Tag Archives: New York

10 Best Cities to See From Above

29 Apr

For the ultimate bird’s eye view of your destination there’s no more thrilling way to get your bearings than zooming over the landscape in a helicopter. Whether hovering over a kaleidoscope of corals at the Great Barrier Reef or soaring around the Statue of Liberty in New York, here are 10 of the best places in the world to see from above.

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon View

Grand Canyon View

The world wonder of the Grand Canyon is so immense you’ll have to take to the skies to get a feel for its true magnitude – an incredible 446 km long and up to 29 km wide. Helicopter flights have become a hugely popular way of viewing the canyon, with various flight paths taking in Hoover Dam, Lake Mead, the Kaibab National Forest and the Grand Canyon National Park. Best of all, you can fly through the canyon itself, plummeting 1,500 feet beneath the rim for a spectacular journey through the Dragon Corridor, the canyon’s widest and deepest section where the vast expanses of colored rock showcase millions of years of geology.

Las Vegas

Las Vegas Strip

Las Vegas Strip

Don’t blow all your cash on the slot machines because there’s an even better way to take in the dazzling lights of Las Vegas – by helicopter. Fly over the famous Strip at night for the most atmospheric views over downtown Vegas, the Stratosphere Tower and the Luxor Pyramid. Keep your eyes peeled for overhead views of New York New York, Bellagio, Paris, the Venetian, Caesars Palace and Treasure Island, as well as getting the chance to peek into the famous resort pools and hotels. Prefer a daytime flight? Combine it with a flight over the nearby Red Rock Canyon where you’ll get views of the Nellis Air Force Base, the Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Mt Charleston.


Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii

Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii

Swap the urban sprawl for an up-close encounter with Hawaii’s stunning natural scenery with a helicopter flight over the most tropical state in the US. Fly over dense rainforest, crashing waterfalls – including the epic ‘Wall of Tears’ – and volcanic peaks for a breathtaking airborne adventure. Best of all, you can look down on one of the most active volcanoes in the world, Kilauea, which is often oozing lava from its gaping crater.

New York

New York City Skyline

New York City Skyline

Few city skylines are as iconic as New York’s but the only way to cram all the city sights into one tour is by soaring overhead. Helicopter flights over New York head up the Hudson River, taking in the Financial District, the Yankee Stadium, the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building, the George Washington Bridge and Central Park, as well as offering unbeatable aerial views over Manhattan, New York Harbor and Staten Island. The main highlight though, is the chance to circle the inimitable Statue of Liberty – the city’s most legendary landmark.

San Francisco

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco.

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco.

If you can’t make it to New York, flying over the San Francisco skyline comes a close second, with its exhilarating mix of towering bridges, rolling hills and urban beaches. Flights swoop over the notorious Alcatraz Island, the magnificent 1.7-mile long Golden Gate Bridge, the picturesque San Francisco Bay and the historic Ferry Building, but for the most atmospheric views, take to the skies at night when the city will be aglow with neon.

Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef

Often deemed the ‘eighth wonder of the world’ Australia’s underwater marvel is one of the country’s biggest attractions. Divers and snorkelers flock to the northern shores to experience the colorful coral gardens of the Great Barrier Reef, but to really grasp its size, take a helicopter ride over the ocean. Flights not only offer a bird’s eye view of the reef – an otherworldly mass of corals – but take in the World Heritage Rainforest of the Daintree National Park, the surrounding white sand cays and the nearby city of Cairns.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles

Los Angeles

There are few better ways to mark your arrival in Los Angeles than looping around the iconic Hollywood sign in your own personal VIP helicopter. Couple it with a glamorous aerial tour of the Santa Monica Mountains, the Palos Verdes Peninsula and the Hermosa, Redondo and Manhattan beaches, then soar over the celebrity studded haunts of Beverly Hills and Bel Air’s luxury mansions. Your guide can even point out the most iconic LA sights from above – the Hollywood Bowl, Sunset Strip, Downtown LA and Universal Studios.

French Riviera

Villefranche Bay, French Riviera

Villefranche Bay, French Riviera

Join the European jetset for a James Bond esque retreat to the star-studded French Riviera, where you can enjoy a taste of the highlife with a helicopter tour over the famous Mediterranean coastline. Floating overhead, the shimmering ocean, luxury yachts and endless beaches provide the perfect backdrop, but the real highlights are the panoramic views of sights like the Prince’s Palace, the Rock of Monaco, the Monte Carlo Casino and the Monaco Grand Prix race track.

