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When you’re exploring a new destination, a helicopter ride is always an amazing way to soak in the scenery from above. And when you’re visiting New York City, that experience is even more epic!
New York City is famous for being a concrete jungle full of beautiful, glittering skyscrapers, and seeing them from the sky is a totally surreal experience. Soaring over world-famous landmarks like the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, and Central Park is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I mean, plenty of people take sightseeing tours of NYC, but how many do so from the air?!
Of course, helicopter rides don’t come cheap. You’ll want to make sure you know exactly what you’re in for before you drop a few hundred dollars for a few minutes in the sky.
And naturally, we need to address the question on everyone’s minds – “is a helicopter ride in New York really worth it?”
Well luckily, we’ve put together this guide containing everything you need to know before booking a helicopter ride in New York City to make sure that you have an amazing experience that you’ll remember forever, just like we did.
Don’t have time to read the full article? The absolute best helicopter ride you can take in New York is this particular helicopter ride. It lasts for 15 minutes, departs right in Manhattan, and is one of the cheapest options out there with the best reviews!
1. Is a helicopter ride in NYC worth it?
Yes, we absolutely loved it. Seeing the city from the sky really was terrific. We definitely think it’s a must-do while you’re in New York City.
We’ve enjoyed some amazing helicopter rides and scenic flights all over the world, but a helicopter ride in New York really is so special. You just can’t beat seeing its unique urban landscape from the sky!
If you’re short on time and only have a few days to spend in New York City, instead of reading this entire blog post, then we’ll cut to the chase for you: this is the NYC helicopter ride that we love the most.
It’s a budget-friendly, short-but-sweet flight that ensures you’ll see all of the city’s top sights from the air, including the Statue of Liberty, the 9/11 Memorial, Rockefeller Center, and of course, the Empire State Building.
2. How much does a Helicopter Ride in NYC Cost?
The price of a helicopter ride largely depends on how long you’re in the air for. Helicopters are expensive to run, so the longer you’re in the air, the more your experience will cost.
You can expect to pay around $229 USD for a 15-minute flight, $269 USD for a 20-minute flight, or $369 for a 25 to 30 minute flight. Also, do be aware that flight times do vary slightly according to the weather conditions on the day.
You’ll also need to pay a $40 USD airport fee on the day when you check in for your flight. This is the same regardless of the length of your flight, and it’s outside of the helicopter company’s control.
These prices are all for a shared helicopter flight, but private flights are also available. In fact, helicopter rides make for some of the best private tours in NYC. You can expect to pay around $1475 USD for a 15-minute charter for up to 5 people, which works out to around $295 per person.
Money Saving Tip – Some of NYC’s best attractions unfortunately aren’t free. But that doesn’t mean you have to blow your budget to see them! We purchased a New York City attraction pass during our visit and it helped us save 30-40% on admission fees to top attractions like the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty. There are a few different options, but the top three are the New York CityPASS®, the New York Pass, and the New York Explorer Pass by Go City.
3. How long are helicopter tours in New York City?
They tend to be pretty short.
Running a helicopter is really expensive, so most flights stay under 20 minutes. In terms of area, Manhattan is actually pretty small, so this is plenty of time to see all of its most iconic sights, even though it doesn’t sound like a lot of time.
We did a 15-minute helicopter ride but we actually found that it felt doubly long. It wasn’t super rushed or anything like that, and we were happy with the amount of time we had in the air.
With that being said, if you’ve got the budget to do a 30-minute helicopter tour, why not go for it? You’ll get the most in-depth experience that way. It’s not like this is the kind of thing you get to do every day, so why not make the most of it?
4. Where do helicopter tours in New York City leave from?
New York helicopter rides leave from the downtown heliport, which is about a 10-minute walk from Wall Street.
It’s really easy to drive or take a taxi here, because you can access it from FDR Drive on the east side, or West Street on the West Side.
The closest subway station is Whitehall St, which you can get to via the N, R, and W lines. You can also take the M15 bus to the Broad Street/South Street stop. Both are just a 5-minute walk from the heliport.
5. What are the highlights on a NYC helicopter tour?
Honestly, you see too many beautiful buildings and iconic sights to list, so below are just a few of the highlights. It’s also worth bearing in mind that each tour is slightly different, but most cover a similar highlight list.
Statue of Liberty
Seeing this world-famous statue is a huge highlight of a NYC helicopter tour. I mean, just think about all of the movie openings where the camera pans over the Statue of Liberty – only this time, you get to see it with your own eyes!
The Statue was a gift to the USA from France to celebrate 100 years of American independence from the British, although the process was delayed by war. It depicts Libertas, the Roman Goddess of Liberty, and the broken chain and shackle at her feet are there to commemorate the abolition of slavery. Seeing her from the air is truly amazing!
