Image 01 Image 01 Image 01 Image 01 Image 01 Image 01

When you travel or live abroad long term, it’s inevitable that you’re going to miss a lot of the important little holidays and events that you don’t really realize are so special until you don’t have the choice to be around for them. Like Father’s Day, for example. Ever since I started spending more of them away from my dad than with him, the ones we do get to celebrate together have become infinitely more significant.

Four years ago, all four of the Baackes sisters gathered in Philadelphia for a weekend of fun. Two years ago, my younger sister and I flew to Los Angeles for the first time to help my dad settle into his recently purchased house. Last year, I made my way back to LA, but I was on my own. I knew I had to plan something epic.

And what could be more epic than a surprise helicopter ride over my dad’s new city?

Los Angeles Sightseeing Tour by Helicopter
Los Angeles Sightseeing Tour by Helicopter

I had considered plenty of other options for the day before settling on this particular aerial adventure. An architecture tour of downtown? (Already booked up.) A paraglide from Malibu? (Perhaps a tad too adventurous.) A brunch cruise from Santa Monica? (Ugh, beach traffic.)

But a helicopter sightseeing tour with a mountaintop landing and a champagne toast? Couldn’t find any complaints there. Best of all, the departure point of Atlantic Terminal in Burbank was less than a thirty minute drive from my dad’s home base in Koretown — in Los Angeles, that made them practically neighbors.

Los Angeles Sightseeing Tour by Helicopter

Los Angeles Sightseeing Tour by Helicopter

Los Angeles Sightseeing Tour by Helicopter

I was thinking of keeping my dad in the dark until we pulled into the airport, but it was too tricky — I ended up spilling the beans that morning so he would know what to wear and how to prepare. Speaking of what to wear, here’s a tip from a girl who has found herself on many a helicopter: wear black! It doesn’t reflect into the windows, allowing you to get much clearer photos.

He was so excited! As an architecture buff, geography nerd and all around lover of all things mapped and gridded, getting to see his new home from an aerial viewpoint was just perfect. I was thrilled. After a quick check-in and weigh-in and introduction to our pilot, we were off!

Los Angeles Sightseeing Tour by Helicopter

Los Angeles Sightseeing Tour by Helicopter

Los Angeles Sightseeing Tour by Helicopter

First, we made our way toward Downtown Los Angeles, passing over Universal Studios California, The Hollywood Sign, and Griffith Observatory. I was I was on the lookout for hikers at the Hollywood Sign after my own adventure doing so the year prior, but apparently the 109 °F temperatures that record-breaking day kept them away — we didn’t see a single one.

Los Angeles Sightseeing Tour by Helicopter
Los Angeles Sightseeing Tour by Helicopter

Los Angeles Sightseeing Tour by Helicopter

Los Angeles Sightseeing Tour by Helicopter

Los Angeles Sightseeing Tour by Helicopter

Our pilot was super accommodating — while he couldn’t get close to my dad’s downtown office building for zoning reasons, he was more than happy to hover around and let me get a great photo when I realized we were right above my friend Lindsay’s house off the Sunset Strip. It was super fun to send her the below photo after with a creepy message that I was watching her.

Thankfully, she shares my sense of humor — and loved seeing her house from above!

Los Angeles Sightseeing Tour by Helicopter

And that was only the start of the house peeping. From there, we flew onward to the mega-mansions of Beverly Hills and Bel Air, and I knew there was no way any dinky celebrity homes bus tour could ever top what we were seeing. We just gaped at the compounds below, wondering how much the electricity bills must be on such palaces.

I also knew I was really starting to think like an Angeleno when I mused that lovely as those houses were, the traffic to get anywhere worth going must be really killer.

Los Angeles Sightseeing Tour by Helicopter

Los Angeles Sightseeing Tour by Helicopter

My favorite sighting of the day? The Playboy Mansion! I admit, repeat viewings of The Girls Next Door when I was in high school made the place feel larger than life — it almost seemed too normal looking down on it with it’s super close neighbors, and its pool that seemed way too small for the legendary parties that were held there.

Playboy Mansion from Above

Soon, we were swooping down the coast to the famous Santa Monica pier — an LA landmark I’ve yet to see from sea level. This was to be my favorite part of the whole day. The beach was packed, and it made me smile to look down and see so many people outside and enjoying the beautiful ocean!

Los Angeles Sightseeing Tour by Helicopter

Santa Monica Pier from Above

Santa Monica Pier from Above

Santa Monica Pier from Above

Santa Monica Pier from Above

I think I’d like to canvas wrap the above photo someday and hang it above a couch somewhere.

The final stretch of our ride followed the coast up to Malibu, and then turned east and up into the hills.

