New York Helicopter Tour: Costs, Experiences & Best Offers

New York from above

A helicopter ride over New York is an absolute highlight of any trip. We’ll tell you about our experiences in a helicopter over New York and introduce you to the different providers and options.

To someday fly over New York in a helicopter — that was a dream of ours for a long time.

And since we like to turn our dreams into a reality, we simply booked a flight on our last trip to New York.

To give away the ending already: it was absolutely amazing! We actually took more than 1,000 photos in 60 minutes and will certainly never forget this experience.

Before our flight, we took a thorough look at the different providers and found that the offers were all pretty confusing.

To make it easier for you, we’ve picked out what in our opinion are the most interesting helicopter tours.

In this article, we’ll tell you about all the important info, prices and options and  will of course also report on our own experiences of a helicopter ride.

Overview of providers and prices for a helicopter tour over New York

Let’s start right away with the most important question: how much does a helicopter ride over New York cost?

The prices start at about 200 dollars for a short flight with several passengers. For longer or private sightseeing flights you’ll pay between 550 and 1,700 dollars.

When you’re on the search for a helicopter ride over New York, you’ll quickly find that there are countless offers that often look very similar at first glance.

So we’ve selected three flights out of the mess of many providers that, in our opinion, offer the best value for money:

  1. A cheap standard flight
  2. A special flight for photographers
  3. A private flight at night

You’ll find the most important info on each of the three helicopter flights in the following table. Detailed information for each of the offers follows below the table.

CheapFor PhotographersAt Night
Duration15 minutes16 minutes30 minutes
Airport taxes$40$49$35
Additional passengersYes, up to 6 personsYes, up to 5 personsYes, 2 persons
Special featuresNoneWithout doorsAt night
New York from above
In the helicopter over New York

Cheap helicopter tour New York

A helicopter ride is of course never a cheap thrill. You’ll generally always pay at least 200 dollars for this unique experience. Even so, you can save some money by choosing the right provider.

There are relatively many providers in New York for cheap helicopter rides. These flights usually start at the Downtown Manhattan Heliport on the East River.

Helicopters start sightseeing tours there every three minutes. So there’s a lot happening there.

The flights that are offered here are very similar to one another: they last between 12 and 20 minutes, and you see the most important sights in Manhattan and also the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island from above.

Important: the sightseeing flights that start right in Manhattan never fly directly over Manhattan. The helicopters fly past Manhattan either over the Hudson River or over the East River. That’s not necessarily bad though, since the view is still so magnificent. Some people are still disappointed though because the providers don’t always communicate this very clearly.

Our recommendation

The cheapest sightseeing flight from the Manhattan Heliport costs around 200 dollars and lasts 15 minutes. The reviews for this provider are consistently good. In our opinion, this tour offers the best value for money.

Advantages of a cheap helicopter ride over New York:

  • The price is unbeatable.
  • By starting right in Downtown Manhattan, getting there is quick and uncomplicated.

Disadvantages of a cheap helicopter ride over New York:

  • You don’t fly directly over Manhattan, but rather past Manhattan.
  • Six passengers are normally in the helicopter. The passengers are distributed on site by weight so that the helicopter is well balanced. So it can happen that you’re placed in a middle seat. The view there is of course not as good as from the window.

You can find the cheap sightseeing flight here

New York Skyline
New York Skyline

Helicopter ride for photographers

On our last trip to New York, we explicitly searched for a sightseeing flight for photographers and came across a great offer: a helicopter ride over New York without doors!

It sounds crazy, but it’s absolutely amazing for taking photos. After all, taking pictures through glass is not so ideal. So why not just take away the windows?

You can find our detailed experience of the flight further below. We can definitely recommend it.

The sightseeing flights are offered by Wings Air and start at a small airport in Westchester, around 50 kilometers north of Manhattan. The flight is a full 60 minutes, within which you’ll need around 10 minutes each way to fly from Westchester to Manhattan.

