• Test your nerves atop two of the nation’s tallest skyscrapers
• Thrill to a novel form of sightseeing
• Enjoy epic views of four states on a clear day
Among Chicago’s storied rivalries—Cubs vs. White Sox, North Side vs. South Side—the competition between the city’s sky-high observation decks has been reenergized by some cool new innovations. In this corner, weighing in at 110 stories: Willis Tower, Chicago’s tallest building (still often referred to as the Sears Tower, its original name). In the opposite corner, weighing in at 100 stories: the John Hancock Center, ranking fourth-tallest in the city. Both offer spectacular views from their observation decks—you can gaze across the lake to Michigan on a good day. But now it’s not just what you see from the top; rather, it’s how you see it. At Willis Tower’s 103rd-story Skydeck, daring visitors can step onto The Ledge, which juts out several feet from the tower’s façade, letting you look straight down through a glass floor to the sidewalk, 1,353 feet below. Not to be outdone, the Hancock’s 94th-floor 360 Chicago observation deck recently installed TILT, where eight participants at a time press themselves against the glass as the wall slowly tilts out 30 degrees. Your kids will freak out; you probably will, too.
The John Hancock Center is five blocks north of the Conrad Chicago, on North Michigan Avenue between Chestnut Street and Delaware Place; TILT operates from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily (last entry at 10:30) and requires separate admission. Willis Tower is on South Wacker Drive between Jackson Boulevard and Adams Street; the Skydeck is open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, and also levies a separate charge. At both, crowds are fewer and lines move faster Mondays through Thursdays, especially in early mornings and the later hours before closing.
360 CHICAGO AT THE JOHN HANCOCK CENTER: 875 N. Michigan Ave.; 888-875-8439; 360chicago.com
WILLIS TOWER SKYDECK: 233 S. Wacker Drive; 312-875-9447; willistower.com