New York from the Air: Helicopter Tours around New York

Ant

Flying around New York in a helicopter is definitely an experience you’re not likely to forget, which explains why it’s one of the most sought after experiences to do in New York. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the more expensive experiences to do, so if your wallet is particularly light, this isn’t the experience for you.

That out of the way, if you’re still reading this, then this truly is a rare chance to see New York’s majestic skyscrapers from a unique perspective. For that reason, it’s understable that you’ll want to make sure that everything goes perfectly when you zoom around the Big Apple. More importantly you’ll want to make sure you’ve made the right choices.

In this post, I’ll explain everything you need to know about helicopter tours around New York, and thanks to our link with Hellotickets, I’m in a good place to explain what each flight consists of, what you can expect and also what you can do to make sure things go as smoothly as possible.

If you already have things clear, and you’re simply after the most recommended tour, In my opinion, the flight below offers the best bang-for-buck. You get a chance to see all of the most iconic sights, without having to make a blood sacrifice to your wallet.

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Why it’s worth taking a Helicopter tour around New York

The city skyline is without a doubt spectacular, there’s no debating that. So when you throw in the chance to see the skyline from above and around the sky, it’s a unique experience that until recently only a select got to try. Many folks talk of the rush of adrenaline that occurs, when flying in a Helicopter (remember we’re talking speeds of over 120mph).

The view of the Manhattan Skyline from a helicopter
The view of the Manhattan Skyline from a helicopter

What helicopter tour should I pick?

The majority of the helicopter tours offered for New York last between 12-15 minutes, with only the luxury options maxing out at 30 minutes. As mentioned above, what’s nice about the New York Helicopter tour (The flight up to Madison Square) I recommended is that it’s extended to 18-20 minutes, so you’re given a bit more time in the air without feeling left unsatisfied.

If you’re really after the cheapest option, then you can check out the Essential Itinerary which is exactly what you can expect, lasts 15 minutes yet gives you a chance to see most of New York’s main landmarks. The reason you’d pick this over possibly cheaper options is that the flight operators used are officially certified.

To give you a quick comparison and overview of what you can expect with each flight on Hellotickets, here’s a nice little table explaining what you get to see with each flight.

Essential Itinerary – Orange Route
From £136
⏱12-15 minutes
Statue of Liberty
Governors Island
Empire State Building
Ellis Island
Manhattan Skyline
Times Square
Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
George Washington Bridge
Central Park
Madison Square Garden
Ground Zero
Brooklyn Bridge
Extended Itinerary – Blue Route
From £191
⏱18-20 minutes
Statue of Liberty
Governors Island
Empire State Building
Ellis Island
Manhattan Skyline
Times Square
Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
George Washington Bridge
Central Park
Madison Square Garden
Ground Zero
Brooklyn Bridge
Complete New York – Red Route
From £194
⏱18-20 minutes
Statue of Liberty
Governors Island
Empire State Building
Ellis Island
Manhattan Skyline
Times Square
Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
George Washington Bridge
Central Park
Ground Zero
Brooklyn Bridge
Manhattan Bridge
Verrazano-Narrows Bridge
VIP Itinerary – Green Route
From £230
⏱30 minutes
Statue of Liberty
Governors Island
Empire State Building
Ellis Island
Manhattan Skyline
Times Square
Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
George Washington Bridge
Central Park
Ground Zero
Brooklyn Bridge
Manhattan Bridge
Verrazano-Narrows Bridge
Queensboro Bridge
Williamsburg Bridge
South Street Seaport


Regardless of the exact helicopter tour you choose, you don’t have to worry about missing the important sites, as all of them give you a chance to see the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, Central Park and the One World Observatory. It’s important to remember that all helicopter tours are prohibited from above the Manhattan buildings, so the routes all fly along Manhattan’s two rivers.

You should also take into account, that there as an extra heliport fee that is always paid on the day, so expect to pay another $40 per person upon arrival.

Essential Itinerary: From the Statue of Liberty to Central Park — Orange Route

This is the shortest and cheapest New York Helicopter Tour, however it does include all of Manhattan’s main landmarks, and for $3 more per person there is also an audio-guided helicopter tour that caters to non-English languages.

Essential Itinerary: Route
Essential Itinerary: Route

What are you going to see?

  1. Heliport
  2. Ellis Island
  3. Statue of Liberty
  4. Governors Island
  5. Ground Zero & One World Observatory
  6. Brooklyn Bridge
  7. Empire State Building
  8. Madison Square Garden
  9. Chrysler Building and Rockefeller Building
  10. Times Square and MetLife Building
  11. Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
  12. Central Park
  13. George Washington Bridge

⭐️ Recommended: If you’re looking for a reputable helicopter flight at the cheapest price
Duration: 12-15 minutes
💰 Price: From £136

Extended Itinerary: From the Statue of Liberty to Madison Square Garden — Blue Route

This is the helicopter tour that offers the best value for money, and is indeed my main recommendation. It’s a similar route as above but you’re given a good 20 minutes, meaning you’ve got enough time for the adrenaline to sink in and gives you a chance to really enjoy the skyline including the New York Knicks’ home, Madison Square Garden among others.

