National Balloon Museum covers ballooning history


Did you know that the first balloon flight carrying a human occurred in 1783 in Paris, France? This was new to me. But, after visiting the National Balloon Museum in Indianola, Iowa, I learned that and much more about ballooning.

The national museum is located in Indianola because the area is home to some of the best conditions for hot air ballooning. The city also is home to the National Balloon Classic. Several balloonists call central Iowa home, as well.


We spent about an hour at the museum recently. You can probably spend much more time there, if you choose, but I think an hour is about right.

The museum is a small building housing a lot of exhibits.


There is a hot airship gondola on display in the lobby. It was attached to an air ship, which was football shaped, similar to a Zepplin.


The museum features several balloon baskets. An enclosed basket was used for an excursion across the English Channel.


Lisa posed with the Iowa balloon. The balloon featured the design of the state’s flag. It was donated to the museum by the pilot’s family – David Beukelman.

An exhibit features the balloon “Fantasia.” The display includes artwork that was special to the owners.


A special exhibit honors the Union Jack, Great Britain’s national flag. The balloon was manufactured in England in 1976. The call numbers – N76GB – marked the 25th anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1976.


A piece of material from a balloon flight by noted balloon pilot Steve Fossett is on display. It is one of only a few pieces known to have been recovered from a crash landing involving one of his balloons. Fossett was a master pilot, having been the first person to fly a balloon nonstop around the world. He, unfortunately, passed away in a balloon wreck in 2007.


The museum honors females who have contributed to ballooning. The most prominent is likely Nikki Caplan. She was the first person to have a balloon pilot license in Missouri.


Caplan was posthumously inducted into the balloon Hall of Fame in July.

Speaking of the Hall of Fame, the museum is also home to the Hall. This year, three people were inducted:  Caplan, Chauncey Dunn (also deceased) and Don Piccard.


The National Balloon Museum is a nice visit when in Indianola.

Indianola is a nice community, itself. We spent a little time there between balloon events.


The downtown is home to a community tree sculpture featuring humanities. It’s surrounded by flower gardens.


We enjoyed a couple of visits to an A&W restaurant. We had dinner there. Iowa State’s football and basketball coaches signed a team basketball, which is display.


Casey Blake, a local product, has an autographed baseball jersey on the wall. Blake played 13 seasons in Major League Baseball. His career spanned playing time with Toronto (who drafted him), Minnesota, Baltimore, Cleveland and Los Angeles Dodgers.

Outside of town, the Hastie Standard Oil and Gas Station stands in front of a house. It was built in 1933 used as a station 1933-43. Apparently, a drive is under way to raise funds for renovation and possibly use it as a visitors center.


We had a nice time visiting Indianola and look forward to returning to attend the National Balloon Classic.

For more information on the balloon museum, please visit