Helicopter Ride NYC with Charm Aviation...Is It Worth It?

No experience in NYC is on par with a helicopter ride. Join a tour with Charm Aviation and you'll be lofted above the city, with perspectives that will make you feel like you're seeing the landmarks for the very first time.

statue of liberty charm aviation

If you've never been in a helicopter, the experience may not be what you're expecting. Charm Aviation outfits passengers state of the art Bose noise-cancelling headphones, so there's no engine or wind sound, just conversation, or silence. The ride is smoother than an airplane, you can have the sense that you're weightless above the city, floating on an island. It feels less restrictive than a plane, more open to improvisation. Airplane takeoffs are ritualized, cumbersome, maybe even a little fraught. As a pilot on a recent Charm Aviation ride noted with understatement, "it's a little different with a helicopter." Our takeoff started off in reverse, with a quick shift in POV as the tarmac came into full view and then smoothly gave way to sparkling water and skylines. 

Views for all. It goes without saying that there are serious photo ops waiting. Charm Aviation makes sure to take multiple approaches so every seat can get the perfect shot. There are prime views of the Statue of Liberty, seen from multiple approaches. The tour cruises both up and down the Hudson River so each side of the helicopter gets up-close time with Manhattan skylines and Jersey waterfronts. (One of my personal highlights was when the helicopter banked to turn at the top of Manhattan island, giving a dramatic look at the sweep of the city.) 

lower manhattan helicopter view

Phil Dolby/Flickr

The tour is a great reminder that beyond the landmarks, New York is a working city. There's plenty of air traffic up here, and you can listen in as the controllers keep everything flowing smoothly. Maybe you'll hear a mention of a lesser-known piece of geography, like the Buttermilk Channel (it separates Governors Island from Brooklyn, used once by dairy farmers), a reminder of the layers of city history still there beneath contemporary patterns. The epic quality of New York infrastructure, especially the bridges, comes into fresh focus in the sky. Boat traffic steams in and out of New York Harbor, another element of the working city you'd never imagine if you just stuck to the subways. A visit to New York can be a consideration of the city experience. How can Manhattan absorb and move around so many people without going completely off the rails?

After a helicopter ride over New York you may find yourself thinking differently about urban planning, as you see the city give up its concealed patterns, shifting from chaos to order. There is both rationality to its design and elements of improvisation, older parts that clearly grew organically. The views over Tribeca exemplify that, the 200-year-old townhouses of Harrison Street backing up against high-rise public housing. Another great element of a helicopter tour is the way it can take something as overwhelming as New York and give it the approachability of a model train set.

hudson yards by heliocpter

The tour also gives a sense of the city's evolution, the different eras intermixed, the imposition of the grid as you move north over the city. You'll also see how the city's evolution is ongoing, as with Hudson Yards, with its dense cluster of new architecture popping right out of Midtown West.

Some personal highlights from the tour:

  • Rising up out of the heliport and seeing Governors Island's historic structures against the backdrop of a shining New York Harbor
  • Getting nearly eye to eye with the Statue of Liberty
  • Spying tiny figures standing on the observation deck at Edge
  • The massive forest (?!) at Inwood Hill Park at the northern tip of Manhattan
  • Yankee Stadium, quiet ahead of the start of baseball season
  • The Met Cloisters, set off on their own hilltop
  • The sheer cliffs of the New Jersey Palisades
  • The way waves look lapping at the Jersey shoreline
  • The surreal profile of the Water's Soul sculpture in Jersey City
  • The many, many waterfront townhouses of the Jersey side (who knew there were so many?)
  • The wake of the bright-orange Staten Island Ferry as it cut across New York Harbor

statue of liberty helicopter

Marco Verch/Flickr

For a veteran New Yorker a tour can present many years of personal landmarks, recontextualized. For tourists, you get to see the entire city in one go, by far the most efficient way to take it all in. You'll also learn as you go, with pilots providing a steady narration pointing out what you're seeing and sharing key facts and funny tidbits. The DNA of the ride mixes a little bit of the dream realm, a history tour, and a thrill ride.


downtown heliport nyc helicopter ride

Rab Lawrence/Flickr

Charm Aviation flights leave from the Downtown Manhattan Heliport (DMH), which sits on the East River in Lower Manhattan. It's at Pier 6, just above Battery Park and the Staten Island Ferry, and just below the South Street Seaport. You can taxi here directly along  the FDR Drive (there's a small parking lot for dropoffs), or walk a couple of blocks from the subway (the 1 to South Ferry or the R/W to Whitehall St.-South Ferry will get you here). For a slightly longer walk, you can also take the 4/5 to Bowling Green, the 2/3 to Wall St., or the J/Z to Broad St.

