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My time in New Orleans was up, and it was time to fly away from what was quickly becoming one of my favorite world cities. But first, it was time to fly over it.

Viator Air Tour New Orleans

The weather was somewhat moody throughout my visit, and our got bumped back until it could get bumped back no more — my final evening in the Big Easy, just hours before I had to board a much bigger plane pointed towards Florida.

But as soon as we arrived and were handed our basket of white wine, cheese, crackers, and gourmet chocolate, all scheduling stress was very quickly forgotten.

Sunset Flight Over New Orleans

I was joined by my sister and her friend and fellow teacher Taylor, who were as pumped as I was about seeing their city from the air. We were also just a tad bit anxious — while I’ve been lucky to take quite a few air tours in my day, I find small planes slightly more intimidating than their helicopter cousins.

Good thing we had that wine.

Sunset Flight Over New Orleans

Scenic Flight New OrleansSipping wine in flight from a plastic cup — only in New Orleans

Our pilot picked up on our jitters and greatly enjoyed joking through his thick Louisiana accent about being honored that we were his first ever guests as head pilot. I laughed at first, but by the third time he made a joke along those lines I was actually getting ready to start asking for credentials.

But soon, there was a city unfurling below us to offer distraction. There were the lingering ravages of Hurricane Katrina — a Six Flags park that was flooded and abandoned, its star attraction roller coaster still half underwater; errant boats overturned and forgotten. Later, my research revealed that the eerie Six Flags remains have found new life as a movie set for films like the upcoming Jurassic World.

Sunset Flight Over New Orleans

Viator Air Tour New Orleans

We timed our forty-five minute flight to take in the sunset, which we hoped would allow us to get a taste of both the daytime and evening flight options. It turned out to be a spectacular choice — the city was undoubtedly more attractive lit up for the evening, and the dusky, muted sky allowed just enough light for photographs.

Scenic Flight New Orleans

Viator Air Tour New Orleans

New Orleans is not a city with a distinctive skyline — it’s most famous district, The French Quarter, looks like nothing more than a dark rectangle from the air. But Downtown danced with life, and we squealed at the sight of the Superdome.

At one point, to Olivia’s loud protests, I even took control of the plane. Feeling the plane respond to my commands, even for a brief moment, was thrilling.

Scenic Flight New Orleans

Viator Air Tour New Orleans

Towards the end of the flight, the pilot asked us if we liked rollercoasters. We hesitated at the question, suspicious of what action our answer might trigger. He tried another tactic. “Do you trust me?,” he asked, and we grudgingly admitted that by this point, having been safely navigating over the city for the better half of an hour, we did indeed.

And then the intercom filled with ear-piercing shrill screams, as we reacted to the wheel jamming down and then sharply up, the plane’s trajectory suddenly taking on the path of a track-less roller coaster. It was one of the greatest adrenaline shots of my life.

Sunset Flight Over New Orleans

Making our way back to solid ground, we cracked up when we realized Taylor’s was one of the many voices blaring landing coordinates over the intercom. “Whisky, tango, foxtrot,” she mumbled into her headpiece. To our laughter, she looked bewildered. “Haven’t you always wanted to say that?”

And we had one more surprise upon landing — The New Orleans Lakefront Airport lit up in all its Art Deco glory. Later, while poking around on Instagram, I discovered that there’s actually a inside — a must do for my inevitable return to the city.

Scenic Flight New Orleans

Viator Air Tour New Orleans

Whether you’re a first time visitor or a long time veteran of New Orleans, I can’t think of a better place to toast to the city than from hundreds of feet in the air above it.

Lots of love, New Orleans — see you next time!

. . . . . . . . .

I am a member of the Viator Ambassador initiative and participated in this tour as part of that program.

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51 Comments...
  • Serendipity Tess
    March 19 2015

    πŸ™‚ I love this! I’ve only ever been to New York in the US – high on my list to visit: San Francisco and New Orleans. We’ll be over that side of the world in September this year. I think I might surprise Ben with this….
    Serendipity Tess recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 20 2015

      I can’t think of a better surprise πŸ™‚ That’s my kind of date!

  • Marni
    March 19 2015

    Wow!! Those pictures are phenomenal!! I definitely need to start taking helicopter or airplane tours over cities because it looks like so much fun.

    • Meihoukai
      March 20 2015

      Somehow it’s unexpectedly become one of my things, ha. For someone with a mild fear of flying, it’s an interesting hobby!

