9 Sky-High Tours: See the World from Up Above

PHOTO: This paragliding adventure over the Aspen peaks is offered by Aspen Paragliding through select area hotels.
Courtesy Aspen Paragliding

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, a paragliding adventure over the Rockies around Aspen, offered by Aspen Paragliding through select area hotels including the Gant.

PHOTO: Channel the Wright Brothers in a biplane ride over San Diego with tour operator Barnstorming Adventures.
Courtesy Barnstorming Adventures
Biplane Over Torrey Pines

The 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: Acadia Air Tours offers flights in vintage fighter planes over Bar Harbor, Maine.
© Acadia Air Tours
Fighter Pilot Plane over Bar Harbor

Opt for the more dramatic vintage fighter plane. These ones are harder to find for charters by the hour, but in Southern California, there's Barnstorming, while over Bar Harbor, Maine, you can take in the scenery with Acadia Air Tours.

PHOTO: Soar over Stowe, Vermont, in a lightweight, aerodynamic glider.
© Stowe Mountain Resort
Soaring over Stowe

For flyers with nerves of steel, glider tours are a serene -- or somewhat terrifying -- way to flight-see using the laws of physics. Lightweight, aerodynamic and unpowered, gliders operate during the calmest weather conditions -- hence their popularity in Hawaii. Or you may want to try the Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont. Participants drive up epically windy Smugglers Notch road to reach the jump-off -- er, fly-off -- point.

PHOTO: Helicopter rides over Hawaii are an extremely popular way to see the islands.
© Flickr/JKlinger
Hana Helicopter

Helicopter rides over Hawaii are an extremely popular way to see the islands' many hidden waterfalls and towering cliffs, and 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: Sun Moon Lake Ropeway is an aerial tram suspended 500 feet over one of Taiwan's most popular tourist destinations.
© Lena Katz
Taiwan Funicular

You may feel as if you're looking down from a helicopter, but in fact, there's a stunning view 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: Whistler's PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola is the highest lift of its kind.
© Tourism Whistler/Mike Crane
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 in British Columbia. It's currently the highest lift of its kind (1,430 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: New Mexico hosts the most epic hot air balloon festival in the United States.
© Ron Behrmann
Hot Air Balloons in Albuquerque

Romance meets daredevilism, and of course don't forget the great photo ops. These are the elements that create the endless mystique of hot air ballooning. 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 and the Texas Hill Country, where the landmark Driskill Hotel offers year-round sunrise balloon rides as part of a luxe romance package.

PHOTO: Heli-skiing get skiers to un-trafficked parts of popular winter destinations like Telluride (through The Hotel Telluride) and the Resort at Squaw Creek.
Shutterstock
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 skiers to untrafficked parts of popular winter destinations like Telluride (through The Hotel Telluride) in Colorado and the Resort at Squaw Creek in California.

PHOTO: The 2080-foot Tokyo Skytree is the highest free-standing broadcast tower in the world, as confirmed by the Guinness Book.
© TOKYO SKYTREE
Tokyo Skytree

If you're grateful for solid floor beneath you, then you're not alone. For plenty of people, the observation deck of a record-breaking 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 2,080-foot building, according to Guinness World Records, is the highest free-standing broadcast tower in the world.

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