Anyone who spends anytime outside in Las Vegas will notice one thing very quickly and that is the huge amount of helicopter traffic. Some of that is High Rollers and Celebs flying in, some are News and Traffic helicopters taking an aerial view of the city, but most, a huge majority are tourist sightseeing flights, Choppers packed with tourists getting the best view in the house of the mindblowing Las Vegas Strip.
The Las Vegas strip looks pretty incredible from any location, be it on the strip itself, your high-level hotel room, the High Roller, or even a distant view of the skyline. But for the ULTIMATE view, you have to take to the air. Soaring over the Las Vegas strip is real Bucket list stuff, and as such it’s important to get it right so we take a look at all the Best helicopter tours in Las Vegas, Which tours to take and Who to fly with. We can assure you this is an experience you will never forget as you soar over the dazzling bright lights of Las Vegas!
Flight Routes and experiences
There are 3 main experiences available from Las Vegas, each company will have several variants and additions of these but they all boil down to 3 main flight paths.
This is the basic and cheapest option, ranging from $80-$120 and 12-15 mins in duration. Most of these are night-time flights to get the full effect of the strip, while some companies offer Daytime trips we find the strip is just so much more spectacular at night.
The Trips are pretty simple, Take off from Macarran, head up the strip, taking in the bright lights of Las Vegas, Past the Stratosphere for a close look. Loop around Downtown Las Vegas and head back down the strip to the Heliport.
The whole thing takes about 12-15mins but you get to see pretty much all of Vegas, the strip is not huge and even at the reduced airspeeds the choppers fly, there really isn’t much else to see.
The experience is a typical Vegas Cheap Thrill. Get up, take it all in and back down to earth, with a lighter wallet, before you know it. But we don’t mean this as a bad thing. These trips are for many the absolute highlight of their Vegas trip. Vegas from the air is like nothing on earth and seeing it fro the air is a real-life experience.
There are some inherent downsides to this tour, however, and it is not easily remedied. Vegas is the home of Gambling, but we “bet” you didn’t think you would be gambling when you booked your Helicopter tour! The problem is the Las Vegas Airspace is insanely busy, with 50+ helicopters doing tours of the strip every hour, along with constant arrivals and departures from McCarran, plus 2 other airports and a USAF Base all within a ten-mile radius, it is seriously busy up there.
So the FAA keeps the Helicopter traffic simple. Any Las Vegas Strip Tours ALL take the same route. It does not matter which company you choose. They all head the same way. From McCarran, they head north with the strip on the left-hand side of the Chopper. At Downtown Vegas it’s a 180° turn and back down the opposite side of the strip, again with the strip to the left.
See the problem? With the EC130 Helicopter layout, anyone in the front or back Left Seats are going to have a heck of a view. Those stuck in the Rear right-hand seats, well it’s pretty sh$$y! It is not as bad as you may fear, the Rear seats are elevated (Stadium Seating) above the front so you can see over the Piolet and front-seat passengers, but it’s not as cool and clear as from the front. You still get a great view of the Strip, but there is that nagging feeling of being shortchanged. You know you are just not getting as good an experience as the other guests!
The Seat selection is also “Random”. The operators will tell you, Over and Over, that the selection is based on weights and balances assigned by the computer. This is rubbish. Our last outing the Piolet said: “You two in the front“, to a nice couple we were flying with, “and one other in the front?” With my camera in hand, I jumped at that. “And the other 3 in the back, however you like!” Weights and Balances… Yeah right.
This is a cover as they KNOW they are shot changing on couple or group by stuffing them in the worst seats, The KNOW people are going to kick back and as such use the weight and balances computer argument. Sorry as a Private Piolet it doesn’t wash. The Choppers can easily handle any load configuration any set group of people is going to throw at them. Come on these are multi million$ Aircraft with a 1000hp Turbojet engine, you think they can’t handle a fat (or skinny) kid sat in the wrong place!
There are a few ways around this, Maverick Private Hire is almost the same price as 4xpassengers. if there are 4 or more of you just hire the while Chopper! Sundance and Pallipan Let you reserve the front seats for $25 each, it’s a bit of a con, but if you want great sears guaranteed it’s the only way. YOU CANNOT CHOOSE between right and left in the rear!