New Zealand

Auckland, New Zealand

Auckland, New Zealand

The self-proclaimed adventure capital of the world offers plenty of ways to take flight, but if you’d rather not jump out of a plane or turn yourself into a human yo-yo, get a view while safely strapped into a helicopter seat instead. Choose from a jaw-dropping flight over the glistening Franz Josef or Fox Glacier on the South Island’s West coast; a close up view of the iconic Sky Tower and volcanic Rangitoto Island in Auckland; a bird’s eye view of the famous Craters of the Moon and the mighty Huka Falls at Lake Taupo; or hovering over bubbling mud pools in Rotorua.

Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro

Taking the pilgrimage to the famous Christ the Redeemer Statue at the summit of Corcovado Mountain is a right of passage for visitors to Rio de Janeiro, but for an even better view of the holy man, take a helicopter flight over the mountaintop instead.  That’s not all; you’ll get a bird’s eye view of the legendary Ipanema and Copacabana beaches, Sugar Loaf Mountain, the Rodrigo de Freitas Lake and the Maracana Stadium. Make sure to toast your safe return with a Caipirinha – Brazil’s national cocktail.

10 Best Cities to See From Above

I Heart My City (in the Spring)

29 Mar

Hanami cherry blossoms outside the Tokyo National Museum. (Photograph by Rob Towell, Flickr)

There’s still a chill in the air here in Washington, D.C., but the days are getting longer, the cherry blossoms are starting to pop, and residents are beginning to shed those cumbersome winter coats. Spring is upon us (at least for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere), and we’re embracing it with open arms by highlighting seasonal must-dos from our amazing I Heart My City community.

From ice cream to air shows, palaces to train rides, here are 20 ways to make the most of the next few months in 20 cities around the globe:

Shelly’s Oxford (United Kingdom): Head to nearby Wytham Woods to see the bluebells at their finest.

The Hyangwonjeong Pavilion, on the grounds of Gyeongbokgung Palace. (Photograph by Ncburton, Flickr)

The Hyangwonjeong Pavilion, on the grounds of Gyeongbokgung Palace. (Photograph by Ncburton, Flickr)

Megan Natalie’s Seoul (South Korea): Visit Gyeongbokgung Palace’s gardens to experience a piece of paradise you’d swear couldn’t exist in Seoul (make sure to watch the changing of the guards).

Ewelina’s Krakow (Poland): Take a walk to Krakus Mound at Podgórze; a nice, green hill where you can take a blanket and relax.

Annie Fitzsimmon’s NYC (United States): Celebrate the bounty of post-winter produce and eat anything with ramps on it because they’re only in season for a few weeks! Motorino has a great ramp pizza, and ABC Kitchen never fails with its in-season menu.

Keith Bellow’s Montreal (Canada): Hang around near McGill and Prince Arthur, soaking up the sun and the street life.

Anya’s Istanbul (Turkey): Visit Topkapi Palace. The flowers are in bloom and it’s positively stunning.

Katherine’s Athens (Greece): Take a bus to Cape Sounion, the ancient ruins of Poseidon’s temple. On the short bus ride from Athens, you’ll wind along the coast and enjoy some of my favorite views.

The Boxi-Platz flea market in Berlin. (Photograph by La Citta Vita, Flickr)

Berlin’s Boxhagener Platz flea market is open on Sundays. (Photograph by La Citta Vita, Flickr)

Madeleine’s Annapolis (U.S.): Check out the Blue Angels air show at the United States Naval Academy commencement.

Maja’s Belgrade (Serbia): Go to Zemun in Old Town and have lunch at one of the fish restaurants on the Danube.

Colleen’s Beijing (China): Fly kites by Houhai Lake.

Zain’s Amman (Jordan): Pack a picnic and visit the Hellenistic site known as Iraq Al Amir.

Shannon Switzer’s San Diego (U.S.): Check out the wildflowers in Anza Borrego Desert State Park.

Yvonne’s Berlin (Germany): Explore Berlin’s many flea markets to find great vintage clothes, furniture, books, and local art.

Sylvia’s Tokyo (Japan): Go for hanami (cherry-blossom-viewing parties) in a park with a big group of Japanese friends, some beer, and some sushi.

Jessica’s Barcelona (Spain): Experience a traditional Catalan calçotada which consists of getting together and eating large quantities of local green onions known as calçots along with romenesco sauce, regional wine, and good company.