Extended Itinerary Route
Extended Itinerary: Route

What are you going to see?

  1. Heliport
  2. Ellis Island
  3. Statue of Liberty
  4. Governors Island
  5. Ground Zero & One World Observatory
  6. Brooklyn Bridge
  7. Empire State Building
  8. Madison Square Garden
  9. Chrysler Building and Rockefeller Building
  10. Times Square and MetLife Building
  11. Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
  12. Central Park
  13. George Washington Bridge

⭐️ Recommended: If you’re looking for a helicopter flight with relatively good value.
Duration: 18-20 minutes
💰 Price: From £191

Vista nocturna de Nueva York desde un tour en helicóptero
Vista nocturna de Nueva York desde un tour en helicóptero

Helicopter Tour: Complete New York — Red Route

The Complete New York helicopter tour, along with a flight around Manhattan includes a bigger part of Brooklyn as part of the itinerary, reaching all the way to Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

Complete New York: Route
Complete New York Route

What are you going to see?

  1. Heliport
  2. Ellis Island
  3. Statue of Liberty
  4. Governors Island
  5. Ground Zero & One World Observatory
  6. Brooklyn Bridge
  7. Empire State Building
  8. Madison Square Garden
  9. Chrysler Building and Rockefeller Building
  10. Times Square and MetLife Building
  11. Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
  12. Central Park
  13. George Washington Bridge
  14. Manhattan Bridge
  15. Verrazano-Narrows Bridge

⭐️ Recommended: If you want to fly over a part of Brooklyn in the tour.
Duration: 20 minutes
💰 Price: From £194

VIP Itinerary: From Staten Island to George Washington Bridge — Green Route

This is the definitive helicopter tour, giving you an entire 30 minutes to enjoy the NYC skies. Along with the standard flight round Manhattan, you’ll get to check out 4 of New York’s other boroughs including the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island.

VIP Itinerary Route
VIP Itinerary: Route

What are you going to see?

  1. Heliport
  2. Ellis Island
  3. Statue of Liberty
  4. Governors Island
  5. Ground Zero & One World Observatory
  6. Brooklyn Bridge
  7. Empire State Building
  8. Madison Square Garden
  9. Chrysler Building and Rockefeller Building
  10. Times Square and MetLife Building
  11. Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
  12. Central Park
  13. George Washington Bridge
  14. Manhattan Bridge
  15. Verrazano-Narrows Bridge
  16. South Street Seaport and Williamsburg Bridge
  17. Queensboro Bridge

⭐️ Recommended: If budget isn’t a worry and you want the best flight possible
Duration: 30 minutes
💰 Price: From £230

Information about the Helicopters in New York

The helicopters that are used by the majority of the tour operators are usually Eurocopter/Airbus AS350B2, the typical helicopters that is often seen in many-a-city. Other operators that offer luxury and VIP experiences, use the Bell 206L4 and the Bell 407GX.

It’s worth noting that Hellotickets work with both Liberty Helicopters and Zip Aviation as both companies have passed the strict security certifications and make safety their highest priority on all of their experiences. It’s also important to remember, that all of these helicopters are completely enclosed, and so you won’t be able to hang off of the cabin edge or stick your head out of the window or anything remotely like that.

The final thing you need to keep in mind is that all helicopter tour flight-paths remain on the river as the city of New York prohibited the use of helicopters to pass over the buildings and Manhattan Island (most likely due to noise complaints and safety concerns).

As all of the helicopter tours travel along the Hudson and East River, you’re bound to see some impressive panoramic views of the city, just don’t expect to be zipping through the streets (Spiderman style).

What to know before you book

💺 How are the seats distributed during the flight?
The seats are assigned based on the weight of the passengers, as the pilots distributes you in order to balance the helicopter. This isn’t defined until the moment of flight, since the pilot doesn’t know whose flying until the actual day.

It’s for this reason that you can’t exactly pick your seat in the flight, however you can at least share your preference to the operator and they’ll let the pilot know (though this in no way guarantees you’ll get your preferred seat, at least you’ll have tried).

🚁 How many people fit inside the helicopter?
Not including the pilot, most helicopters can fit 5 to 6 passengers. Operators can also organize groups up to 9 people, and in these case they split the group into two, making two separate tours around New York.