With the Grand Canyon Tours, the seat position is less important. Front seats are better, as you get the piolets eye view, but really in an EC130 there is little to worry about, the rear seat view is mindblowing. As the Canyon rears up on both sides the view is staggering, although any strip flyover will be subject to the same restrictions as the stip-only tours.
Grand Canyon Helicopter tours are the top end tours and the ones we all aspire to, there can be nothing more magical than flying down into the Grand Canyon, Celebrating with Champagne, and then soaring back to Las Vegas. These tours are serious bucket list experiences, but they come at a cost!
Prices start at $550 (from Las Vegas) and for this, you get a flight over some incredible terrain, a landing inside the West Rim, a Plastic cup of California Champagne, and some basic snacks (think crisps, maybe a sandwich!) and finally a flight back and over the strip.
When put like that it may sound pretty unappealing, but the landscape is one of utter beauty. The Desert that surrounds las Vegas has a real rugged appeal, backed by covering mountains, once aloft it really is beautiful, Vegas itself from the air is like nothing on earth and the stunning blueness of Lake mean and the fiery reds of the valley of fire contrast starkly with the endless beiges of the desert. It is a wonderful place to take a helicopter flight. Then there is the Canyon itself.
The West Rim is where most Helicopter tours will take you. This is one of the most beautiful and stunning canyons on earth, however, it actually falls well short of another location. Namely the South Rim of the grand canyon! This part of the Canyon just cannot hold a candle to it’s bigger sister but the south rim lies 280 miles away from Las Vegas and is not practical for a helicopter flight from Las Vegas (see below for some tour ideas). So what you get from Vegas is the West Rim.
From above it is still incredibly vast, a giant scar carved into the earth and as you descend down into the canyon the sheer walls rise up and devour you. From the landing sites at the banks of the Colorado River, we can assure you, thoughts about this being a lesser canyon will be far from your mind!
If you are looking for that ultimate Vegas Experience, one to share with you loved one and build memories that will last a Lifetime there is little better than a Grand Canyon Helicopter Tour, We know they are costly but this is proper Bucket list stuff and you do get quite a bit for your money.
Red Rock Canyon
The Red Rock Canyon flights sit somewhere in-between the two. A bit more costly than a Vegas flight and not quite as spectacularly as the Grand Canyon. If you want the Grand Canyon but looking to save money this is a poor substitute and will always feel like settling. But in reality it a unique and fun experience, less touristy than the Grand Canyon, you get to see on of Las Vegas’s very special rock formations and overlook Vegas for a place very few get to see. Combined with a flight down the strip after dark.
This is more for people want ing an upgraded experience from the Vegas flight, this gives you Vegas, Vegas, and More Vegas, the view from the canyon landing sights is seriously special, and watching Vegas come alive a night is unforgettable.
Most operators will offer a host of options, such as Meal deals, Shows, and other add-ons. n the whole these are not always great value and you really are paying for the convenience.
We normally book separately if we want Helicopter, Dinner, and a show we find doing our own thing gives the freedom to really just do exactly as we want. Why be limited to the show and restraints they are offering when you have ALL of Vegas to choose from?
One exception to this is the Skywalk add-ons to the Grand Canyon Tours. This will include two landings, Top and bottom, and access to the Skywalk Attraction and usually lunch.
This gives you a really all-inclusive experience of the West Rim, you can get out and explore the canyon from the top, and walk along the glass floor of the Skywalk. It is not entirely necessary as quite frankly after viewing the Canyon from a chopper, any other view is a letdown really. But if you want to tick EVERY box this is a good option.
Las Vegas Helicopter operators are starting to open up again after the Pandemic of recent months, which is great news. Things to do in Vegas are a little restricted, there are no shows, clubs or buffets and only limited casinos and tourist attractions open, it is great to See the City open, but we all have a long way to go until “Normal”
We were a little surprised that Helicopter tours were one of the first to open, You can be a little crammed into the choppers with social distancing, not an option. The Helicopter firms get around this by insisting on Masks.
It is not ideal, none of us want to wear a mask but it seems for the time being if partaking in anything that requires close contact a mask is going to be a necessity.