Vienna's MuseumsQuartier. (Photograph by Photongatherer, Flickr)

Hang out outside Vienna’s MuseumsQuartier. (Photograph by Photongatherer, Flickr)

Jennifer’s Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates): See Abu Dhabi from the water. Hire a dhow (traditional wooden boat) for a tour, charter a speedboat to take you to one of the 200 islands off the main island, or kayak amongst the mangroves.

Karen’s St. John’s, Newfoundland (Canada): Watch the last ice depart from the Atlantic from atop Signal Hill National Historic Site. Check out the on-site gift shop where local music, books, and culinary delights make excellent gifts.

Isabel Eva’s Madrid (Spain): Take a trip on the Tren de la Fresa to Aranjuez. During the 50-minute ride, you will be served fresh strawberries. Once in Aranjuez, you can take a tour of the Museo del Ferrocarril (the railway museum) and the Palacio Real (the royal palace).

Lea’s Vienna (Austria): Do as the locals do and head to the MuseumsQuartier to hang out on one of the over-sized flexible furniture elements called Enzis.

Nat Geo’s Washington, D.C. (U.S.): Check out the National Arboretum and Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens, two of D.C.’s hidden gems.

Wherever you are, what’s your favorite thing about your city in the springtime? Tell us about it in the comment section below.

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Famous Ice Skating Rinks – Most Well Known Spots in North America

6 Mar

rockefeller.jpgI learned how to ice skate at an early age. It’s a magical feeling, strapping on your skates and swooshing around on the ice with the frigid winter air blowing in your face! Of course, the first lesson you learn very quickly is how to determine if the ice is thick enough to hold you without breaking through into the freezing cold water!


It’s been a few years since I last ice skated, but since we are in the throes of winter, I started thinking about how fun it would be to go take a spin around the ice again. Of course, living in the southwest, this does present a slight problem. For those of you that live in colder climates, here’s a list of the most famous and well-known ice skating rinks around North America. If you live near any of these, be brave – go give it a try:

– The Rink at Rockefeller Plaza. This is probably the most famous of them all. Located on Fifth Avenue in New York City, this is a popular outing for people of all ages. The vendor of the rink provides many types of services ranging from kids birthday parties to helping to pop the question.

– Lake Placid, New York. Want to feel like an Olympian? This is the place to do it. The indoor rink has been home to many an Olympic skater, most notably Eric Heiden and a skater-turned-movie star, Sonja Henie.

– Keystone Lake at Keystone, Colorado. Combining the perfect backdrop of the Rocky Mountains and a picturesque lake, the family will love this setting for spinning around on the ice. This is the largest Zamboni-maintained outdoor skating rink in North America spread out over 5 acres. There is plenty of room for everyone!

– Rideau Canal in Ottawa, Canada. This scenic canal connects the cities of Kingston and Ottawa. In the winter, a section of the canal that runs through central Ottawa is turned into a public ice skating rink. It is considered one of the world’s largest outdoor skating rinks.

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The 10 Best BBQ Joints in America

9 Feb

The rib plate at Virgil's. (Photograph courtesy Virgil's Real Barbecue)

In the land of the free and the home of the brave, nothing tickles the taste buds quite like barbecue. BBQ capitals like Kansas City and Memphis are well represented on our list, but America’s love affair with smoked meat is quite clearly a national preoccupation.

From sea to shining sea, here are the best barbecue joints in the U.S. of A.:

1. Corky’s (Memphis, Tennessee)

This no-frills restaurant is a barbecue landmark in Memphis (which also happens to be one of Traveler‘s “Best Trips of 2013” destinations). Slow-cooked to perfection in open and closed pits and served with tangy sauces, the hickory-smoked meats are so tender they fall off the bone. Try the hand-pulled pork shoulder – it’s cooked for more than 22 hours! Corky’s has five additional locations around the state, plus franchises in Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, and New Jersey.

The Skylight Inn’s signature sandwich: whole hog chopped pork cooked over wood coals and topped with coleslaw. (Photograph courtesy Skylight Inn)

2. Skylight Inn (Ayden, North Carolina)

At Skylight Inn you can order only two things: a pulled pork sandwich topped with coleslaw or a pulled pork dish with corn bread and coleslaw. Whole pigs are slow-roasted over oak fires in open-air pits. Despite the short menu, Skylight doesn’t want for customers.

