Airborne adventures aren’t for the faint of heart, of course, but there’s something special about being able to see the world from the vantage point of a bird. Read on for places that will take you up, up, up in New York City and beyond. By Jessica Allen.
For more than 25 years, Liberty Helicopters has shown people New York City from above. And, yes, the city really does look different from here, and not just because you can see into the windows of penthouse suites and corporate offices. Among its offerings are the Romance/VIP tour, 18-20 minutes in your own private helicopter from Lower Manhattan to Midtown, and the Big Apple tour, a 15-minute ride that puts you so close to the Statue of Liberty, you can practically caress her cheek.
In three decades of taking people sky-high, Skydive the Ranch has masterminded more than one million dives. All told, the hangar is about two hours away from Manhattan. Once you get there, newbies do a tandem jump (with an instructor) from 13,500 feet, with a 6,000-foot freefall. Best of all, you get to help pull the ripcord and still the parachute to the ground. Well, best of all is probably the incredible view of the clouds and landscape.
Offering hot air balloon rides from May through November, Fantasy Balloon Flights takes participants over the scenic Hudson Valley, gently swooping and dipping along the currents, over and above fields, orchards, and rolling hills. The only thing the married owners love more than flying is each other, and apparently they sometimes like to make their balloons “kiss” in midair. Romantic and heart-pounding!
Hang Loose Parasail puts you 500 feet above the sounds surrounding Wildwood, the highest distance allowed by New Jersey State law. The experience has been likened to a cross between riding in a hot air balloon and swinging on a swing. (The pier is about two hours from New York City, in a beach community known for its landmarked “Doo Wop” motels dating to the 1950s and 1960s.) The folks captaining the boat are so in control that you don’t even need to touch the water as you go up or come down.
The motto of Trapeze School New York is “forget fear–worry about the addiction.” You can learn to fly through the air while espying the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and other famous landmarks in Lower Manhattan, from the school’s location on the Hudson River. Weather permitting, you can take a class in beginning or advanced flying trapeze, static trapeze, aerial silks, partner acrobatics and balancing, and trampoline.
If you’d rather keep your feet on the ground while looking at the sky, head to the Top of the Rock. Located in Rockefeller Center, this observation center puts you at the top of it all, 70 floors above the street. You’ll get an unobstructed, completely panoramic view of Midtown and beyond. When you’re done getting your fill of the cityscape, you can shop or eat, or hang around the statue of Prometheus and Atlas made famous by the opening credits of so many television shows.