Our first full day in the Cities was going to be reserved for something pretty special. We had few plans for the day other than the trip to Kearny for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. A Doors-Off Flight over Manhattan with FlyNYON Helicopter Tours.
With most of the day assigned to this experience, we had very little planned other than a Table at the incredible BarSixtyFive at the Rainbow Rooms on top of the Rockefeller Plaza. This means a Lazy morning and a long lie-in to get over yesterday…
4 Am and We are wide awake!
We had gone to bed last night at 9 pm last night but that felt like 2 am to us and 8 hours later it was 10 am our time but still 5 am in New York. Urghh. Even Central Park is still closed. So much for a lazy morning and lie in!
After tossing and turning for an hour, I decided to leave Kate where she was, she is far better at sleeping than me, and head out for an early morning Central park run as the Sun came up. The was the first chance I got to play with my new Go Pro Hero 7 Black and ran down towards Time Square before looping back up Broadway and into the park.
As I explored the long dark paths of the park I had the feeling of utter safety. In years gone by entering Central Park during hours of darkness was a very silly thing. Now it was filled with runners, dog walkers, and people trying to get early morning photo’s without the tourists.
As I hit the Mall heading for the Bethesda Terrace as the sun came up it was incredible to see it so deserted, with just a couple of dog walkers and the odd runner like me. This was the week after the NYC Marathon and the finish chute was still there so I was able to replicate a finish! before working my way out of the park and back to the hotel.
Kate had been snoozing but not really sleeping, so I went and grabbed our breakfast and we got ready to head out for an explore.
Central Park – Movie Sites
After a brief walk through a deserted Times Square we headed over to the Rockefeller center, bereft of the tree it’s just not the same (Tree was due to Arrive on Saturday 10th Nov) but we snapped a few selfies and headed on to Fifth Av.
Normally all we can manage on Fifth is window shopping, but as it was still 8 pm and everywhere was shut at least our lack of money was not the only excuse! We continued up to Central Park past the Plaza. It was early morning and still fairly quiet but getting busier, there was certainly a lot more folk on the Mall.
The Park was stunning, its autumn colors superbly contrasting to the clear blue winters sky and rising sun. The day was unseasonably warm, at over 60F (16C) and in the sun it was very pleasant indeed. We really didn’t need to have packed quite so many cold-weather options!
Our aim was to pick up some classic movie site locations on film and generally enjoy the park. and we succeeded on both fronts with shots from many classic New York films such as Home Alone and elf!
We then headed to Whole Foods on Columbus Circle to try and get some early season Egg Nog … We can’t actually get it in the UK and while homemade is great, it’s just not the same as Store-bought. Then it was back to the hotel to get ready for…
FlyNYON Door Off Helicopter Flight
We were booked in for a 3 pm flight but the Terminal is way over in Kearney near Newark Airport, and we were required to be at the terminal 1 hr 15 mins before the flight so we left at around 12 pm to get there in plenty of time. We hopped on the Tube down to Penn Station then onto the New Jersey Transit to Newark Penn Station. And from here we hopped into an Uber for the short drive to the terminal, we certainly saw some interesting neighborhoods on that journey!
The Arrival Terminal is modern and airy with a Helicopter Sim taking center stage to ensure you know what you are in for, sign-in was painless with pretty much zero Upsell, and after relaxing for a while we went into our briefing. Explaining all the safety aspects of the flight.
You are then stripped of all your valuables and loose items which are locked away in a storage case. You can take your phone up with you as long as it is in one of their chunky, secure, tethered phone holders. Any Cameras must be on a strap and cannot be removed in flight. If like me you are shooting a DSLR or any other multi-lens camera you need to pick a lens and cannot swap! You can take another body however with a different lens.
We were then strapped up into our harnesses and the Teather with emergency releases explained and practiced. It was around this time our fellow chopper mates starting having a meltdown about how he didn’t know there would be other people in the helio with him and how dare the company not give him a chopper for just him and his girlfriend…At least we think it was his Girlfriend, we were not quite sure.
We found his hissy quite amusing and would have told him what a prat he was being but don’t think he would have taken it too kindly and after all, we did have to go up in a doorless helicopter with him, so left it to the staff to explain it was very clear on the website this was not a private tour and you would be sharing the helicopter with other people.
Anyway, he stormed about with a face like thunder as the rest of us prepared for our trip, It’s amazing how people can sabotage things for themselves! We will be checking Tripadvisor for his scathing review that will surely be imminent! After a while, we hopped into a van for the short ride out to the helipad.
Once at the airport, we went through a final roll call and then headed out to the chopper to be strapped in. It was at this point out lottery numbers were announced! Essentially you cannot book any particular seat in the Bell 206L LongRangers. It really is down to potluck, and some seats are worse than others. We feared our fellow cabin partner’s hissy was a ploy to bag the best seat. If it was it failed as he was stuck in the worst seat in the cabin. We like to think this was payback for his outbursts, either from the staff or just karma!
