Paragliding over Aspen with the Gant
It’s a bird...it’s a plane...it’s a tourist! While fear of flying is a common travel deterrent, “flight-seeing” is an ever-more-popular tourism trend. Ignore the vertigo and see the world from the greatest possible heights—for example, this paragliding adventure over the Aspen peaks, offered by Aspen Paragliding through select area hotels including the Gant.
By Lena Katz
Photo Credit: Aspen Paragliding
Biplane Over Torrey Pines
Luxury hotel group Destination Hotels & Resorts has seen such demand for “flight-seeing,” it’s introducing an entire range of “Different Point of View” bucket-list activities in conjunction with tour operators in various vacation hot spots. Channel the Wright Brothers in a biplane ride over San Diego with tour operator Barnstorming Adventures...
Photo Credit: Barnstorming Adventures
Fighter Pilot Plane over Bar Harbor
...Or opt for the bulkier and more dramatic vintage fighter plane. These ones are harder to find for charters by the hour, but in Southern Cal, there’s Barnstorming, while Acadia Air Tours offers flights over Bar Harbor, Maine.
Photo Credit: Acadia Air Tours
Soaring over Stowe
For flyers with nerves of steel, glider tours are an extremely serene yet somewhat terrifying way to flight-see using the laws of physics. Lightweight, aerodynamic and motor-less, gliders can only operate during the calmest weather conditions—hence their popularity in Hawaii. The one pictured, though, takes place in Vermont, via Stowe Mountain Resort. Participants drive up epically windy Smugglers Notch road to reach the jump-off—er, fly-off—point.
Photo Credit: Stowe Mountain Resort
Helicopter rides over Hawaii are an extremely popular way to see the islands’ many hidden waterfalls and towering cliffs, plus maneuver right into the jungle ravines. If hovering over a Hana waterfall doesn’t scare you, hop over to the Big Island and hang out over the active volcano at Kilauea.
Photo Credit: Flickr/JKlinger
This view may look like it was shot from a helicopter, but in fact, was taken from the highest point of the Sun Moon Lake Ropeway, an aerial tram suspended 500 feet over one of Taiwan’s most popular tourist destinations. Aerial trams and funiculars are a globally popular way to sightsee at a steep angle while still having a safety rope.
Photo Credit: Lena Katz
Whistler PEAK 2 PEAK
Of all the aerial trams in the modern world, the most ambitious may be the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola, which connect Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains. It’s currently the highest lift of its kind (1430 feet above the valley floor) and the longest unsupported span (1.88 miles from peak to peak—gulp). Even in a state-of-the-art gondola, it’s tough to look down.
Photo Credit: Tourism Whistler/Mike Crane
Hot Air Balloons in Albuquerque
Romance meets daredevilism, and of course don’t forget the great photo ops. These are the elements that create hot air ballooning’s endless mystique. The activity is huge everywhere from Quebec to Cappadocia, but Albuquerque, New Mexico, hosts probably the most epic hot air balloon festival in the United States. With 300 flyable days per year, it’s also one of the most popular domestic year-round hot air ballooning destinations. But it does have competition from San Diego, CA and Texas Hill Country, where the landmark Driskill Hotel offers year-round sunrise balloon rides as part of a luxe romance package.
Photo Credit: Ron Behrmann
Blimp Rides With Airship Ventures
Since the Hindenburg disaster, blimps, the headline-making airships of the WW1 era, almost disappeared—but retro-futurism is bringing them back. And regular people, not affiliated with Good Year or some other huge company, can finally book zeppelin flights with Airship Ventures, a California company that offers weekly flights in Northern and Southern California.
Photo Credit: Airship Ventures
Heli-Skiing in Telluride
If your main thought during helicopter rides is, “Gee, I wish I could jump out,” well then, strap on your ski boots. Heli-skiing is the ticket for adrenaline junkies in Alaska, Greenland and other hard-to-reach places. It also gets skiiers to untrafficked parts of popular winter destinations like Telluride (through The Hotel Telluride) and the Resort at Squaw Creek.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock
If all the previous pictures made you grateful for the solid floor beneath you, then you’re not alone. For plenty of people, the observation deck of a record-breakingly tall building is high enough altitude for one vacation. This year, the record-breaker is the TOKYO SKYTREE, which opened to the public in May 2012. The 2080-foot building is the highest free-standing broadcast tower in the world, as confirmed by the Guinness Book.
Photo Credit: TOKYO SKYTREE