The urban explorers in us at Untapped Cities are constantly looking for that next adventure to up the ante. We recently found it with FlyNYON, a company that combines photography, adventure, and one of the best ways to see New York City (and four other cities in the United States) on its doors off helicopter tours.

Photograph via FlyNYON by @BeholdingEye

A normal helicopter tour offers great views, but for photographers, the windows, doors and enclosure really get in the way. In contrast, FlyNYON was started by a group that originally worked on helicopter film shoots for movies like the Avengers, Mission Impossible, and The Wolf of Wall Street – and they applied the techniques used to commercial operation.

When you take a flight with FlyNYON, you start at a helicopter hanger in Kearny, New Jersey – next to Jersey City. Inside, a tent and lounge have been set up, VIP style, while you complete your check in process and get briefed on the details by the upbeat, peppy staff. Next step is to create a custom flight plan. Our group wanted to get a look at the Chrysler Building, Central Park, World Trade Center, and the Brooklyn Bridge, but was completely fine to skip the Statue Liberty. One spot the tours always hit up, regardless of the flight plan, is a look from the New York harbor up Manhattan – the “money shot” they call it.

Next step is to get harnessed up. All of your camera gear is attached to the harness, including your phone if you choose to bring it. We had, between two of us, a Canon SLR camera, two iPhones, and a stabilizer for the live video. The helicopters can fit five passengers at a time, three on one side, two on the other. There’s an “adventure seat” in the middle, between the front seat and the back seat where you sit on the edge, legs and feet hanging out, with your harness connected to the back seat giving you enough room to move around. There is no bad seat however because in all three, you’ll get the full, hair rising, foot tingling, hair blowing experience.

Photograph via FlyNYON by @JNSilva

The helicopter takes off over the industrial zones of New Jersey, where you can see the Manhattan skyline looming ahead. As it gets closer to New York City, the altitude increases and suddenly, you’re over the East River looking at the city from a whole new perspective. We can safely say, there’s nothing quite like taking in the skyline of New York City while feeling the wind and hanging out over the ledge. And we promise, it’s not as terrifying as it might seem for some. Beyond taking photos, you’ll have moments where you just sit and revel at the sheer scale and density of this city that New Yorkers and all its transplants, immigrants, visionaries, and visitors built collectively over the years.

Scroll down for more photographs from our experience and stay tuned for a live video on Monday to be broadcast on Facebook. FlyNYON tours can be taken in 15 minute or 30 minute increments, and there are also special tours for July 4th, the September 11th Tribute in Light, and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.

Heading over the East River

432 Park Avenue

The United Nations complex

Jackie Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in Central Park

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Queensboro Bridge and Roosevelt Island

Central Park ballfields

Hell Gate Bridge and Randalls/Ward Islands. Rikers Island in background.

Hell Gate Bridge

Queensbridge Houses

Brooklyn, from Newtown Creek and Greenpoint waterfront

Union Square

Lower Manhattan

Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge

Governors Island

Lower Manhattan and 1 WTC


Ground Zero, 9/11 Memorial and 1 WTC

1 WTC, Woolworth Building below

Photograph via FlyNYON by @Mishattan

FlyNYON will open a storefront this fall at Kearny Point, a former navy shipyard that is being transformed into a small business and manufacturing hub. See photographs of the abandoned buildings inside Kearny Point and the latest development here.