Photo of the day – Approaching Rio

Many of us love the window seat when traveling. Even in cramped coach class, you can feel like you have your own little nook with a place to prop up your tiny airline pillow (in case you don’t fly with a SkyRest like Mike Barish) and a great view of the sky and landscape below. But few of us ever get the best window seat, up in the cockpit, where the view is framed by hundreds of tiny lights and controls. Fortunately own resident pilot Kent Wien shared this nighttime arrival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. See more of his beautiful sky photos here.

See any stellar views on your travels? Add your pictures to the Gadling Flickr pool and you may see one as a future Photo of the Day.

VIDEO: Astronaut’s view of the world

Need a few moments of Zen? This video from NASA‘s Johnson Space Center has seven of them, traveling over the Earth from the coast of Namibia to the Amazon Basin to capture an astronaut’s view of the world. The incredible images are narrated by Dr. Justin Wilkinson, a soothing astronaut who points out the many rivers, mountains, deserts, and other features shown on NASA’s camera from far above. You can see Utah‘s Salt Lake, Sicily‘s cloud-covered Mt. Etna; there’s even footage of Hurricane Florence, forming a perfect spiral over the Atlantic Ocean.

Sit back, put the video in full-screen mode, and start dreaming of your next travel destination. What an astronaut’s camera sees.

Getting high on Hong Kong

Everything about visiting Hong Kong is vertical. From the towering skyscrapers of Victoria Harbor to the city’s jaw-dropping views and rooftop secrets, it’s a destination best experienced from up above. But it’s not just height that makes Hong Kong a great city for travelers. It’s the mind-boggling density that comes with it: the high rises clinging to the slopes of mountains, the daily blitzkrieg of billboards and light and the hidden retreats tucked on high that taken as a whole have the power to awe and delight.

During Gadling’s visit to Hong Kong last month, we had a chance to investigate some of the numerous high places that give this metropolis its unique air. From vertigo-inducing cocktail lounges to modern architectural masterpieces to heart-stopping city views, we looked low (and high) for Hong Kong’s best spots. Wondering what we found? Get ready to get high on Hong Kong. Keep reading below for more…Drinking in the sights
The street level signage for Hong Kong steakhouse Wooloomooloo is unassuming and forgettable. But visitors who take the elevator to the 31st floor of the restaurant’s Wan Chai location will discover some truly unforgettable city views. Hidden high above this busy downtown district is low-lit oasis of romance and luxury, with floor to ceiling windows and million-dollar views of Hong Kong’s skyscrapers, Victoria Harbor, and the Happy Valley racetrack.

Wooloomooloo’s main attraction is the restaurant’s open air roof deck, where visitors can sip a few cocktails or a glass of wine, bathed in the glow of Hong Kong’s 24-hour light show below.

A vertical masterpiece

If you’ve ever seen a photo of Hong Kong, you probably already know the iconic Bank of China Tower, designed by architect I.M. Pei. The beveled edges of this sky-high building make it one of the city’s most famous tall landmarks – and also among its most controversial. This towering structure has been criticized for its poor feng shui, a Chinese philosophy that advocates proper “energy flow” in design. Love or hate it, did you know the Bank of China Tower has a viewing deck open to the public? Take the elevator to the 43rd Floor for a peek inside this architectural wonder and some imposing views of the city below.

The ultimate Hong Kong view
Hong Kong has some downright impressive heights, whether you’re drinking at a swanky rooftop restaurant or checking out the view from one of its most famous buildings. But the most amazing way to see Hong Kong from up high is the panorama from The Peak. Located on the highest mountain on Hong Kong Island, “The Peak” offers visitors a literal bird’s eye look at this remarkable city.

Half the fun of getting to The Peak is riding on the historic Peak Tram cable car, which drags passengers up the mountain’s perilously steep hillside. Once you arrive at the top, you’ll be treated one of the world’s most unique city views, looking down from on high at Hong Kong’s impressive skyline below. Though many will opt to pay for the Sky Terrace viewing deck, don’t feel obligated. Instead, walk out the doors of the Peak Tower to find several free spots with equally amazing views.

Hong Kong isn’t just a metropolis that “stands tall” on the world stage. It is tall – from the restaurants to the architecture to the stunning views. Stay long enough, and you might never want to come down.

Pay for windows – Cruise tip

Living on ship is a completely different experience than living at home, so why not have the best experience possible? I suggest splurging on a room with windows.

Although cabins in the center of the boat may have a more attractive price tag (read: cheaper), the beauty doesn’t extend much further. Waking up to total blackness in the middle of the day can be confusing and not very pleasant.

Rooms with windows allow natural light to shine through and wake you gently from your slumber — a big factor if you choose to cruise for an extended period.

Rise 35 stories above the city on Chicago’s new balloon attraction

Navy Pier, Chicago‘s biggest tourist trap, is offering visitors a new way to see the city. If riding the elevator to the top of the Sears Willis Tower or relaxing as a giant Ferris wheel slowly inches you skyward doesn’t satisfy your thirst for getting airborne, maybe this one will. A 120,000 cubic-foot helium balloon, called the AeroBalloon, promises to float you 350 feet above the ground.

The balloon’s gondola, which has a hole in the center through which passengers view the ground, can carry up to 18 people, which it will hold aloft for a ride of 8-10 minutes before returning to Earth. Kids must be at least 5 years old to ride and those under 12 must be accompanied by an adult. The rides are offered from 8am to 10pm Monday through Thursday and from 8am to midnight Friday to Sunday. The attraction will shut down for the season on October 31.

Tickets cost a hefty $25 for adults ($15 for kids 12 and under). $25 for 10 minutes? No thanks. I’ll take my view with a side of cocktail – at the Signature Lounge on the 96th floor of the John Hancock Center – where I can pay around $15 and linger as long as I want.