I received the most amazing gift for Christmas—a Groupon Deal for a helicopter tour of Los Angeles and Hollywood. I’ve lived in L.A. for nearly all of my life but had never seen the city like this before. Starting off at Whiteman Airport, a municipal airport in the north San Fernando Valley that I’d never heard of before, the sexy red Robinson R44 Clipper II helicopter gracefully lifted off and swooped southeast toward Hollywood. We passed over the suburban sprawl of “The Valley,” then over Universal Studios before crossing over Mount Lee, the home of one of the most famous landmarks in the world—the Hollywood Sign. The chopper flew over the Hollywood Reservoir and downtown Hollywood, where we could spot famous sights like the Hollywood Bowl, Capitol Records building and new W Hotel below. Looking west we could see Beverly Hills, Century City, Westwood and Santa Monica, with the Pacific Ocean just visible through the morning fog (or “marine layer” as we Angelenos like to call it.) It was even clear enough to see Catalina Island in the far distance.
The helicopter then continued southeast toward downtown L.A. where it did a counter-clockwise loop around the city center. From this high vantage point, we could see all of the skyscrapers and landmark buildings, including the U.S. Bank Tower (the tallest building west of the Mississippi River), The Staples Center, L.A. Live and the new Ritz Carlton Hotel. The iconic Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall shimmered below in the morning sun. We also passed over L.A. City Hall, The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, the High School for the Visual and Performing Arts and Chinatown. Then we got a really cool view of Dodger Stadium with downtown framed perfectly in the background. It’s amazing how enormous its parking lot is!
We then continued in a northwesterly direction, passing over Silverlake Reservoir and the famous Griffith Park Observatory, heading toward the Hollywood Sign once again. After hovering for some good photo ops, we flew over the Cahuenga Pass to the Valley for our return to Whiteman Airport. The helicopter passed over numerous cookie-cutter homes dotted with glimmering, blue swimming pools on its way.
A helicopter tour of Los Angeles was a real treat. I would definitely recommend it to tourists to Los Angeles as a complement (or even as an alternative) to the ubiquitous hop-on, hop-off buses or celebrity homes tours. The company we flew with was Adventure Helicopter Tours. Pilot Art Romero was very friendly and knowledgeable of the sights of the City of Angels. I would love to take another tour someday!
Here are several photos from our tour:
Heading southeast from Whiteman Airport across the San Fernando Valley, with downtown L.A. poking through the morning haze.
Flying past the world-famous Hollywood Sign, with the San Gabriel Mountains in the distance.
Farther south, with another helicopter tour at the top of the frame. US-101 is visible in the bottom left of the photo.
Approaching downtown L.A., looking east. The I-110 freeway passes just to the west of the high-rises.
Passing to the south of downtown L.A. The tallest building in the center of downtown is the U.S. Bank Tower; the shiny blue, rectangular one closest to the bottom right of the photo is the new Ritz Carlton Hotel.
Downtown Los Angeles from the east. You can barely make out the Hollywood Sign in the distance.
The Walt Disney Concert Hall from above.
The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels and the High School of the Visual & Performing Arts, separated by US-101.
Chinatown as seen from above.
Dodger Stadium with downtown L.A. behind it. You can make out the Pacific Ocean in the top right of the photo. The hill in the distance is the Palos Verdes peninsula, with Catalina Island behind it.
One of L.A.’s most iconic landmarks, Griffith Park Observatory.
Approaching the Hollywood Sign.
Up close and personal with the Hollywood Sign.
Passing over the Hollywood Reservoir with L.A.’s Westside neighborhoods in the background.
Suburban sprawl at it’s finest.
Here are some additional photos that I processed differently, just for fun:
Downtown L.A. in miniature!
“Vintage” downtown Los Angeles.
What do you think? Have you ever been on a helicopter? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments section below!
p.s. Thanks Mom & Dad for the present!
Michael Figueiredo is a freelance travel writer based in Los Angeles, California. When he’s not gallivanting around the world, he’s enjoying the laid-back lifestyle and perfect weather of Southern California. So far he’s visited forty countries and territories on five continents. His goal is to see at least one new country every year! . Read more from this author