The seat lineup is three across the back, two opposite-facing them and then one upfront with the pilot. We are assured there are no bad seats but that is just not true. The Front right, which was assigned to the moaner, has a fixed door that cannot be removed, this really renders the doors off moot. The middle back is also a bit crappy as you are squished in between two people. The three outer seats and the one upfront are the “winning” seats.
We got the rear middle and rear left, so one good and one bad, but at least we were together. And with hindsight, the outer seats were a little…terrifying. You are very well secured inside the cabin, but it doesn’t really FEEL like it. You have a tether to stop you from falling and a three-point belt to keep you in. But these are all lose fitting, it’s not like a roller coaster where you are strapped in. It’s more like a car, with no doors, a 2000ft drop, and nothing to hold onto!
So with that in mind, it was good Kate was tucked up snugly in the middle, or it could have been an uncomfortable 30mins. As it was I like a good thrill ride and this was certainly right up there with the most thrilling!
After we were all strapped in the engines fired up and after the checks and ATC notification, we were off. The first few minutes were the most alarming as you got used to the feeling of 2000ft of air beneath your feet!
The Flight from Kearny to Manhattan was over in a Jiffy and we were treated to fantastic views of the Skyline of the Island the whole way. We approached the Hudson and crossed around 58th Street and headed up above the park for some staggering views of the park framed by the midtown skyline.
The Route taken is pretty much defined by Air Traffic Control, there is no contact with the pilot who has his full attention navigating this incredibly busy airspace. After the Park, we headed to midtown to get some close-up of the Empire State and Chrysler along with whatever else I could capture as I fired off as many photos as possible.
We followed the east river down towards the Brooklyn Bridge and then over Downtown to get shots of the Freedom Tower, then out over the bat for the money shot of the island, finally, we descended low for some close-up shots of the Statue of Liberty before zipping back to Kearny. It was all over very quickly but the flight was supposed to be 30-33 mins and we had over 36mins of footage on the Go-Pro which was shooting continuously. You can see a condensed video of this below:
A few Thoughts…
It really was windy! At times it was genuinely hard to breathe and my camera was taking a battering. Steady shots were difficult. There is no time for selfies or any of the composed shots you see on Instagram, you spend the time being assaulted by the wind!
Despite it being a warm day it was still very cold up there. Like freezing to the core type cold. On a cold day, it really would be very uncomfortable very quickly, in the sticky heat of the summer it would probably be very pleasant.
There is not a lot to hold onto, and it’s a very long drop! I spend most of the flight with my hand out the chopper holding a ridge on the roof. This meant one-handed Shooting, a problem when changing focal length!
However, it is unthinkably spectacular from up there! every now and then it hits you that is the freedom tower…down there…beneath your dangling feet! It really truly does take your breath away, and not just because of the wind.
After the Flight there was an inordinate amount of faffing around to be done, it seemed to take an age for the minibus to turn up to ferry us back to the terminal, where we were de-harnessed and reunited with our stuff. We ordered an Uber back to Newark Penn and then headed back to the City. We had dinner reservations at Ruth and Chris and it was becoming more and more clear we were not going to make that. In the end, it took over two hours to get back to our hotel. We decided to cancel Dinner for another night and just grab some NYC Pizza.
Our Hotel is right next to “Famous Original Rays Pizza” But really we find that place very disappointing so we widened the net a little and stumbled across Famous Amadeus Pizza. This was far better Pizza and we grabbed a couple of Slices and some Dough balls to take out for the room! Delicious! We then had ample time to get ready for drinks at BarSixtyFive.
Bar Sixty-Five at the Rainbow Rooms
Our last call for the day was for drinks at the BarSixtyFive at the Rainbow Rooms at the top of the Rockefeller Center, well the 65th Floor anyway. We reserved a table, which you will need to do well in advance. You can rock up and on quiet nights get into the bar area pretty easily, but on busy days it’s going to be a long wait. Just getting into the bar means you could be stood up. We had been on our feet all day and wanted to sit so we made sure we had a table. We only wanted drinks but this is no problem.
Drinks are far from Cheap. Most Cocktails are $20, While the Cocktails are pretty good they are not worth $20. But that view is! Remember tickets to the top of the rock are $22 so it’s cheaper than that and you get a drink to boot! If you look at it that way!
We had a Brooklyn (Ironweed Straight Malt Whiskey, Carpano Bianco,
Luxardo Maraschino, Amaro Lucano ) and a Rosé Royale (Louis Barthélémy ‘Rubis’ Brut Rosé NV,
Lejay Crème de Cassis, St. George Absinthe, Lavender Bitters) which we lingered over, taking in the Ambience and the phenomenal view while we recalled the events of a truly wonderful day!
Tomorrow was to be another manic day, We had a lot to pack in as rain was due Friday, so we retired early and hoped we would sleep a bit longer tomorrow morning.