings and walk around. With a light breeze that day, the balloon drifted lightly from side to side, making walking a little tricky. However, the only time I felt nervous was when I held my cell phone near a gap between the netting and a rail to take a picture. My nervousness wasn’t so much about me falling as it was about dropping my phone through the gap.
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The green grasses and trees of Conner Prairie and the surrounding area were gorgeous from the balloon. I could also see the Indianapolis skyline in the distance.
We stayed at full height for about ten minutes or so before the balloon operator announced it was time to hold on to the railings for the descent.
I don’t know if I’ll ever get a chance to ride in an actual hot air balloon (or be brave enough), so the Conner Prairie 1859 Balloon Voyage may have to do. At least I got a taste of what a balloon ride is like.
As for John Wise and his airmail attempt… He tried it again a month later. This time he made it almost 800 miles, to Henderson, New York. He crash landed in a storm and lost all the mail.
If you visit Conner Prairie
Conner Prairie, located at 13400 Allisonville Road in Fishers, Indiana, is open May through October, Tuesday through Sunday (closed Mondays). Hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Check the website for admission fees. Balloon prices are additional to general admission.
We stayed at the Prairie Guest House, located directly across the street from Conner Prairie, during our visit to the area. Check rates here.
Disclosures: Visit Hamilton County Indiana hosted our visit to Conner Prairie. Our admission and the balloon ride were complimentary. However, any opinions expressed in this article are my own.
This article contains an affiliate link. If you book a room through the “Check rates here” link above, I will receive a small commission, at no additional cost to you.
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2 thoughts on “Rising High: Conner Prairie 1859 Balloon Voyage”
I loved Conner Prairie~ I want to go back and do this!
You definitely should, Sara! It was great fun.