Ellis Island served as New York’s immigration station from 1855 until 1890, when immigration regulation became a federal, rather than a state, responsibility. It’s believed around 8 million immigrants passed through Ellis Island during these years, mostly from Northern Europe. It has a super interesting history, which your pilot will tell you a little more about, and its famous Main Building is really beautiful.
Empire State Building
The Empire State Building is one of the most recognizable buildings in the world, and seeing it from the air is a truly spectacular experience. We think it’s one of the most beautiful buildings in New York and legend has it that it was actually designed to look like a pencil! The New York skyline really wouldn’t be the same without it, and so flying over it is a really special experience.
The best way to see the Hudson River is from above. It’s hard to get a real sense of it from the ground level, but when you fly over in a helicopter you get a much better idea of how it frames the island of Manhattan and flows through the city. It’s actually pretty majestic to see the sun glinting off the Hudson River from high in the air!
Central Park might just be one of the world’s most famous urban parks. Just think about how many movies and TV shows feature a dramatic stroll through the greenery in the heart of Manhattan!
It’s kind of crazy that in such a densely populated and built up city, you can find a huge oasis like this.
Flying over Central Park really does give you a sense of just how much of Manhattan is actually green – 1.3 square miles (3.4 square kilometers) to be precise! The entire island measures 22.7 square miles (59.1 square km), so the park takes up around 6% of its total area.
The Brooklyn Bridge is another iconic NYC landmark. It took 14 years to build and a fair amount of bribery was involved in getting the project off the ground! It was finished in 1883 and it’s hard to imagine the Big Apple without it, so this is another amazing sight to see from above.
6. What are the best helicopter tours in New York City?
The Manhattan Helicopter Tour of New York (15-minute ride – the cheapest option!)
This helicopter tour is our top choice when it comes to helicopter rides in Manhattan! We had a fantastic time on this flight. It’s one of the most budget-friendly options available but you still get to see a ton on your 15-minute flight, and to be honest, we felt like we got way longer in the air.
The views over Manhattan were truly incredible, and we loved seeing all of its most famous landmarks from high above. It was an epic adventure!
The tour costs $229 USD per person and the flight lasts between 12 and 15 minutes, depending on the weather conditions. It’s so much fun and we had a fantastic time from start to finish. Plus, if you’re short on time, it’s a great way to see all of New York’s most iconic sights in one go!
Private Manhattan Helicopter Tour of New York City (Private 15-minute ride)
If you want to feel like a true VIP as you soar over the New York skyline, this private helicopter ride is the way to go. And best of all, if you have 5 people to fill it with, it doesn’t have to cost a VIP price. This is the best option for a group traveling together.
This tour lasts for 15 minutes and takes you for an unforgettable ride over the Big Apple. It costs $1474 USD, which works out at $295 per person if you have a group of 5.
Since it’s a private experience, you’ll have ample opportunity to ask your pilot all of your burning questions about New York City. This is also an excellent choice for families, since it’s just you and your group!
Private helicopter tours often book-up well in advance, book your spot online in advance here to avoid missing out!
The Big Apple Helicopter Tour of New York City (20-minute ride)
This helicopter tour is longer than the two we mentioned above at 17-20 minutes long, depending on weather conditions. This means that you not only get to see all of Manhattan’s most iconic highlights, you actually get to see all 5 boroughs of New York City!
Yup, this tour will give you amazing aerial views of Manhattan, Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. You get a super comprehensive overview of New York. We think that this is especially awesome because not a lot of tourists make it out to areas like Queens and the Bronx, so this tour is the perfect way to get an overview of these areas, even if you’re short on time.
The tour costs $269 USD, so again, we think it offers great value for money given just how much of New York you get to see. If you’re curious about what lies beyond Manhattan, this is the helicopter ride for you!
The Empire Helicopter Tour of New York (30-minute ride)
This 25-30 minute helicopter tour gives you a more in-depth look at some of New York’s top sights. It’s focused on Manhattan, but you also get to see Coney Island and you fly over the Bronx for first-class views of the Yankee Stadium.
Since this tour is longer, it’s more expensive than the others at $369 USD per person. However, it really is such a great way to learn more about New York and make the most of your time in the city. And hey, when it comes to helicopter flights, longer is always better!
If you only have a couple of days in the city, this tour is the perfect way to squeeze the most out of your time in the Big Apple.
You can learn more and book this 30-minute helicopter tour online here!
7. Do you need to book a NYC helicopter ride in advance?
Yes, it’s a must. The helicopter companies need time to organize the flight and make sure that there’s room for all passengers. Weight distribution is also really important on helicopters, so they don’t just let people swing by and hop in.
