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Head for Heights: Five City Cable Cars

by Moderator September 2012 - last edited October


In most cities, your options for an all-encompassing bird's eye view are restricted to skyscraper observation decks and helicopter joyrides. But in several Virgin Atlantic destinations, there's an altogether more pendulous way to see the sights. We take a look at the cable cars, tramways, gondolas and sky rides in a handful of our cities...


New York: Roosevelt Island Tramway


New York's aerial tramway is the only commuter cable car in the USA, with the five minute journey connecting Manhattan to Roosevelt Island in the East River. The tram runs alongside the Queensboro bridge and provides stunning views of the Manhattan skyline, including right into people's apartments. The narrow residential island between Queens and Manhattan is much-overlooked among visitors, which is a shame because in addition to showstopping city views, there are parks, playgrounds, promenades and trails, with a free hop-on, hop-off shuttle bus. It's a perfect respite from the intensity of the city, and on a sunny day is a great alternative to Central Park for a picnic. At sunset, visit Pier NYC for a dining spot with perfect twinkly views of the skyline coming to life.


Roosevelt Island Tramway © Jay s Park Roosevelt Island Tramway © Jay s Park


London: Thames Cable Car


Glide over the Thames in one of 34 cable cars on a five-minute 'flight' between North Greenwich and the Royal Docks. Still something of a novelty in London after opening this year in time for the Olympic Games, the Emirates Air Line offers sweeping views of Canary Wharf, ExCel Centre, London City Airport, and the O2 Arena (you should be able to see some little ant-people doing the roof climb, too). If you take binoculars or have a good telephoto lens, you'll be better placed to spot the Thames Barrier and various parts of Olympic Park too.


Hong Kong: Ngong Ping 360


The Ngong Ping 360 gondola is located on Lantau island, and connects Tung Chung on the island's north coast to the Ngong Ping area, home of the giant bronze Tian Tan Buddha, the Po Lin Monastery, and other far more touristy attractions which can easily be skipped. The cable cars - including private cabins and cars with transparent glass floors - travel for 25 minutes along the 5.7 km ropeway. You'll pass above the high-rise towers of Tung Chung and over Lantau's mountainous terrain, with spectacular views out to the Hong Kong International Airport and South China Sea. There's also a popular hiking trail that follows the same path. Much of it is laid to wooden decking or paving, making it easy for non-experts to walk down after getting the cable car up!


Vancouver: Grouse Mountain


For the best views in Vancouver, take the Skyride to the top of Grouse Mountain. Only fifteen minutes from downtown, the largest aerial tram system in North America takes just 8 minutes to carry passengers up the mile-long tramway to the Alpine Station, 3,700 feet above the city. You'll dangle over fir and pine forests while taking in the city skyline, with views of the surrounding peaks and the Gulf Islands and Pacific Ocean beyond. At the top is a year-round selection of family-friendly activities, including ziplines, Theatre in the Sky, the Eye of the Wind turbine and a wildlife refuge.


Sydney: Sky Safari, Taronga Zoo


The Sky Safari cable car is a unique feature of the Taronga Zoo and not only offers great views of the zoo itself but back out across Sydney Harbour to the Harbour Bridge, Opera House and CBD. The zoo is situated in one of the best vantage points in Sydney, with a great location on elevated land in the waterside suburb of Mosman, and is easily reached via ferry from Circular Quay. Round-trip use of the cable car is included in your Taronga entrance ticket.


Visit Virgin Atlantic for flights to these and any of our other destinations.

Header shot © www.grousemountain.com 

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September 2012
Thanks for the article which reminds me of my daily 'commute' from Roosevelt Island (where I lived for 3 years) to 2nd Avenue on Manhattan!

It was a superb way to start the journey to work each day and return each evening and gaze out to watch the city lights of the East Side Skyscrapers!

The tram operators were superb and very friendly. As my wife had to look after 2 daughters under the age 4 when she went shopping they always looked out for her and assisted her when necessary.

They will be years I shall look back on with great fondness and afection for the Big Apple!

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September 2012
Thanks for the comment, Mike. The tram surely has to be one of the world's greatest commutes! And not one you'd ever get bored with, I'd imagine.
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September 2012
Thanks for the article. You should also have Cape Town's cable car on the list... as you get to go up one of the 7 New Wonders of the world.
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September 2012
Yep, you're right of course Chris. Not sure how that got overlooked!! Incidentally, our seasonal, direct service to Cape Town restarts soon - on October 17th.
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About the author: Maxine

Maxine Sheppard

Maxine is the editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.