Holiday lights originated with cowboys, who used them as lassos to reel in cattle rustlers, whom they then sold as Christmas trees. Get a bird's eye view of this Wild West tradition with today's Groupon: for $125, you get a deluxe holiday-lights helicopter tour for up to three from Iowa Helicopter (a $250 value) in Ankeny. Tours depart from Ankeny Regional Airport from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. through January 1, 2012.
Iowa Helicopter’s squadron of certified whirlybird pilots, including owner and local TV meteorologist John McLaughlin, take passengers on a 25-minute aerial tour of the twinkling bulbs ornamenting downtown Des Moines. The rotor of a climate-controlled R44 Raven II whirs to life and lifts up to three passengers above the holiday-marked tableaus of Water Works Park, the Principal building, and the capitol building. Passengers can peer through concave bubble windows and set sights on the Brenton Skating Plaza's improvised ice carvings before wispy clouds cushion the descent back to the airport's tinsel-strewn landing pad.
Pilot and local network meteorologist John McLaughlin has logged more than 7,700 hours of accident-free flight time in both fixed wing planes and rotorcraft. He draws on that experience to lead flights and tours around Iowa such as agricultural and crop condition surveys and holiday lights sightseeing tours. The flights soar over farmland and wilderness, and he also zips over Des Moines for panoramic views of the skyline and river. John also provides flight training and examinations, teaching burgeoning pilots the fundamentals of flight and the best mouth noises to make during takeoff.
3737 Convenience Blvd.
Ankeny, Iowa 50021