On top of this deep cleaning between flights, social distancing in the terminal, and lots of hand gel seem to be the weapons of choice here to keep Covis at bay. We are not here to tell you if that is adequate, we are not health professionals, simply this is what the operators and the authorities have deemed acceptable, it’s up to you to consider your own level of risk!
There are a good choice of operators, which helps keep competition healthy and prices low. The flights are all very similar as they are restricted by the FAA and clearance from McCarren Tower, Las Vegas’s airspace is VERY busy. The main differences are cost, the type of helicopter used, and any added extras.
The Other differentiation is the Base, the big operators all fly out of McCarran’s heliports, but there are some smaller operates who fly from North Las Vegas Airport.
The Big three all fly out of McCarran Airport. This has a distinct advantage that you are on the strip right away, as soon as you lift off you are at the golden towers of the Mandalay Bay, and the entire flight time is over the strip. This can lead to shorter flights, but you get the whole strip, all of the time. From North Las Vegas there is a little flight time to get to the strip, and they miss a bit out to avoid the heavy congestion around McCarran.
The Home bases are bigger and glitzier, and the fleets are generally newer top-end helicopters, The Airport is much easier to get to from most strip hotels and the companies often offer free pick-up from most locations.
These are the big boys in Las Vegas. Their fleet is huge and their home terminal is a shiny modern complex that processes customers in a fast and efficient way. Expect a glass of champagne of arrival and free hotel pick-up from anywhere on the strip.
The Fly Exclusively in the EC/HC 130 Eco-Star helicopters which are a modern Aircraft with impeccable safety record perfect for tourist flights. They sit 4 across the back and 2-3 in the front with the Pilot. The windows are large and even the worst seat still gets a good view, although you may feel hard done by if you are right in the back, right seat!
The company is very professional and provides an efficient and well oil service, all though it can feel a little cold and a bit impersonal seeing as you are one of many customers they will be flying that day!
Best Flight Experiences from Maverick
- Las Vegas Strip Tour – $104 per person
- Las Vegas Strip Tour – Private Flight – $498 up to 6 people!
- WindDancer – Grand Canyon – $ 469 per person ($499 Sunset)
The Vegas Strip tour is a basic flight up and down the strip, it is nothing fancy but the spectacular Vegas Strip at night is more than enough and this certainly feels pretty magical. If there are 4 or more of you in the group the Private Flight ensures you have the chopper to yourself and will get the best seats!
The WindDancer Tour is Mavericks Grand Canyon Experience. This flight takes you out via Hoover Dam and Lake mead to Mavericks private landing site inside the west-rim, where light snacks and a “glass” of champagne are served.
Mavericks Landing site is not the best of the bunch, it is quite high above the river so doesn’t feel quite as inside as others, but the views down the canyon are still utterly mindblowing
After leaving you fly through the canyon a short way before heading back over the Valley of Fire. The final part of the trip takes the standard pass over the strip. If you take the Sunset option the flight back with be during sunset with incredibly beautiful colors and the Vegas stip coming alive in all it’s nighttime glory!
Grand Canyon South Maverick
The West Rim is a truly incredible place, however, it is NOT the best part of the Canyon. The South rim is even more stunning, and its scale is hard to fathom, up to 18 miles wide, a mile deep and filled with colors of unthinkable beauty. The problem is the South Rim and the Grand Canyon National Park are a LONG way from Vegas, too far for a helicopter and 5+ hour 560+ mile journey.
Maverick will take you there however, they offer 2 options, a light aircraft flight to Grand Canyon National Park Airport, then a helicopter tour over the canyon (Grand Canyon Dream $544), or if you make your own way to the park you can just do the helicopter tour (Canyon Spirit $299). Expensive but you will not be disappointed!
Sundance is the other BIG operator in Las Vegas. Their base is not quite as flash and their website a bit older, but the experience is every bit as good, and while Maverick picks you up in their large busses Sundance offer Limousine Pick-up, or offer a $17 discount if you can find your own way there (City Lights).
The Service is a little more friendly however they still operate some A-Star helicopters along with the Eco-Star and these are a poor alternative. The seating and visibility are far inferior and we really prefer the Eco-Star, To be fair most flights are on the Eco-Star but there remains the risk of getting the lesser helicopter.