  • Maddy
    March 19 2015

    oh my god, girl, I HATE small planes and you made even this look fun! So glad you got some beautiful shots (the dusky light is perfect!) and so fun to know that when I watch Jurassic Park 4 (as I inevitably will) that I’ll be seeing a bit of NOLA in the background! πŸ™‚
    Maddy recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 20 2015

      Ugh, I CANNOT wait to see it. I miss going to the movies!

  • Cam
    March 19 2015

    Looks like a fun trip!
    Cam recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 20 2015

      It was the perfect note to end New Orleans on!

  • Sonja Riemenschneider
    March 19 2015

    Yay, I’ve been looking forward to your post on this! Loved your shots from the air on instagram. I’ve taken a few helicopter tours in Hawaii and despite the high price, they are almost always worth it. What does an air tour over NOLA run?
    Sonja Riemenschneider recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 20 2015

      This one was about $130 when we took it. Prices on tours often fluctuate based on season and whatnot so you can always see the current pricing by clicking any of the links to the tour in this post!

  • Janice Stringer
    March 19 2015

    Hi Meihoukai,
    It looks far more glamorous than my flight over Essex in the UK with my husband on his first flying lesson but it is amazing isn’t to get up there and be far enough up to see clearly but not too far that you can’t make out landmarks. What a lovely time of day to fly! πŸ™‚
    Janice Stringer recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 20 2015

      A flying lesson! That sounds exciting. I wonder if I’ll ever get to that point… almost seems inevitable, in a way πŸ™‚

  • Silvia
    March 19 2015

    Wow, that looks amaaazing! And it must have been particularly interesting to do a sky tour of New Orleans – I’m working my way through Treme episodes now so I’m a bit obsessed. Though I’m so with you about small planes, eep.
    Silvia recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 20 2015

      I don’t know Treme! Will have to check it out — always on the look for new series πŸ™‚

    • Meihoukai
      March 20 2015

      I don’t know Treme! Will have to check it out — always on the look for new series πŸ™‚

  • Erika
    March 19 2015

    Wow, these views are amazing! I’m sure this would terrify me, but it looks totally worth it.
    Erika recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 20 2015

      Yeah, that’s a pretty accurate description πŸ™‚ Definitely scarier flying at night!

  • Lev
    March 19 2015

    Awesome post! I know it’s not the time but I already have my picture of the week πŸ™‚

    Somehow those flights always seem way better on the pictures ( or stories ) than the actualy in reality.
    Lev recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 20 2015

      I actually feel the opposite! I find it very difficult to photograph at night, especially from the air — I always feel I barely capture the beauty!

  • Katie
    March 19 2015

    Stunning views but I would probably die from fright when he did the rollercoaster moves! I don’t think I could go in a small plane – I am scared enough in the big ones!
    Katie recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 20 2015

      The rollercoaster move terrifies me in retrospect — but it was such an adrenaline rush at the time! πŸ™‚

  • This looks like an amazing experience! Tell me, how do you get your night-time photos so crisp when not using a tripod? Which settings do you use? My night-time photos always come out so average (I use a Canon Rebel T3i with the 15-85mm lens). Thanks in advance! πŸ™‚
    Petra @ The Global Couple recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 20 2015

      I usually shoot in shutter priority in a situation like this and just shoot A LOT and experiment on the fly. I’m no technical photography master so I’m basically just lucky if anything turns out! Then I’m a ruthless editor and run the final selections through a sharpening filter πŸ™‚ Hope that helps!

  • I LOVE this view of New Orleans! This city makes me so happy, and this is just so cool. Thank you for sharing!
    Amanda | Chasing My Sunshine recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 20 2015

      You’re so welcome, Amanda! Hope you get the chance to give it a try soon!

  • Colin Blue
    March 19 2015

    Looks absolutely stunning! Jealous that you got such an intimate experience.

    Although, nothing beats flying into New York at night!

    Great story. Consider me a fan.

    • Meihoukai
      March 20 2015

      So agree. Dying to do a sightseeing flight over New York one of these days!

  • Leah
    March 19 2015

    I’m with you, I prefer helicopters to itty bitty planes for some reason. I kind of hated flying over the Nazca lines…I felt like I was going to vomit at any second. The city sure looks pretty at night though!
    Leah recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 20 2015

      Okay, that was terrifying because it is ACTUALLY DANGEROUS AND PEOPLE DIE. Ha. But I tried not to think about that while I was doing it πŸ˜‰

  • Justine
    March 19 2015

    Your pilot sounds like a riot. I can’t believe he let you take control of the plane…how cool for you! The city looks absolutely beautiful at night. Although it’s crazy to me that there is still so much visible damage from Hurricane Katrina. It’s insane to think that it happened 10 years ago!
    Justine recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 20 2015

      I know! It really struck me as well. The city is still so affected by that tragedy on so many levels.