🏷 How do I actually book a helicopter tour?
Once you’ve reserved your tour, you’ll receive a voucher that is valid during your stay in New York, with a flexible date and time. Once you’re in New York, you’ll have to reconfirm with the operator via their US phone number (The number will appear on the voucher).

You can call them from your hotel, or (if booking one of the tours above) you can contact Hellotickets, who’ll happily work with you to make the booking.

Because of the voucher’s flexibility, I’d recommend booking for the first or second day you arrive in New York, and establishing a concrete date with the operators upon arrival to your hotel. This way, you have a larger margin should rescheduling due to weather occur.

💡 Ant’s Top Traveller’s Tip

Make your helicopter reservation early on in your trip so you can confirm a more suitable date and time once you arrive to your hotel.

📞 How do I contact the operator?
As mentioned above, once you’ll receive your voucher, you should also find the US number of the operator to contact. If there are any problems with contacting the operator, and you’ve booked one of the tours above, you can also call Hellotickets to help and confirm for you.

🕐 Can I choose the time of my helicopter tour?
For the majority of helicopter tours, once you’ve reserved, you confirm a date with the operator, and they propose a time. If you don’t agree with the time given, you can also speak with the operator to find out if there are other options available.

⭐️ When is the best time to take a Helicopter tour in New York?
This depends very much on what you want to see (and of course on the weather). If you want to see New York’s endless horizon and its buildings in all of their splendour, you’ll want to try and get a flight for mid-day (specifically when the weather is cloudless).

If you you want to see New York’s skyline in its iconic golden hues or when night begins to settle in, you’ll want to try and book for the later hours of the day. Just keep in mind, the helipad itself usually closes at 6pm, so the only possible seasons you’ll get see New York at night is in winter or late-autumn.

What to know before you fly

📍Where do helicopter tours depart from?
Most of New York’s helicopter tours depart from the Heliport in Downtown Manhattan on the southernmost point of Manhattan.

🚕 How early should arrive before my flight?
The best advice is to arrive at least 15 minutes before your flight. This way you can get all the security checks and locker stuff out of the way and prepare for your helicopter ascent, without feeling rushed.

🎒What can I bring on the tour?
All bags and rucksacks are stored in lockers, so you actually can’t bring anything on the helicopter accept a phone and camera. Since they’ll be in lockers, try not to bring along anything too valuable or too big. Things you need to take include your passport, 40 dollars extra heliport tax (per person) and 5 dollars for the lockers.

📸 Will I get a photo of my flight?
Fortunately the majority of helicopter tours do take a photo of you and the helicopter to take home as a momento.

The Statue of Liberty - View from a helicopter
The Statue of Liberty – View from a helicopter

Where to eat after your flight

As none of the helicopter tours offered include food, it’s up to you to figure out where to eat and when. Personally, I think it’s better to eat after your flight than before, as the last thing you want is to feel queasy during the flight. For this reason, I’ve listed some restaurants that are fairly close to the Heliport and come highly recommended:

  • Thunder Bun sits only 5 minutes away from the Downtown Heliport, and is perfect if you’re looking for some typical fast food such as hamburgers or sandwiches, but with a bit more style.
  • Pranzo Pizza & Pasta is a nice little restaurant, where you can find classic New York pizza, pasta and Italian sandwiches. You pay by the slice, so it’s fairly easy on the wallet unless you’re after a whole pizza pie.
  • Mad Dog & Beans is a Mexican restaurant known for its friendly staff, delicious guacamole and their generous servings. It’s also conveniently only 7 minutes away from the Heliport.
  • Leo’s Bagels is the perfect option if you’re going to fly around mid-day. Whether it’s breakfast or brunch, Leo’s Bagels include staples such as pastrami or egg sandwiches, and of course the typical New York bagel.

Final Advice

Seeing as your phone or a camera is the only thing you can take, your for sure going to take pictures or shoot some video. If you want to take the perfect picture, remember you’re in a constantly moving vehicle, helicopters themselves aren’t well known for their stability.

📷 Photography Tips
You’ll want to make sure you’re shooting at a high shutter speed, anything higher than 250/1 should be fine. You’ll also want to make sure your using the widest aperture, so you can really get that shutter speed high.

Finally, depending on the amount of light, you’ll want to to have an ISO between 400 to 3200, modern cameras can go a lot higher, but expect to get noise at these levels.

If you’re after some less complicated advice, if you switch your camera or phone to Sports mode, it should help to avoid blurry images of the New York skyline.

That’s pretty much everything from me, about helicopter tours in New York, I hope this proved useful to you, and that you enjoy your upcoming flight!

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One thought on “New York from the Air: Helicopter Tours around New York”

  1. Great content! Super high-quality! Keep it up! 🙂

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