3. Virgil’s Real Barbecue (New York, New York)

A massive roadhouse in New York City! Buttermilk onion rings with blue-cheese dip. Hush puppies with honey butter, rack of pork ribs, Texas hot links, pulled pork, New Orleans-style barbecued shrimp – everything tasty. There is also a good list of top beers.

4. Jim Neely’s Interstate Barbecue (Memphis, Tennessee)

The sauce recipe might be a secret, but the word is out about Jim Neely’s. Each day brings new and repeat customers to this family-owned business that dishes up some of the country’s best barbecue. Slow-cooked in closed pits, the meat is incredibly moist and unbelievably good. It’s so popular that Jim installed a drive-thru window!

Inside Virgil’s Real Barbecue. (Photograph courtesy Virgil’s Real Barbecue)

5. Arthur Bryant’s (Kansas City, Missouri)

Bryant’s has been touted as the “business that gave Kansas City its renown as a barbecue capital.” Simple on décor but high on taste, Bryant’s has been serving up delectable hickory-and-oak-smoked barbecue since the 1920s, counting presidents and celebrities as devotees. Its two sauces – Original and Rich & Spicy – justly deserve the accolades heaped upon them.

6. Tennessee Red’s (Portland, Oregon)

Laid-back Tennessee Red’s serves up some of the tastiest barbecue outside of the South. Generous side dishes and no less than five sauces accompany each entrée. The corn bread melts in your mouth.

7. Oklahoma Joe’s BBQ & Catering (Kansas City, Kansas)

A five-star joint situated in the back of a gas station, with top reviews for Carolina pulled pork, homemade fries, and burnt ends. Low on atmosphere but high on taste. Zagat has rated Oklahoma Joe’s as Kansas City’s best barbecue.

The open pit at the Salt Lick, (Photograph by Kenny Braun)

8. Pierce’s Pitt Bar-B-Que (Williamsburg, Virginia)

Operating in the same location since 1971, Pierce’s Pitt Bar-B-Que keeps it simple and doesn’t change (case in point: the sign-maker’s misspelling of “Pit” stuck). Their sauce’s secret family recipe goes back some 80 years. A classic joint serving up pulled chicken and pork, ribs, hush puppies, collards, corn bread, onion rings, and all your favorite sides.

9. Firefly’s (Marlborough, Massachusetts)

This award-winning barbecue joint dishes up ribs, brisket, and pulled chicken. Devotees rave about Firefly’s Memphis BBQ sauce that has hints of brown sugar, molasses, and chocolate. Wash it all down with a glass of sweet tea straight out of the South.

10. The Salt Lick (Driftwood, Texas)

Featuring an indoor open pit where you can see your meal being cooked, the Salt Lick is a warm and friendly establishment that excels at barbecue. Customers sit at picnic tables and dig into mouthwatering platters of ribs, brisket, sausages, and plentiful side dishes.

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Tour Guide: These Streets Are Made For Running

20 Jan

Img_1899By: Ashley Thompson

What do Charleston, S.C., San Diego, and New York have in common? They are all cities with these new-fangled things called jogging tours.

Ladies and gentlemen, a new and improved way of sightseeing: City Running Tours. They’re more time-efficient than leisurely walking tours, and they’re a heck of a lot more eco-friendly than bus tours. And the best thing? They aren’t necessarily tailored for running fanatics. The tours (led by an expert jogger/tour guide) span anywhere from six to 13 miles, but there are frequent photo-op stops, giving you and your legs time to regroup and snap a shot.

“We do not have one niche of the running community,” says City Running Tour’s president, Michael Gazaleh. “We run with people of all levels. We get those who are training for a race and need to keep up with their training schedules, as well as recreational runners. We run with high schoolers to people in their 60s.”

Expect to pay

$60 per person for the first six miles (which takes between an hour and an hour and a half), plus six dollars for every mile after that.

It may be more pricey than a hop-on, hop-off bus ticket, but included in the price is a free T-shirt and a glamorous photo of yourself huffing and puffing with sweat dripping off your nose. Oh, and we suppose there’s also something to be said about the unhurried pace that doesn’t whiz you by city landmarks from a packed bus, but still allows you to cover more ground than walking does. And it seems like a great way to work off those oft-dreaded vacation-mode pounds.

City Running Tours offers its services in six cites across the country, with Washington, D.C., Austin and Chicago rounding out the mix.

Photo: City Running Tours

Tour Guide: These Streets Are Made For Running