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Taking a helicopter ride over Manhattan is an experience you’ll never forget. There are few better things to do in New York City than soaring over its iconic skyline, and spotting beautiful landmarks like the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, and of course the famous Statue of Liberty.
A Manhattan helicopter tour really is a unique experience – in fact, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime! So naturally, you want to make sure that you pick the right one.
There are several different helicopter tours available, but they are all a little bit different from each other. Which is why we’ve broken down the 5 best options for you in this blog post. It’s important to know what to expect and choose the right flight to make sure that you never forget soaring over the world’s most iconic skyline.
Our Top Choice for a Manhattan Helicopter Flight
We think that this Manhattan Helicopter Tour of New York is hard to beat! We absolutely loved our experience and were totally mesmerized by the amazing views. The flight was only 15 minutes long but it felt like so much longer because we got to see so many iconic sights.
One of the things that drew us to this particular helicopter tour was how affordable it was. It’s $229 USD per person which is less than we were initially expecting to pay! Given how pricey these tours can get, we think this is a really competitive price, and although it sounds cheesy, the experience really was worth every penny.
Is a Helicopter ride in Manhattan 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 Manhattan really is so special. You just can’t beat seeing its unique urban landscape from the sky!
Sure, it is a little pricey, but in our honest opinion, it’s worth every penny!
What are the BEST Manhattan Helicopter Tours NYC?
1. The Empire Helicopter Tour of New York
This helicopter tour is one of the most in-depth ones on offer in Manhattan! At 25-30 minutes long, depending on the weather conditions, it provides a really comprehensive overview of the city. We think it’s ideal for people who don’t have long to spend in New York City and want to see as much as possible in a short time.
You’ll see iconic sights like the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, Central Park, and Manhattan’s most famous skyscrapers, as well as flying over the Bronx to learn more about the area and see the enormous Yankee Stadium.
We highly recommend this tour if you don’t have a ton of time in the city and want a really in-depth helicopter tour. The pilot provides excellent commentary so you learn a lot whilst enjoying the spectacular views.
The Empire helicopter tour costs $369 USD per person. It’s longer than your average tour so if you want to maximize your time in the air, this is a great one to choose. Plus, we don’t think anyone has ever complained that their helicopter ride was too long…
Related Read: If a helicopter ride is a little out of your budget, you can visit one of the observation decks in NYC for another amazing, but cheaper, view!
2. The Big Apple Helicopter Tour of New York City
Usually, when people think of New York City, they think of Manhattan. However, the Big Apple is actually made up of five boroughs: Manhattan, Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. Each has their own distinct character and culture, and on the Big Apple Helicopter Tour, you get to see them all.
This tour provides a fascinating insight into just how huge and diverse New York City really is. Your pilot will provide lots of interesting commentary about the different boroughs and what makes them unique, and help you to identify lesser-known but significant landmarks. You’ll come away feeling like a seasoned New Yorker!
And of course, you still get to see Manhattan’s epic highlights like the Empire State Building, the One World Trade Center, Columbia University, and the Brooklyn Bridge.
The tour lasts for 17-20 minutes, so you get plenty of time in the air. The tour costs $269 USD per person, and you’ll need to pay the $40 USD airport fee on the day. It’s worth noting that this is standard for all helicopter flights, and it’s outside of the helicopter company.
This is one of the most popular helicopter flights from Manhattan, so you should book your spot online in advance here.
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. Private Manhattan Helicopter Tour of New York City
If you’re traveling to New York City as a family or group of friends, then a private helicopter ride is the perfect way to ensure an unforgettable trip.
This private helicopter tour can accommodate groups of up to 5 people for the ultimate bonding experience in the sky!
Your pilot will share stories of New York with you as you gaze at Manhattan’s most famous landmarks and you’ll get a better sense of the history of this iconic city. You’ll also get to see the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty on this 12-15 minute flight, so you really do get to tick off all of the city’s highlights.
The tour costs $1474 USD, which works out at roughly $295 per person for a group of 5 people. It’s so nice to do this with just your group.
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.
4. The Manhattan Helicopter Tour of New York
Like the tour above, this helicopter tour focuses on Manhattan, but it’s a shared rather than a private experience. This means that it’s more affordable, particularly if you’re a solo traveler or only traveling with 1-2 other people. This flight also happens to be our top choice when it comes to helicopter rides in New York!
As well as Central Park and the iconic hotspots around Midtown Manhattan, you’ll also have birds eye views of the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge. We had such a fantastic time on this tour – we loved the views, the helicopter itself, and the interesting commentary from our pilot.
The tour costs $229 USD per person, making it one of the most affordable Manhattan helicopter tours. The flight lasts for 12-15 minutes, although we felt like ours was longer. We were worried that it would go by in the blink of an eye but honestly, there was so much to take in that it felt way longer than it actually was. We were so happy with our choice!