Helicopter Ride over Malibu

Helicopter Ride over Malibu

Then came the really special part — landing in the Malibu Hills. This particular helicopter operator is the only one with a permit to land in this particular location, making it an incredibly exclusive experience.

We marveled at the views… and the heat. Did I mention it was literally one hundred and nine degrees? While our pilot broke out the bottle of champagne, I munched on ice chips from the ice bucket. It was another level of heat.

Helicopter Landing in Malibu

Helicopter Landing in Malibu

Helicopter Landing in Malibu

We toasted to Father’s Day, of course!

As I’ve mentioned before, I was skeptical of my dad moving to Los Angeles — I was happy for the exciting opportunities that awaited him there, but I was worried we’d see each other less and that he was maybe taking on too much. A year later, I felt he couldn’t have made a better call. My sun-worshipping dad is a perfect fit for California, and so we toasted, too, to his ne

Champagne Helicopter Landing in Malibu

Helicopter Landing in Malibu

On the return ride, we chatted over the intercom and agreed we’d made the right call not bringing our beloved cocker spaniel, Tucker. I’d waffled back and forth all week after calling the helicopter company and getting the okay to do so — would he like it?

He’s an easygoing dog who loves nothing more than a long car ride, but we were worried the noise would have gotten to him. Once the day ended up being such a scorcher, we were relieved we hadn’t chanced it!

Canine companions aside, us humans had a blast. While this was, I believe, the most expensive helicopter tour I’ve ever taken, it was also a memory we will have for the rest of our lives. If you are looking for a seriously wow way to celebrate a special occasion in Los Angeles — this is it.

Father's Day Helicopter Ride

Father's Day Helicopter Ride

Los Angeles Sightseeing Tour by Helicopter

Father's Day Helicopter Ride

It was already the perfect day, but I had one more trick up my sleeves — pancakes! One of my most resounding memories of my childhood is my dad making pancakes for us on Sundays, which my sister and I obsessed over. So I knew I wanted to take my dad somewhere fun for pancakes to celebrate our flight. Imagine my excitement when the internet informed me that the best pancakes in Los Angeles were right in Burbank at Bea Bea’s!

With flavors like S’mores, Thai Iced Tea and Super Pumpkin, I knew we were in for a treat. My green tea version were fantastic, as were my dad’s classic buttermilk. The staff couldn’t have been sweeter or more friendly, and it was the perfect nostalgia bomb to cap off a day of thrills.

Bea Bea's Burbank
Bea Bea's Burbank

Okay, now here’s the real dilemma… how will I ever top that?!

3-devide-lines

Pin It!

Father's Day Helicopter Ride
Helicopter Ride Over L.A.
3-devide-lines

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

3-devide-lines
YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY
34 Comments...
  • Cate
    May 20 2017

    That looks like a lovely Father’s Day! Glad you could enjoy it with your dad, and make him feel special.
    Cate recently posted..A Love Letter to the Sea

    • Alex
      May 31 2017

      So fun to grow up and get to start spoiling your parents for once 🙂

  • Leigh
    May 20 2017

    What a sweet celebration of Father’s Day – amazing pictures, too! Yep, you’ll have a hard time topping that 🙂
    Leigh recently posted..Chicago Detours Interior Architecture Tour

    • Alex
      May 31 2017

      Going to start brainstorming now 😉

  • Elizabeth Howell
    May 20 2017

    What an amazing way to take in L.A.. Also, bookmarking this for future reference – Thai Iced Tea pancakes? YAAAAAS!
    Elizabeth Howell recently posted..Fei-what-a? What is and How to Eat a Feijoa

    • Alex
      May 31 2017

      I’ve told everyone in LA about the place! I can’t wait to go back someday!

  • Chee Meng Chen
    May 21 2017

    What an awesome celebration. Lovely!

    • Alex
      May 31 2017

      Thank you! We had a blast!

  • Pilot Mark
    May 21 2017

    What a lucky dad you have! Helicopter trips never get old – I absolutely love seeing the world from above and get such a thrill from the sensation of swooping over cities and skyscrapers. I´ve done some incredible helicopter journeys in my time, but I have to say flying over the Bahamas has to be top of my list!

    • Alex
      May 31 2017

      I bet! All those beautiful islands and crystal blue water — sounds stunning.

  • Julia Nix
    May 21 2017

    So much love, even through the photos, I can feel that! 🙂 Your father is adorable, I remember his little comments. Hi Mr Baackes! He needs to comment more. lol.