The major advantage of this tour is that the provider is allowed to fly directly over Manhattan. Only over and around Trump Tower is there a small restricted zone where no helicopters are allowed to fly.

The journey to the airport is unfortunately the big disadvantage of this offer. With public transportation, it takes a good two hours. So Wings Air offers a transfer service from the hotel and back, which we also used. It costs 200 dollars and the trip lasts around an hour.

You get the cheapest price when you book directly on the website of Wings Air. The flight there costs 870 dollars and there’s space for up to three passengers in the helicopter. You always hire the entire helicopter, no matter if you come by yourself, in a pair or in a group of three people. The price is always the same.

Unfortunately, the helicopter flight for photographers is no longer available from Wings Air. We have selected an alternative for you.

Advantages of a helicopter ride for photographers:

  • No disruptive windows or doors
  • You can take much better photos

Disadvantages of a helicopter ride for photographers:

  • Higher price than a classic sightseeing flight

To the helicopter tour for photographers

Our helicopter for our New York sightseeing flight.
Our helicopter for our New York sightseeing flight.

Helicopter ride at night

Almost all helicopter flights over New York take place during the day. The city is especially charming at night though too.

We found a helicopter tour where you can also fly at night. Departure times can be booked here up to 8:30 pm.

The flight costs 780 dollars and the flight’s duration is around 30 minutes. It starts from Westchester.

Advantages of a helicopter ride at night:

  • Unique panorama at night.
  • You fly directly over Manhattan.

Disadvantages of a helicopter ride at night:

  • Higher price than a short sightseeing flight.
  • Long journey to Westchester.

To the helicopter flight at night

Our experience of a helicopter ride over New York

And what’s it like flying in a helicopter over New York? Good question. So here’s our little experience report on our helicopter ride over New York.

Since time on a trip to New York is usually very limited, after all, you want to see as much as possible, we decided for a take off at 7:00 in the morning. That way we were back at our hotel in Manhattan by 9:45 and didn’t lose much time despite the long journey.

We were picked up at 5:30 am by a private driver at the hotel and then it was straight to Westchester. The airport is primarily used for private and charter flights by business people and by Wings Air for its helicopter tours.

Our pilot came around 6:40 and after a short introduction we walked across the airfield to a small, orange helicopter. We were surprised by how small the helicopter was. Our pilot then quickly removed the doors and we received a short security briefing.

To be honest, there isn’t too much to pay attention to. The seatbelts were like in a car, and we also got life jackets. Packed in a kind of fanny pack, we just put the jackets around our waist.

We could stow our bags under the seats and then it began. We got headphones that dampened the roar a little bit and that we could use to talk to each other during the flight.

It took a few minutes for the rotors to reach their full capacity and then it went up slowly but surely. The initial queasy feeling of flying without doors quickly gave way to the excitement about the great view.

It took around 10 minutes for us to reach the northern tip of Manhattan. Among other things, we went past Yankee Stadium and then Central Park was the first major highlight. This view from above is absolutely insane.

Later we got astonishingly close to the Empire State Building and saw Times Square and the Flatiron Building really well from above.

From there we continued to the southern tip of Manhattan, past One World Trade Center, Governors Island and the Statue of Liberty.

Then we had a really incredible view of the city’s skyline. From there, we flew over the East River back towards Westchester.

In total, we flew over Manhattan for around 40 minutes and together took more than 1,000 photos.

The return flight took around 10 minutes again and shortly after 8:00 we landed safely back in Westchester.

The Central Park from above
The Central Park from above
The Statue of Liberty in front of Manhattan’s skyline
The Statue of Liberty in front of Manhattan’s skyline

Tips on taking photos from the helicopter

When taking photos from the helicopter, there are a few things to keep in mind so that your photos turn out really well. It would really be a shame if you found out afterwards that all of your photos are blurry or out of focus.

The right focal length

We of course both had our cameras with us, but each had a different lens. On one camera was a zoom lens with a focal length of 24-70 mm, and the other camera had a telephoto lens with 70-200 mm.