Best Flight Experiences from Sundance
- City Lights Tour – $102 per person
- Red Rock Picnic Tour – $250 per person
- Grand Canyon Flight With Landing – $460 per person ($500 Sunset)
The City Lights Tour is the basic Vegas strip tour that operates on the only agreed FAA Flight Path. Like all operators, this raised the Back right seat issue. Sundance offers the opportunity to guarantee front seats for $25 per person, however, this is not guaranteed until check-in. $50 for a couple is a fairly modest upgrade fee to ensure you are not going to get the dreaded back right seat, and if you grab an Uber instead of it the Limo Pick-up you are halfway to covering that!
The Red Rock Picnic tour is like a mini Grand Canyon tour. You fly out over the strip and the stunning Las Vegas surroundings before landing in a private Red Rock Canyon Landing area while you are served champagne and a picnic meal (full meal service is available). The Flight is timed at sunset and the colors of the setting sun over the desert are usually pretty mindblowing. You are then treated to a seriously spectacular view of the strip, the bright lights of vegas turn on and you can sit and what them sparkle from your private perch above the madness. The return flight is back over the strip, this time in its full night time glory.
The Grand Canyon Tour is the typical fare, hoover, damn, lake mead, land inside the canyon, basic picnic and champagne in a plastic cup, then back over the valley of fire and the strip. The Landing site is one of the better locations, with really stunning views down the main Manyon Channel following the colorado river. There is also a very pretty waterfall coming down from quartermaster springs, assuming the water is flowing (not the often, it is a desert!)
Papillion is one of the oldest operators flying out of Las Vegas, They also operate out of Boulder Airport, a short drive from Las Vegas, or with free Limo pickup, this will add a good two hours to any trip so make sure you know where you are flying from.
Papillon is best known for its Grand Canyon Tours and this is where they shine. Their Base is one of the largest at McCarran (shared with Atlantic Aviation) and can process a large number of people, and can feel a little like a cattle market.
Best Flight Experiences from Papillion
- Las Vegas Strip Night Flight – $99 per person
- Golden Eagle with Vegas Strip – $378.99 per person
- Grand Celebration with Las Vegas Strip – $448.99 per person ($474 Sunset)
Papillion’s Landing site in the Cayon is the best of the bunch, it is much lower than the others and has stunning views up and down the canyon along with the quartermaster tributary. Being so low the Canyon walls really tower above you and you get a real feeling of the incredible scale of the Canyon.
watch out for trips from Boulder City, they are considerably cheaper but you miss out on the Las Vegas Strip and instead require a 50mile round trip by car, limo, or bus. We much prefer flying out of Vegas, but if you only want to experience the canyon and want to save a few $ these are a good choice.
The Golden Eagle With Las Vegas trip is a purely airborne experience. Jump in the Chopper, fly to the canyon and take a look at the incredible wonder by air only, for many landing inside the canyon is all part of the experience but seeing it fro the air is the main course really and this option saves time and money!
North Las Vegas Airport
A little outside of the main strip area is Las Vegas North Airport. This is a very different place to McCarren. There are no big terminals, no large rental car places, and no Jumbo Jets taking of and landing every five minutes. The place is in fact eerily quiet most of the time.
This makes it a fantastic place for air operations such as Helicopter tours, Private Jets, and Light Aircraft. We recently booked our own light Aircraft from here and flew ourselves over the Grand Canyon!
Don’t expect the glitz and glamour of the large terminals the McCarran operators fly out of, instead everything is low key and a little more relaxed, they also tend to use older helicopters, but this is not always a bad thing (the Robison 44 is an incredible aircraft!)
These tours tend to be a little more personal and little longer in duration, mainly as you need to get to and from the strip,
5 Star Grand Canyon Helicopter Tours
Flying int the older and AS350 A-Star Helicopters 5 Star offer some of the cheapest tours in Las Vegas. The A-Star is a fantastic helicopter and is a real workhorse with billions of safe flying hours the world over, We would not hesitate for a second to board one, the truth is it is not as good a touring helicopter as the newer more expensive Eco-Star (EC-150). The only issue it the seating is more cramped and basic and the windows smaller providing less panoramic views than the Eco-Star.
