There are many things for visitors to do in New York City, and one of the most popular is the brainchild of Zalman Silber, a virtual tour located at the Empire State Building. Called the Skyride for its virtual tour of metropolitan landmarks that's been entertaining families for several years, this is what made Zalman Silber his first fortune. Now a proven serial entrepreneur, he was already a star performer at famed New York Life Insurance (1993 President’s Council member, 1994 Agent of the Year) when inspiration struck: Visitors go to the Empire State Building to see the city from great heights; why not locate an amusement ride there that simulates a helicopter fly-over?
It was an immediate success, with the grand opening attended by city celebrities such as then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. But the Skyride is no ordinary amusement ride. Guests glide past the Statue of Liberty and dodge taxi cabs, buzz the Brooklyn Bridge and sail through the United Nations, all while ergonomically seated on a specially designed platform that provides synchronized kinetic feedback. More than thirty other locations throughout the city are explored in high-definition video and surround sound, with voiceover narration provided by actor Kevin Bacon. The entire half-hour program includes two opening presentations that delve into the history of the Empire State Building itself as well as all the other things to do in New York.
As noted earlier, the Skyride is a multimedia experience for the whole family, suitable for young children. After the show, guests can go on to enjoy the Empire State Building itself with exclusive access to the top floor’s panoramic views that bypasses three-quarters of the lines of fellow tourists. This requires the purchase of a special combination ticket, however, and the Skyride must be visited before the rest of the Empire State Building in order to take advantage of the exclusive-access elevators.
It's quite an experience, and yet in many ways so obvious and simple in concept that you wonder why you didn't think of it yourself first! And that is part of its charm, the good old-fashioned nature of it, easy to understand and appreciate while blending in some of today's most hi-tech elements. Its location in one of the most iconic landmarks in the world makes perfect sense and is in keeping with its theme of a bird's-eye view introduction to New York. And so in fact Zalman Silber has gone on to replicate his success elsewhere, in Sydney, Australia - but there is nothing like the original!