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How to find balloon spawns every 5 minutes in Animal Crossing: New Horizons

A new technique may be your last hope at recipes

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Shooting a balloon in Animal Crossing: New Horizons Image: Nintendo EPD/Nintendo via Polygon
Russ Frushtick is the director of special projects, and he has been covering the world of video games and technology for over 15 years. He co-founded Polygon in 2012.

Balloons are some of the most sought-after objects in Animal Crossing: New Horizons on Switch. The presents they carry can contain new furniture, clothing or — gasp! — DIY recipes you don’t know yet. During events like the cherry blossom event, they are one of the only ways to get cherry blossom recipes, and that is likely to continue for future events in New Horizons.

It seems there’s a consistent way to get them to show up every five minutes. It’s a little complicated, but not difficult once you get the hang of it. Here are the steps.

Step #1: Know where your balloons are coming from

Balloons won’t always fly in from the same side of the island. The side they spawn in on changes after sundown, so check to make sure you know where the the balloons are currently spawning from. For example, after you see one in your town moving from left to right, you’ll know that balloons are spawning over the ocean on the left side of your island.

You can safely assume that whatever side they come in on, it’ll be flipped after sundown, so keep that in mind.

Step #2: Check the time

Balloons spawn on every fourth or ninth minute. Some sample times would be: 3:04, 5:39, 10:04, or 12:29.

Step #3: Run up and down the beach

Waiting for balloons in Animal Crossing: New Horizons Image: Nintendo EPD/Nintendo via Polygon

Even though the balloons spawn on the fourth and ninth minute, they may not be visible until the fifth or 10th minute because of the time it takes for them to reach the beach. Just keep running up and down the beach, paying extra close attention to the clock. When the last minute reads five or zero, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to spot a balloon.

Note: Holiday balloons (like the Bunny Day balloons) are considered separate spawns from normal balloons (the red, blue, and yellow ones). If you see a Bunny Day balloon, you should continue searching the skies for a normal balloon.

Step #4: Shoot down the balloon and repeat

Once you shoot the balloon down, you can stay at the beach and wait for the clock to hit a 4 or a 9 or you can run around town and come back. The original strategy required going to Nook’s Cranny but it appears this makes no impact on balloon spawns.

Step #5: Pray to the RNG gods

Unfortunately, even though you’ll now see way more balloons and presents, the odds of you getting something you’re looking for (like a rare DIY recipe) are still very low. Getting all of the DIY recipes for an event using this method could still take a few hours, and the most common reward from balloons is a bag of Bells. But hey, you’ve got nowhere to be, right?

Update (April 17): The original post detailed a strategy that involved visiting Nook’s Cranny to guarantee balloon spawns every five minutes. After repeated testing and user submissions (including this extensive Reddit thread and by Twitter user @Blu3Poptart) we have determined that the Nook’s Cranny step doesn’t increase balloon spawns in any significant way. The above post has been altered with this in mind.

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