This is the trade-off for lower prices. We also Find 5 Stars tours to be a little longer and take their time a bit more with less of a “pack-em in” feel.
The whole operation has a slightly more budget feel to it, but we find this leads to a more personal and friendly approach, far less corporate than the big Players at McCarran.
On the whole, the offering is very similar to the big players, just a little cheaper, and rougher around the edges. But when you are soaring over the GC are you really going to notice how big the windows are?
5 Star also fly out of Boulder so make sure you know where you are flying from, Boulder is a fair drive from Vegas
Skyline Helicopter Tours
Skyline is a completely different operation to the rest. For a start they operate Robinson R44 Helicopters. These are a lightweight 4 seat aircraft (meaning everyone gets a window seat) that generally FL lower and slower than the bigger turbojet aircraft.
They only really offer Strip tours or Red Rack Canyon tours as the GC is a pretty long flight for these smaller aircraft.
With only 3 seats you are usually on your own or can ensure a private flight for only $35. They also offer Doors off flights which are one hell of a rush.
702 Helicopters are a similar operation to Skyline, offering tours in the 4 seat R44 Helicopters. Their website and operation are quite basic but the tours are fun and inexpensive.
Private Strip Tour over Las Vegas – $297.00
FlyNYON Las Vegas
FlyNYON is one of our favorite operators in North America. Their New York Doors off Tours are like nothing on earth. For the last few years, they operated Las Vegas/ Red Rock Canyon Tours but have ceased operation in the area. We will keep an eye out for their return as Covid restrictions lift and bring you more details
Helicopter tours get a bad rep in some internet travel forums and message boards. The truth is there have been crashes during some Tourist helicopter operations, and some during Las Vegas and Grand Canyon tours.
Flight operations of these nature do carry an inherent risk. We wish we could say they didn’t but the truth is a lot can go wrong and when it does the results can be disastrous.
However, the safety procedures, maintenance, and precautions put in place by the FAA and the Aircraft operators mitigate nearly every possible scenario. The chances of being involved in an accident while taking a Las Vegas Helicopter tours are infinitely slim, you are far more likely to hit a jackpot in the casino and we all know that isn’t going to happen. These operators fly hundreds of tours every day the vast majority without incident, it’s just those one-in-a-million events attract a lot of headlines!
Fear Of Flying
Despite the amazing safety precautions and records of the operators, some people are just scared of flying. Some people are scared of heights and some only scared of flying in small aircraft, of which they often don’t know until they get to the chopper door. All the reasoning in the world will not help. These Phobias are often irrational but very real to the sufferer. You can tell someone scared of spiders they can’t hurt them but that does not make them any less scary.
For people with a fear of heights, Helicopters are usually fine. Height is a strange thing but to feel the fear of falling you usually have to be stood on something solid. It is strange how being in an aircraft just doesn’t affect the brain the same as being on a tall building.
If you have a real fear of flying, then this is less perception-based and more a fear of knowing what you are doing. The stress and anxiety this causes will likely make a flight very un-enjoyable.
The Helicopter Platform is actually one of the least fear provoking methods of air travel. The aircraft’s ability to hover negates the need for the runway wind-up, this makes many nervous as the perception of speed is very real. With the helicopter ascending near vertically into the sky, it feels more like a floating platform than flying, it’s not certain bu some who are scared of flying can be fine on a helicopter.
If you are one of those who doesn’t know your fear until you hit the door, then you have to rely on the goodwill of the companies. They will not force you into the air as a scared person on the ground getting a refund is better than a full-blown panic attack in the air.
Essentially we find unless you know you have a severe phobia of flying or are generally a very nervous person who is not keen on new experiences we think fears should not stop most people. Not overthinking things is key, focus on the jaw-dropping sights you are being rewarded with and try and forget the mechanics of what is going on. Trust in you supremely trained piolet and the incredible levels of precautions the flight operators take.
Have Your Say
Have you been on a Las Vegas helicopter tour? Let us know your thoughts, who did you fly with what tour did you take, what bits did you like and which bits were you less excited about? Let us know what you have to say in the comments below. And if you have any questions just fire away.