Hancock Tower: A Bird's Eye View of the City
Chicago likes its buildings tall. In fact, the city is home to the tallest building in the United States—the Willis Tower—as well as the country's sixth-tallest building, the John Hancock Center. Located on North Michigan Avenue, the Hancock Center offers one-of-a-kind views of the city from its observatory 1,000 feet above the ground, as well as a host of activities and events for locals and visitors.
Before you can experience the spectacular views from the Hancock Center's observatory, you must take a breathtaking ride in North America's fastest elevator. You'll zoom up the 1,000 feet from the ground level to the observatory in a mere 40 seconds. Once you make it to the top, you'll find that you can see out 80 miles across four states: Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Michigan. Check the visibility before you head out, though, as foggy weather can spoil the views and put a damper on your trip.
The Hancock Center's observatory is equipped with the first interactive telescopes in public use in the country, which give you a unique way to view the city. Take the multimedia Sky Tour, narrated by David Schwimmer, which will educate you about Chicago's hotspots and history and keep you laughing at the same time. The tour is available in seven languages as well as a children's version.
The Hancock Center's observatory is home to the only open-air skywalk in the city. Instead of being confined behind glass walls, you can get a true feel of Chicago through its sights, sounds, and smells. The sky walk is open year round. Before you leave, make time to see the 80-foot mural in the center of the observatory that depicts Chicago's rich and vibrant history.
The Lavazza Espression Café is known as Chicago's highest eatery. Enjoy a coffee, gelato, or a smoothie while taking in the spectacular views of the city, or nosh on a prosciutto and mozzarella baguette or an artichoke-and-parmesan salad. The café caters to all ages, offering both cocktails and a children's food menu. Locals may want to purchase the Sky High Annual Pass that allows unlimited visits to the Observatory for one low price and a discount on café purchases.
For a more sophisticated dining experience, head up to the 95th floor to the Signature Room or the Signature Lounge on the 96th floor. Enjoy a gourmet breakfast, lunch, dinner, or Sunday brunch while soaking in the city views through the floor-to-ceiling windows. The Signature Lounge offers an extensive wine list, specialty cocktails, and a high-end pub-style menu with dishes such as duck confit tacos and baked brie cheese.
The John Hancock Center and Observatory plays host to several different events throughout the year. From January through April, you can go "Skating in the Sky." A synthetic ice rink is available on the 94th floor, which is more than 1,000 feet above ground, making it the world's highest ice skating rink.
The last Sunday in February, the John Hancock Center hosts the annual "Hustle up the Hancock," an event to benefit the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago. The race takes participants up 94 flights of stairs in the building—the record time is 9 minutes and 30 seconds.
When planning a visit, find out what other events are going on around the city that you can watch from the observatory. If you time it right, you can watch the Navy Pier's weekly fireworks display, the WinterFest lights or the annual Chicago Air and Water Show from 1,000 feet above ground.
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