Plus, helicopter tours are super popular and tend to book up, which is even more reason to book in advance. Viator has a really generous cancellation policy so don’t risk missing out!
Why We Book Tours with Viator
Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:
- Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
- Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
- Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
- Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.
8. Is there parking at the Manhattan Downtown Heliport?
No, there isn’t, but there are a few parking garages nearby.
You can park at 55 Water Street which is a 5-minute walk from the heliport and costs $37 USD for one hour or $42 for two.
Personally, I think driving and finding parking would be a nightmare most of the time in New York City. You are likely better off to ride the Subway or take a taxi. Plus, hailing a yellow taxi (like they do in the movies) is fun to try!
Related Read: For a cheaper way to get a view over New York, consider going up to one of the observation decks in New York City, like the Edge Observation Deck where you can see the city from the 100th floor!
9. When is the best time for a helicopter ride in NYC?
Most helicopter rides take place between 9 am and 5 pm. We think going in the morning is best for that clear, crisp morning light. The late afternoon is also a good time to go, though, and to be honest, any time of the day is beautiful.
And with this kind of experience, you don’t need to worry about being obstructed by clouds!
One thing to note though is that you need to be at the heliport 30 minutes before your flight time, so if you book for 4 pm or later, you’ll need to consider rush hour traffic. The roads can get super hectic and public transport also gets pretty busy, so allow at least 45 minutes to get there!
Helicopter tours in New York also operate all year around! So you don’t need to worry about the season. With that said, if the weather isn;t cooperating, your flight may be cancelled or rescheduled.
Hot Tip: If you are worried about the weather, book your helicopter flight for the first day you have in New York, that way if it gets canceled, you have the other days of your vacation to move it to. If you book for the last day of your vacation, there is a chance you’ll miss it completely and just be given a refund.
10. Are helicopter tours in NYC safe?
Yes, aviation in the USA is super safe. They have some of the strictest regulations in the world and all pilots are highly trained professionals. Plus, there are hundreds of helicopter flights over the city every day. So really, there are few safer places in the world to take a helicopter flight.
11. How much time do you need for a NYC helicopter ride?
We recommend allowing 1.5 hours in total. You need to get to the heliport around 30 minutes before your flight, and then the helicopter ride itself lasts between 15-30 minutes. Plus, you’ll probably need 30-45 minutes to get to the heliport as well, although this depends where you’re coming from.
But overall, we think that 1.5 hours is a good amount of time.
12. Do you need ID to ride in a helicopter in NYC?
Yes, you do, so don’t forget your ID!
If you’re an international visitor, any form of government-issued photo ID will work. It’s a good idea to bring your passport, but a driver’s license should be fine, too.
13. Tips for the best helicopter ride in NYC
You can’t pick your seat, but you can ask
Unlike with an airplane, you can’t select your seat on a helicopter. Seating is done by weight and there needs to be an even distribution, so it’s not really possible to choose which seat you sit in. With that being said, it’s still worth asking and you can always contact your tour operator through Viator.
You get amazing views no matter where you sit
In a similar vein, it doesn’t really matter where you sit. There are no bad views!
The helicopters are set up in such a way that everyone gets an incredible view. There’s only one middle seat on the helicopters so most passengers get a window seat. If you do end up sitting in the middle, there are so many windows that you can see everything perfectly anyway, so it really doesn’t matter where you sit.
They have lockers
There are lockers at the heliport where you can store your belongings free of charge. You’re allowed to bring a few small items with you on the flight, such as your camera and a pair of sunglasses, but you don’t need a lot. In fact, they will ask you leave your purse or any backpacks.
You can store your bag, wallet, and anything else you happen to have with you for free back at the heliport in the lockers.
Children under 2 go free
According to aviation law, children under the age of 2 can go on a helicopter ride for free with an accompanying adult. They have to sit on your lap, but that’s preferable anyway! The full adult fee applies for kids aged 2 and over which is also standard practice in aviation.
14. Is a Helicopter tour in NYC suitable for children?
Yes! There are no age restrictions on New York City helicopter rides. Kids of all ages are welcome to fly, and kids under 2 even go for free, so this is definitely a family-friendly experience.
15. What should you wear on a NYC helicopter tour?
You don’t move around that much so you don’t need to be ready for a hike or anything like that, but you do want to be comfy. We wore shorts and a shirt but some people were really dressed up. There’s no real dress code, though, and the most important part is to be comfortable so that you can really enjoy your ride!
Other Things to do While You’re in New York City
As the biggest city in the USA, there is no shortage of things to do in New York! I mean you could spend a week or more here and still not see a fraction of what the Big Apple has to offer. But if you only have a few days and want to see the highlights, these are other top attractions and activities we highly recommend checking out.