    • Alex
      May 31 2017

      Ha, I agree! His comments always crack me up 😉

  • Ijana Loss
    May 21 2017

    That all looks like so much fun!! You have a lucky dad 😉 I completely agree with you about the fathers day thing though; this past mothers day was my first away from my mom and I realized how much I missed having that day with her

    • Alex
      May 31 2017

      Yup! Just seems like a cheesy little holiday until you don’t have the option to be anywhere near each other. Love making these days work now when I can.

  • Joanne the crazy lady
    May 21 2017

    Oh what an exciting ride, I would love that, when I was a child I went on a joy flight with my dad and pop can’t remember much about it though.
    Joanne the crazy lady recently posted..Home and returning to normal

    • Alex
      May 31 2017

      Ha, that’s why I blog — so hopefully, I can look back and remember these things someday!

  • Joella
    May 21 2017

    This is such a great idea for Father’s Day, Alex! Now we are parents, I’ll keep this in mind for the future when our little girl is big enough to go up there with her dad. Are you doing any reader meet ups this year? Maybe do one in Orange County? Dog Beach in Huntingdon?? 😉
    Joella recently posted..Traveling West Africa: Ghana, Burkina Faso, Benin and Togo

    • Alex
      May 31 2017

      I am doing some reader meetups — just did one last week in Orlando and have one coming up in St. Pete here in Florida! When I get California confirmed I’ll look at doing one out there as well!

  • Dominique
    May 22 2017

    What an awesome father’s day gift!! LA looks gorgeous from above.
    Dominique recently posted..Galway – A Failed St. Paddy’s Day

    • Alex
      May 31 2017

      Right?! Certainly beats kicking around in traffic on the ground! Ha ha.

  • Janice
    May 22 2017

    Hi Alex,
    🙂
    I just love the way you write.
    This was a really vibrant post and showed so much love and enjoyment throughout. What a wonderful way to spend the day with your dad. Us parents as well as you kids truly treasure special days like these. Can’t wait to read more of your adventures!

    • Alex
      May 31 2017

      Thank you Janice! I know it’s a memory we both will treasure!

  • becky hutner
    May 22 2017

    Damn you for putting daughters everywhere to shame!! Very happy to see you enjoying LA adventures though x

    • Alex
      May 31 2017

      Ah, I have two more LA posts coming up (I think?) and you are going to love them! Fall in LA really got me.

  • Dad
    May 22 2017

    As the Dad recipient of this wonderful experience I have to publicly thank Alex for the planning that went into this. It was as thrilling and fun as it looks in her write up. Her sister Olivia gave me the architectural tour for Christmas so I am getting well acclimated to Southern California. A pretty nice place if I do say so.

    • Alex
      May 31 2017

      I forgot that you and Liv did the architecture tour! You’ll have to tell me about it next time I see you, which crazily hasn’t been since before Christmas.

  • I would have NEVER known that bit about wearing black. Great tip! And you’re totally daughter of the year for this little surprise, too.
    Kristin @ Camels & Chocolate recently posted..Masters & Makers Trail: Whiskey, Wine + Beer in Franklin

    • Alex
      May 31 2017

      Yup! I think it was on my Grand Canyon helicopter trip I got that tip, and I’ve heeded it ever since. I wish more companies would tell people that!

  • Rachel
    May 23 2017

    I love this. What a cool thing to do for your dad. I am pretty sure my dad would hate it but he’s not very adventurous. Glad your dad can have some crazy adventures with you sometimes!

    -Rachel
    Rachel recently posted..Ultimate List of Snacks For The Trail

    • Alex
      May 31 2017

      Ha, I was definitely trying to remember if my dad was afraid of heights or anything while booking this! Luckily he’s not, and we had a blast.

  • Marni
    May 23 2017

    Gorgeous pictures!! I particularly love the one you want to put on canvas (rightly so). It’s also a super great and unique idea for a father’s day gift. You’ll have the memories forever. That’s a great tip about wearing black! I have yet to do a helicopter tour, but I will someday. I’ve perused several options for my (hopeful) trip to San Fran next October, but they all seem too pricey.
    Marni recently posted..2017: What’s Next

    • Alex
      May 31 2017

      Yeah, there are definitely super expensive in the US with a few exceptions. I did a really budget friendly (but short) one over The Strip in Las Vegas, and saw some in Orlando as well that were affordable!

  • Sandy
    May 26 2017

    What a wonderful Father’s Day treat. Best not to worry about topping it I’m sure whatever you guys do next time your father will love spending time with you. Thanks for the tip on what to wear on a helicopter tour!

    • Alex
      May 31 2017

      It’s a trick I wish I knew earlier — my helicopter photos have SO improved since I started dressing right!

Join the conversation…

CommentLuv badge