The DMH has an interesting history all on its own—it was the first U.S. heliport to be certified for scheduled passenger helicopter service by the FAA, and it's the only one with a Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) Part 139 certification, meaning it's meeting or exceeding some very high standards for safety.


You will notice that attention to safety when you arrive. Passengers get wanded before entering the building. There's a safety video that shares the basics of helicopter safety (there's not much to be covered, but the video will get you excited to get up in the air). Every passenger receives a flotation device, worn on a belt. You'll get weighed so they can keep the aircraft balanced and there are free lockers for stashing bags and hats (keeping headwear from taking a dip in the East River).


Superior service is a primary reason to book with Charm Aviation. They take their commitment to "elevating your experience" seriously. Charm Aviation offers best-in-class customer service and hassle-free booking. The heliport crew is well-trained and ensures that every aspect of the tour is not only memorable but safe. Charm Aviation takes pride in keeping customers informed and on schedule. From dedicated phone agents and supporting staff to skilled pilots and ground crew, the goal is to connect with guests, address all inquiries, and deliver outstanding customer service at every touchpoint.


Tourist helicopter rides in New York City are subject to strict safety regulations and oversight. These include:

  • Regulatory Compliance. Helicopter operators in NYC must adhere to specific FAA regulations that govern air tour operations. These include rules regarding flight paths, altitude, pilot qualifications, and aircraft maintenance.
  • Pilot Experience. Pilots must hold valid licenses and have a significant amount of flying hours, including specific experience in the type of helicopter used for tours. They also undergo regular proficiency checks and training.
  • Aircraft Maintenance. Helicopters used for tourist flights undergo regular, rigorous maintenance checks to ensure they are in optimal condition. Maintenance schedules are strictly followed according to both the manufacturer's guidelines and FAA regulations.
  • Weather Considerations. Operators closely monitor conditions and cancel flights if adverse weather is expected; passenger safety is the top priority.
  • Traffic Management. The airspace over NYC is among the busiest in the world, but air traffic controllers manage the flow of all aircraft, including helicopters, to prevent collisions and ensure safe operations.
  • Experience. Incidents involving tourist helicopters are very rare, especially when compared to the number of flights conducted safely every year. Charm Aviation has been in business since 2017 and is known for its impeccable safety record.

Read more about safety and Charm Aviation.


lower manhattan helicopter view

Marco Verch/Flickr

Charm Aviation offers three tour options, which vary by time in the air and the sights that are covered.

The Manhattan Tour offers a breathtaking 12-15 minute flight, presenting an intimate view of the Statue of Liberty along with other iconic NYC landmarks like Ellis Island, One World Trade Center, the Chrysler Building, Empire State Building, Chelsea Piers, The Intrepid, Central Park, and Times Square. It starts at $249 per seat, plus a $40 heliport fee, subject to seasonal pricing.

The Big Apple Tour is the most popular option, extending flight time to 17-20 minutes. You'll see all of the above sights, circling the Statue of Liberty and ascending the Hudson River to showcase Upper Manhattan and the New Jersey Palisades. It starts at $279 per seat, plus a $40 heliport fee, subject to seasonal pricing.

The Empire Tour is the pinnacle of helicopter sightseeing in NYC, with a flight that covers all the landmarks in the Manhattan and Big Apple Tours plus exclusive views of Brooklyn, Staten Island, Coney Island, the Verrazano Bridge, and more. Airtime on the Empire Tour is offering a 25-30 minutes. It starts at $369 per seat, plus a $40 heliport fee, subject to seasonal pricing.

new york harbor by helicopter


In conclusion, a New York City helicopter ride is worth it because:

  • There is no analogous experience: no boat, bus, or observation deck offers this kind of view or this kind of thrill.
  • You will gain a new perspective on NYC and how a city works and holds together.
  • It's an unexpectedly emotional experience, mixing awe and adventure.
  • You will experience New York City from viewpoints few ever see.
  • It's as close as you'll get to taking a magic carpet ride over Manhattan.
  • YOLO

Charm Aviation is located at the Downtown Manhattan Heliport (DMH) at Pier 6, 6 East River Piers, New York, NY 10004, Hours are Monday through Saturday, 9am-5:30pm.

About the Author

Ethan Wolff is the author of numerous guidebooks to New York, having covered the city for more than two decades. He has written for New York Magazine, BlackBook, and Details, among others. In addition to his work as the editor of City Guide, Ethan covers NYC’s talk and lecture scene for the website Thought Gallery. He lives with his wife and two daughters in the Windsor Terrace neighborhood of Brooklyn.

Bringing a group to NYC? Free planning services

Let us know what you are looking for and we will try to connect you directly and get discounts.

Enter the code: 3972

More Articles