5. New York Helicopter Tour: City Lights Skyline Experience
New York is the city that never sleeps, and Manhattan really does look spectacular when lit up at night. So if you fancy doing a helicopter tour after dark, the City Lights Experience is the perfect ride for you!
You’ll depart after night falls and soar over Manhattan as you see its most famous sights lit up at night. The Statue of Liberty looks spectacular when she’s lit up, and Times Square’s neon lights look even more amazing by night!
What’s incredible about this tour is that helicopter rides after dark are normally only available for private, chartered flights, so this is such a unique opportunity. Seeing Manhattan glittering after dark is the kind of view that makes you pinch yourself, and it looks even more amazing from the sky.
This tour costs $274 USD per person and the ride lasts for 25-30 minutes. The long length of the flight means you’ll get a really in-depth overview of Manhattan and its many neighborhoods, including trendy areas like Tribeca, SoHo, and the West Village. You’ll also fly over the Yankee Stadium in the Bronx and the busy George Washington Bridge.
If you want to see the best of New York by night, then we definitely recommend this tour! You can book your spot on it online in advance.
Related Read: Another option for an amazing view of New York, is going up to the 100th Floor at the Edge Observation Deck – read all about it!
What are the highlights of a Manhattan helicopter tour?
There are numerous breathtaking buildings and iconic sights in Manhattan and listing them all would be practically impossible, so here are a few highlights. It’s worth noting that each tour varies slightly, but most cover similar sights.
The Statue of Liberty
The world-famous Statue of Liberty is a major highlight of any Manhattan helicopter tour. You’ve seen it in movie openings, and now you get to witness its grandeur firsthand.
This gift from France to the USA commemorates American independence and stands as a symbol of liberty, with a broken chain at its feet representing the abolition of slavery. Seeing her from the air is a truly awe-inspiring experience.
Once New York’s immigration station, Ellis Island welcomed around 8 million immigrants from Northern Europe between 1855 and 1890. The island holds a rich history, and its Main Building is a sight to behold. Your pilot will share fascinating details about its past during your helicopter tour.
The Empire State Building
A globally recognized landmark, the Empire State Building is a marvel to witness from the air. Legend has it that its unique design was inspired by a pencil. The New York skyline wouldn’t be complete without it, making flying over this iconic structure a truly special moment.
The best perspective of the Hudson River is from above. Flying over it in a helicopter allows you to appreciate how it frames Manhattan and flows through the city. The glint of the sun on the river’s surface from high above adds to its majesty.
One of the world’s most famous urban parks, Central Park stands out as a green oasis amidst the bustling city. Its vastness becomes evident when seen from the air, covering 1.3 square miles (3.4 square kilometers) of Manhattan’s total area of 22.7 square miles (59.1 square km).
An iconic NYC landmark, the Brooklyn Bridge was completed in 1883 after 14 years of construction, involving some bribery to get the project started. Its presence is inseparable from the city’s identity, making it a spectacular sight from above.
Remember, these are just a few highlights, and there are many more enchanting places to explore during your NYC helicopter tour.
Related Read: Another fun way to view the Brooklyn Bridge is on a dinner cruise in New York! We did the Bateaux New York Premier Dinner Cruise and it was fantastic – and we cruised right under the bridge!
What to bring on a Manhattan Helicopter ride
You’ll need to bring a government-issued form of photo ID with you to board your helicopter flight. A valid passport or driving license will be fine! Just make sure you don’t forget this, as it’s required by law and you won’t be able to board without it.
Trust us, you’ll want to bring your camera with you on a Manhattan helicopter tour! The views are absolutely breathtaking, so you’ll want to take lots of snaps so that you can remember them forever (and let’s be honest, brag to your friends and family).
You’re allowed to bring your camera with you and take photos during the flight, so take advantage!
Don’t worry if you only have your phone, either. All the above pictures were taken on our mobile phones!
Obviously this doesn’t apply to the night time helicopter tour, but if you go on a helicopter ride during the day, it gets pretty bright up there. Make sure to bring some sunglasses or you may find yourself squinting throughout the ride. Trust us – you’ll be much more comfortable with a good pair of sunnies on!
It’s not every day you get to fly in a helicopter (for most of us, anyway), so you want to be comfortable on your ride! Some people dress up for helicopter rides but we just went for shorts and shirts. It’s always better to be comfortable and you’ll probably be doing some sightseeing before or after your helicopter tour, so dress for that.
And on that note, it’s good to know that they do have lockers at the heliport where you can store your belongings during your ride. So if you’ve got a handbag or backpack with you (or some souvenirs that you couldn’t resist buying earlier on in the day) then there’s no need to worry, because you can use the lockers for free.
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 weeks 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. There are several tours of Central Park, and you’ll feel like you’re starring in a rom-com with this 45-minute horse and carriage ride.
- 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!
We are certain that if you stick to any of the five Manhattan helicopter rides mentioned above, you’re sure to have a fantastic time! I mean, how could you not?! The views of New York City from the sky are spectacular, and your helicopter tour is guaranteed to be a once in a lifetime experience.
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