The telephoto lens is of course wonderful for taking photos of individual buildings very close up or, for example, taking a close-up shot of the Statue of Liberty. However, the zoom of the telephoto lens was too big for the great panorama shots over Manhattan or really tall buildings like the Empire State Building or the One World Trade Center, so we couldn’t fully capture the buildings with the telephoto lens.

The zoom lens is the better choice overall if you can only take one camera along. If you have two cameras with you or are in a group of two, a telephoto lens is a good addition though.

The right settings

Since the helicopter is of course moving and also vibrates very strongly, the shutter speed should be as fast as possible. That way you can make sure that the pictures aren’t blurry.

We took our photos with a shutter speed of 1/500 to 1/1000 seconds and it went really well. Depending on light conditions, you’ll have to adjust the aperture or the ISO value accordingly so that your photos don’t become too dark.

It’s best to set your camera to the S mode so that you can change the shutter speed at any time and your camera will set the F-stop accordingly. If you already know your camera really well, we’d recommend using the manual mode.

It wouldn’t hurt to switch on continuous shooting. That way you can just hold down the shutter button to take multiple photos consecutively. You’ll be surprised by how different the individual shots are from one another even though only a few milliseconds have passed.

The right accessories

A polarizing filter is highly recommended. Not only can you avoid reflections, you can also reduce the haze that hangs over the city. That way your photos will have a higher color saturation.

Especially if you’re flying in a normal helicopter with doors and windows, a polarizing filter can serve you well to minimize the reflections of the windows.

So that your camera can quickly process the photos taken, you should get a “fast” SD card with enough storage space, for example this one here: 64 GB SD-Card.

What you should also definitely not forget is to charge your battery and ideally stick an extra battery into your jacket pocket. Better safe than sorry.

Questions and answers

We got quite a few questions about our helicopter ride over New York. We’ve summarized the most important questions and answers again for you here:

What about having a fear of heights in the helicopter?

This is a question that Basti asked himself in particular, since he hasn’t always been so comfortable with high heights. The answer: It’s actually not a huge problem.

The helicopter flies really smoothly and barely wobbles. Actual fear never happened. It may have crept up a little in the stomach when the pilot took a curve and you looked straight down.

If you don’t have a huge fear of heights, a helicopter ride definitely isn’t a problem.

Was it cold on the flight?

In the photos you might be able to see that we both had on jackets even though it was midsummer. It wasn’t really cold though, only a little windy. On the approach to Manhattan in particular, when the pilot really hit the gas, it was really blowing.

But it wasn’t cold, a windbreaker is definitely enough. Things are always a little different though depending on the time of year. If you fly during the fall or spring, you should dress a little more warmly.

Can you take bags with you on the helicopter?

In our helicopter, you could open up the seats and stow bags inside. Our backpack and our camera bag fit in there without a problem.
For the standard flights with multiple passengers, you’re generally not allowed to take any bags, but you can simply leave them on the ground.

What about safety?

We didn’t feel unsafe at any point. Our pilot gave us an absolutely secure feeling and flew very smoothly and safely.

Accidents can of course always happen, just like when flying in a plane. But it is not very likely.

What happens during bad weather?

Helicopter flights are of course dependent on weather. When conditions aren’t ideal, the flight will be cancelled. Safety is the top priority for all providers.

You’ll get an alternate date from all providers if the flight can’t take place due to weather.

So we’d suggest booking your flight as close to the beginning of your New York trip as possible. That way there’s still enough wiggle room to find an alternative date.

It would really be too bad if you had planned the flight for the last day and then it couldn’t happen.

Our conclusion

The helicopter sightseeing flight over New York was our absolute highlight. It had been on our wish list for so long and we’re happy to have finally done it.

It was even better than we had imagined it and we’re definitely hooked now. That will likely not be our last sightseeing flight.

Have you also done a sightseeing flight in a helicopter? What was it like for you? Or do you still have questions on sightseeing flights over New York? We look forward to your comments!