Observatories in Chicago: John Hancock Observatory & Sears Tower

What better way to see Chicago than from above? Visiting an observatory is an excellent way to rise above the city and get a real idea of how it’s arranged.

John Hancock Observatory

875 N. Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611

The John Hancock Observatory takes you 94 floors into the sky and gives you a view of the entire downtown area from the northernmost edge. At 1000 feet in the air, experience the Skywalk, an open-air viewing area. Kids will enjoy the Soundscope, a talking telescope that provides sound effects as you view different parts of the city. There are also Sky Tours, a History Wall, and Unique Photo Opportunities. The observatory is open daily from 9 am to midnight. For more information, check out the Hancock Observatory official site, and Chicago Traveler’s Hancock Observatory info page.

The John Hancock Center is one of Chicago’s most well-known buildings. It is the 12th tallest building in the world with 100 floors, including apartments, offices, shops, a hotel, an ice rink, restaurants, its own post office, and radio and television facilities. The observation deck is a top attraction for visitors. The famous Signature Room restaurant is located on the 95th & 96th floors. The John Hancock Center was completed in 1969 and features a tapered design for structural and space efficiency.

 Willis Tower Skydeck (formerly Sears Tower)

233 S. Wacker Drive
Chicago, IL 60606
Phone: (312) 875-9696

To climb even higher into the sky, there is the second observatory in Chicago. The widely visited Sears Tower, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, is considered one of Chicago’s icons. The observatory here, the Sears Skydeck, is located on the 103rd floor and gives you a view of several states, including Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin. In addition to the stunning view, there are several exhibits about Chicago’s history, as well as interactive kiosks and powerful telescopes. For children there is a Knee-High exhibit that educates kids about the city and its history. The Skydeck is open every day from 10 am to 8 pm or 10 pm, depending on the season. For more information, check out the Skydeck official site, or Chicago Traveler’s Skydeck info page.

The view from the Skydeck on the 103rd floor of the Willis/Sears Tower is amazing! On a clear day, you can see 40-50 miles — the city of Chicago and its beautiful architecture, Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin.

For your enjoyment on the way up, the elevators are equipped with 50-inch flat-screen monitors that make you feel like you’re blasting off through the top of the Willis Tower and into space – with views of the earth compliments of NASA and the Space Shuttle Endeavor.

The Skydeck also features interactive, museum-quality exhibits highlighting Chicago’s history and historic characters. Interactive kiosks provide a tour of Chicago’s landmarks. Knee-High Chicago is a kid-level display that extends all the way around the Skydeck. Cool cut-out windows put kids eye-to-eye with scenes from Chicago’s most fascinating moments in history. The Skydeck also has high-tech, high-powered telescopes for a closer look at the city.

The newest addition to the Skydeck is the Sky Ledge. The Sky Ledge allows you to step out into a “glass box” to take in an unobstructed view directly below your feet. At 1353 feet above the ground, that’s quite a rush!

Restaurants in the Willis/Sears Tower include Corner Bakery, Venice Café, Salseria Grill & Cantina, Market Creations, and Starbucks.

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