  • I’m not a fan of small planes as I had an awful experience in Egypt. Let’s just say that I turned awfully grey and blood came out of my knuckles! However, this flight does look lovely. I’m enormously delighted to see your photos rather than seeing it live, so very nice indeed LOL!
    [email protected] The British Berliner recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 20 2015

      Yikes, Victoria! That does indeed sound terrifying. Glad this experience went a little more smoothly than that πŸ™‚

  • amy - toothbrush travels
    March 20 2015

    What a journey! I’m yet to do an air-tour but it looks like i should! Although mine would be a giant patchwork of English countryside and not pretty twinkly lights haha x
    amy – toothbrush travels recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 20 2015

      That’s why it’s nice to do when you travel πŸ™‚ Although come to think of it I wouldn’t mind doing an air tour over my own home town!

  • Small planes terrify me, but seeing a city lit up like this from the air is a bit of an incentive! It looks absolutely amazing, I’ll have to try it if I get the chance πŸ™‚
    Grace| The Beauty of Everywhere recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 23 2015

      Absolutely go for it, Grace! It was a highlight — literally and figuratively!

  • Lizzie
    March 21 2015

    I’ve been a little bit obsessed with New Orleans lately and it looks just as beautiful from above as it seems to look from ground-level! I would love, love, love to do an air-tour so will bear this in mind for when I (eventually) get to visit πŸ™‚
    Lizzie recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 23 2015

      Having done a few now I can say this one was a really unique experience! I really enjoyed seeing New Orleans from above.

  • Chris
    March 21 2015

    Everything (well many things at least) look great from up in the air!

    Can’t wait to hit the skies above Nazca soon (I may even cast an eye back over that old post of yours) πŸ˜‰
    Chris recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 23 2015

      That was an extremely nerve-wracking, yet extremely worthwhile ride πŸ™‚

  • Lucy
    March 23 2015

    THIS LOOKS AMAZING! What an awesome way to see such a great city. I’m definitely hooked – going to start a little fund to see New Orleans from the skies next time I’m there!

    I really adore your posts about New Orleans – I know you’ve mentioned that your posts about the USA gets less traffic before, but these are some of the most interesting to me – and it’s always lovely to read about your family – has anyone ever mentioned that your sister looks just like Rosamund Pike? (The one from Gone Girl, I think that’s her name anyway!)

    Can’t wait to read more! Lucy xx
    Lucy recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 23 2015

      I’ll have to ask her if she’s gotten that comparison before! I haven’t heard it but it sure is a compliment πŸ™‚ Glad to hear some love for my more local posts. With a summer in the USA coming up, there’s going to be a lot more of them!

  • Nadja
    March 23 2015

    Wow! These pictures are amazing! As a flight attendant I had the chance to sit in the cockpit during take off in NYC. Loved it. The view from above is just such a different one and makes me always realize how tiny the world and my problems are.
    Nadja recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 23 2015

      That would be a BEAUTIFUL view. I’ve been lucky to peek some beautiful views of the Manhattan skyline from the window seat… but I’d love to do a scenic flight like this over my home city!

  • Uptourist
    March 23 2015

    Wow you’re so lucky. The view from above is indeed beautiful. You also get to see all those lights. Such an amazing experience.

    • Meihoukai
      March 24 2015

      It was — I feel lucky indeed! Loved sipping wine and watching this beautiful city light up.

  • Jordan Baker
    September 9 2015

    That sure does look like a lot of fun. Someday, I hope to fly on a helicopter. It has been a dream of mine for some time. I just think that it is high enough that everything still looks beautiful but low enough that you get a good look at everything. Maybe I will choose to ride one over LA this summer. Do you have any suggestions about how to find one that my friends and I would just love?

    • Meihoukai
      September 10 2015

      I do indeed! Check Viator — it’s where I do almost all my flight tours. I’m sure there are some awesome ones in LA! Enjoy!

  • Sahra
    December 1 2015

    so happy I stumbled upon your blog today! I’m actually headed to NoLA in a couple of weeks and was looking for fun things to do and this looks enthralling. I’ve also never heard of Viator but am checking them out πŸ™‚

    XO Sahra

    • Meihoukai
      December 3 2015

      I love Viator and New Orleans! Jealous to hear you’re headed there. It’s an amazing city!