Take to the Calif. skies in the new zeppelin

— -- More than seven decades after the giant Hindenburg burst into flames during a New Jersey landing, the zeppelin is returning to the USA — with an hour-long ride above the San Francisco Bay Area, costing a lofty $495 per person.

Airship Ventures' newly built zeppelin, a canvas-covered airship with a gondola that holds up to 12 passengers, is 15 feet longer than a Boeing 747. Unlike the Hindenburg, which was filled with hydrogen, the modern version is kept aloft by non-flammable helium. Typical cruising altitude is 1,000 feet.

Rides launch this weekend from Mountain View and Oakland, with Sonoma County starting Nov. 13. Information: 650-969-8100 or airshipventures.com.