- Eat pizza! – New York was home to the first pizzeria in the US way back in the early 1900s and it’s still something this city is known for. I dare say the pizza here is legendary! Top pizza joints include John’s of Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village, Prince Street Pizza in Nolita, and we also loved 2 Bros Pizza. You can even eat pizza (and lots of other treats!) on a food tour of Chelsea Market which is a foodie’s paradise!
- Visit Central Park – Likely you’ve seen this famous park in movies, so it’s a must while you’re here. Central Park is huge with great spots like a historic carousel, Belvedere Castle, and even a skating rink in the winter. Feel like you’re starring in a rom-com with this horse and carriage ride. It’s 45 minutes around Central Park and a fantastic way to cover more ground in style.
- Cross the Brooklyn Bridge – New York can be expensive, but strolling over the Brooklyn Bridge is a completely free thing to do in NYC! The views of the skyline are stellar and there are lots of vendors if you get hungry. We recommend walking all the way across to Brooklyn Bridge Park for the best views of Manhattan.
- Empire State Building – As one of the most iconic buildings in the entire world, the Empire State Building is an attraction like none other! Of course, you’ll see the building from afar, but the views are next-level from the Empire State Building observation deck. Make sure to reserve tickets for the main observation deck in advance as only a limited number of people are allowed up at a time.
- Take a day trip – Not only is NYC full of fun, but it’s close to other amazing destinations you can visit for a day! Head to Washington, DC to check out the White House, try some amazing Philly Cheesesteak and see the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, or take a tour from New York to Niagara Falls.
Where to Stay in New York City
New York City is huge – there is just no other way to put it! Even Manhattan (the area you’ll want to base yourself in) is a lot bigger than you think. That’s why choosing the right hotel in the right location is so important during your stay in New York.
Below, we’ve simplified it all for you by choosing a couple of the very best hotels available in the city. All three of these options have ideal locations close to attractions and the subway system. They all have amazing reviews, too, so just choose the one in your budget category and you’ll be ready to pack your bags!
Motto by Hilton – $$$
Motto by Hilton is a gorgeous hotel located in the Chelsea neighborhood only 600 meters from the Flatiron Building. The hotel features modern decor that has “speakeasy vibes”. In fact, they have a beautiful bar onsite that looks like the perfect place to sip an Old Fashioned. There are a variety of rooms on offer including some that are a little more budget-friendly, and some that are pure luxury with city views! Prices start from about $400 USD per night plus tax.
Delta Hotels by Marriott New York Times Square – $$
Delta Hotels by Marriott New York Times Square is where we stayed the last time we visited New York, and honestly, we loved it! This hotel is the perfect combination of comfort and value for money. It was clean, modern, and our room had all of the amenities we needed for an enjoyable stay (air conditioning, k-cup coffee maker, steamer, large shower, big windows, etc). Plus, the location is ideal – it’s only a couple blocks from Times Square!
Prices do range, but they do go as low as $200 USD per night plus tax depending on the time of year and day of the week. You can check prices and book online here!
Nap York Central Park Sleep Station – $
For those traveling on a tight budget, Nap York is a budget hostel that’s an ideal choice. Although affordable, this property is immaculate and offers a ton of amenities for a great stay including air conditioning and a shared kitchen. The rooms are modern and the location is about as central as it gets! This property only offers dorm rooms, but they are affordable at as little as $150 USD per night.
Don’t get Caught without Travel Insurance!
We never travel without travel insurance! We’ve had a few instances during our travels when one of us has ended up in the hospital, and travel insurance has saved us thousands of dollars over the years!
SafetyWing is our go-to insurance, we both have policies with them whenever we travel.
They offer travel medical insurance that’s super affordable (only $45 USD per 4 weeks!)The only thing to note is that the insurance must be purchased once you’ve left your home country – we typically buy it as soon as we land at the airport.
We’ve personally used SafetyWing for many different trips, and we’ve been reimbursed for countless expenses when we’ve fallen ill. SafetyWing even covered our flights back to Canada in full when the pandemic first happened (when last-minute flights before the borders closed were super expensive!) While most travel insurance companies left people stranded, SafetyWing fully reimbursed us for our last-minute, pricey flights!
Also, because it is so affordable, there really is no excuse not to take out a policy. Check prices and get a quote online here with SafetyWing (you can even take out a policy if you’re already traveling!)
Thanks for reading!
And there you go, you should know be ready to book your adventure of a lifetime on a helicopter ride in New York City. Honestly, this is one of those experiences that you’ll remember forever!
I hope this blog has helped answer any questions you might have about helicopter rides in the ‘Big Apple.’ If you found it helpful, have a browse at our other blogs about traveling in the USA including a couple related blogs below: