This post was most recently updated on May 10th, 2017
Want to know why you should go on a helicopter ride? It’s a fantastic opportunity to familiarize yourself with a city and see the “lay of the land”. It provides an overview that helps you decide what you most want to see and explore. And you get to view the city in a way that is unique and beautiful.
A helicopter ride isn’t just for tourists. In fact, it might be even more enjoyable for you to explore your own hometown via helicopter. You will recognize landmarks that a tourist wouldn’t know about or see places that have special meaning to you.
I recently took my first helicopter ride with Waverider Helicopter Tours in Oceanside, CA. We flew from Oceanside down the coast to La Jolla and then north again through San Diego County’s inland corridor and back to Oceanside. What a spectacular tour! Now I’m on a mission to encourage others to give it a try. Here’s why:
Learn the “lay of the land”
Whether you’re a tourist or you’ve lived in a city all your life, a helicopter ride is the only way to get above the hills and freeways and see how everything is laid out. You can spot the rivers, landmarks, popular beaches and more — and see how close or far places are from each other in 3D! It will even help you navigate the city when you’re back on the ground. Since I was flying over my hometown, I could “test” myself to see if I could find my favorite spots. Was that Moonlight Beach in Encinitas? Check.
Can I see the high school my kids attended? Well…no, I can’t. But isn’t that where we went camping at Carlsbad State Beach? Check.
Hey! That’s the staircase down to the beach where we lined up for a family portrait! Wait–is that the Del Mar racetrack? Or Scripps Bluff Preserve where we watched the sun set? Seriously! This was so much fun!
See something you’ve never seen before!
If Oceanside and San Diego are new destinations for you, you’re going to love a helicopter ride over the beaches! You might even see dolphins playing in the waves or the silhouette of a gray whale beneath the ocean surface.
Had you ever noticed how those multi-million dollar homes are literally sitting on the edge of the cliffs overlooking the beach? There’s even a home with an elevator that takes you up the cliff from the beach. Try finding that without going on a helicopter ride!
Did you know there’s an art installation on the top of an engineering building at UCSD, called Falling Star? It looks like a little blue house fell from the sky and landed precariously on the corner of the building. That’s pretty fun to see from the air, too!
Have you ever seen a dam and reservoir from the air? I really loved flying over Lake Hodges and seeing all the canyons and inlets I’d never seen before. There is much of Lake Hodges that just isn’t very accessible to the general public, and a helicopter ride remedies that.
If you live here, I guarantee you’ll discover something new! I saw a beautiful white domed building near the Oceanside Municipal Airport. What was that, I wondered? When I got home, I googled it and discovered it was The Ecclesia, a holistic healing temple.
Our pilot also pointed out the St. Malo neighborhood in Oceanside. It’s an exclusive gated community patterned after a French fishing village, and I’d never seen it before! As we flew along Oceanside Beach, our pilot pointed out the Top Gun house, a little blue cottage a block from the sea, where parts of Top Gun were filmed. After the tour, I drove straight there and took a photo. See what I mean about fueling your desire to see and explore more?
There’s one more thing I’d really like to point out. You could go to Google Earth and see many of these sites via aerial view. Or you can watch my video at the end of this post and get a feel for what it might be like to go on a helicopter ride. It just isn’t the same as being there yourself, in the helicopter, gliding over the waves and the hills as if you were a bird. For as long as people have lived on the earth, flight has been fascinating. And there is just nothing like it!
Why Waverider Helicopter Tours?
Honestly, I really just want to ask, “Why not?!” It was such an amazing experience! But don’t just take my word for it. There are a lot of good reasons to use Waverider…
Waverider operates from the Oceanside Municipal Airport. That means it’s easy to get to, parking is absolutely free (what airport has free parking?), and you can practically walk right up to the hangar. But you don’t have to, because Kurt or Danielle will pick you up from the parking lot in a golf cart and drive you right to the helicopter. If you arrive early, you will be very entertained by all the parachute jumpers. Even though we left from Oceanside, Waverider still covers most of San Diego in its tour options.
Waverider’s helicopter is brand-new, with leather seats, seatbelts, air conditioning or heat, and noise-cancelling Bose headsets with voice-activated microphones. You’ll be ultra comfortable, and it will be easy to talk to and hear each other. The windows were also clean and clear, which is very important if you want to take photos or video. It wasn’t at all like the filmy windows you usually have in a commercial airplane. In fact, If your goal is to get the best photos, Kurt can even take the doors off for you–but that was a little more thrill than I wanted!
Kurt is a veteran of the United States Coast Guard and is a dual-rated commercial pilot in airplanes and helicopters. He has a perfect safety record! He also makes a great tour guide, as he points out lots of interesting things along the way and answers any questions you may have. He’s also very personable, and goes to great effort to be sure you are comfortable.
Waverider Helicopter Tours is very affordable, and has a tour for everyone. Tour lengths range from 8 minutes to 45 minutes, and from $40-$195 per person. If you just want to sample a helicopter ride and see the waves at the beach, you can book the Surf Check tour. Maybe you’d like to fly over an island that is reported to have buried pirate treasure…be sure to book the North County tour. I took the 45-minute Waverider’s Quiver tour, which included the coast from Oceanside to La Jolla Cove and the inland communities of 4S Ranch, Santa Luz, and Rancho Santa Fe, plus Lake Hodges and the Olivenhain dam.
But I’m thinking one of the most popular tours just might be the Pacific Sunset tour. That would be so romantic! Like maybe the perfect place to propose?
What else should you know?
The best seat will obviously be the seat in front, next to Kurt! But that having been said, the back seats still have great views out the side windows and the front window as well. All of my photos and videos were taken from the back seat, except one clip of video that Lindsay (the front seat passenger) so graciously gave me to include.
If you want the best photos, wear dark clothing to prevent the reflection of light clothing in the windows. I don’t usually wear all black, but it was totally worth it to get the best photos! I also put my long hair up because I thought it might get in the way, but that was probably unnecessary.
If you’re worried about being airsick, don’t be! I could not believe how smoothly Kurt lifted the helicopter off the ground. In fact, I did not realize we were off the ground until I saw a smaller airplane pass by below me! It was the same with our landing. Very different from taking off and landing in a commercial airplane where you definitely feel a big bump. While we were in the air, it was very smooth, especially along the beaches. Only once did we have a tiny bit of turbulence as we passed behind the Torrey Pine Bluffs, due to the air currents there.
By the way, I asked Kurt what he was using to navigate, because it looked like he was using his
phone. He was, in fact, using an app called ForeFlight on his phone, mounted on the cockpit window. Modern technology is so cool!
Please enjoy this short video I put together for you, to give just an idea of what my helicopter ride was like.
Disclosure: I was a guest of Waverider Helicopter Tours for this helicopter ride, but my opinions are my own. I would gladly return and purchase a tour for a future event!
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