Chicago Tower Smackdown: Willis Skydeck vs. Hancock 360 Chicago

Willis Tower Skydeck vs. John Hancock 360 Chicago
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Anyone who has seen a photo of the Chicago skyline can probably pick out the city’s most famous building — a 108-story asymmetrical black behemoth with two spiky antennas that are colorfully lit up at night. Add a blazing red eye between the antennas, and you’d have something right out of “Lord of the Rings.”

This, of course, is the Willis Tower — known as the Sears Tower until July 2009.

The Willis Tower’s “Skydeck Chicago” on the 103rd floor is easily Chicago’s most popular tourist attraction, drawing more than 1.3 million visitors per year to its 360-degree views out over the city.

But, while the Skydeck is wildly popular, it actually has some competition a mile and a half away at the 100-story John Hancock building. The Hancock building boasts an observatory similar to the Skydeck on its 94th floor, now known as 360 Chicago, with views out over Lake Michigan and the city of Chicago. (It was formerly known as the John Hancock Observatory.)

John Hancock Observatory

So which tower is REALLY better? Which one is more worth your time (and money)?

I’m going to try to answer that question for you in this Chicago Tower Smackdown by comparing various features of each tower.

*Note: Information last updated April 2017, including new photos of Tilt!*

Going to be visiting Chicago soon? Be sure to pick up a Chicago CityPASS, which will let you skip the line to get to the top of both of the city's famous towers, and save you more than $100 on attraction entry.

Here we go!

Willis Tower Skydeck vs. John Hancock 360 Chicago

Location

The Willis Tower is located on Wacker Avenue, with the Skydeck entrance on Jackson Boulevard. The tower is basically at the heart of downtown Chicago, with buildings and busy Chicago streets all around it.

The 360 Chicago is located on popular Michigan Avenue, right next to Lake Michigan. You have water on basically two sides, and Chicago on the others.

Smackdown Winner: Draw, because both are located in good areas, within walking distance of public transport.

Tally: Skydeck — 1    360 Chicago — 1

View from Chicago Skydeck

Skydeck views

Prices

Visiting the Skydeck will cost you $22 for adult general admission, or $14 for child general admission. For $49, you can buy a “fast pass,” which will help you skip some of the lines. Or, if you'd like to beat the crowds, they also sell an Early Bird admission for $65, which lets you visit the tower before it opens to the public in the morning. You can also purchase a Day/Night ticket ($33 for adults), which allows you to visit the Skydeck twice in one day.

360 Chicago charges $20 for adult general admission, or $13 for child general admission. A fast pass here will cost $40. The 360 Chicago also offers a Sun and Stars pass, which will get you two admissions into the tower within 48 hours — once during the day, and once at night. This pass costs $24 for adults and $17 for kids, which is a pretty great deal.

Smackdown Winner: 360 Chicago, because of slightly lower prices, and the fact that their Sun and Stars pass cover 48 hours instead of 24.

Tally: Skydeck — 1    360 Chicago — 2

360 Chicago view

Weird clouds over Chicago

Hours

This is a niggly thing, but still important.

The Skydeck is open 365 days a year. From March through September, the Skydeck is open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. From October through February, it’s open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

360 Chicago is also open 365 days a year, but has only one set of hours: 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily, with the last admission at 10:30 p.m.

Smackdown winner: 360 Chicago, because it’s open more hours, no matter what time of year. The hours are particularly nice in the winter months, when you might want to end your night with a twinkling view out over the city.

Tally: Skydeck — 1    360 Chicago — 3

Chicago at night

Get nighttime views like this from 360 Chicago

Wait Times

Unless you go up either of these towers on an overcast day, chances are you will have to wait in line to buy tickets, and then wait to get into the elevators that will whisk you up to the observation decks. Both the Skydeck and 360 Chicago suggest visiting early in the morning, or in the evening for the shortest wait times.

Wait times are completely dependent on the weather, day of the week, and the season. But here’s an idea of what to expect:

The Skydeck, being the more popular of the two options, can have some really long lines and wait times. I visited on a sunny, Saturday afternoon in mid-March — right around Spring Break time for most high school and colleges — and again on a sunny Saturday afternoon in April. There was a line to simply board the elevator that takes you down to a security checkpoint and the ticketing counters, and then another wait to board the elevators up to the Skydeck. Total wait time from the front doors was quoted at about 2.5 hours for general admission.

View from the Skydeck in Chicago

Though maybe the wait is worth it for these views?

Over at the 360 Chicago, an employee said that wait times can get up to 1 hour on busy summer days, but usually average between 10 and 30 minutes. I went up to 360 Chicago twice on the same March weekend that I visited the Skydeck — once on a slightly overcast afternoon, and again on a clear night — and did not even wait 5 minutes to go up either time. On my most recent visit (a Sunday morning in April 2017), there once again was no line to take an elevator up.

Buying a Fast Pass ahead of time at either tower can help avoid some of these lines. In fact, I would say it's a must at the Willis Tower on busy days! (Or buying a Chicago CityPASS will get you Fast Pass tickets to both of these attractions!)

Smakdown winner: 360 Chicago, because it will probably always have shorter wait times.

Tally: Skydeck — 1    Observatory — 4

View of Lake Michigan from 360 Chicago

View of Lake Michigan from 360 Chicago

The Ride Up

Once you finally make it to the elevators that will whisk you up to the Skydeck, it takes about 60 seconds to ascend 1,353 feet to the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower. The large elevator will probably be packed, but you’ll be entertained for that minute by a flat-screen television throwing out some fun facts and explaining how high you are climbing, while comparing that height to other well-known structures around the world. It was cool to see the Statue of Liberty and Eiffel Tower falling away as we quickly ascended, and the feature helped put into perspective just how tall the Willis Tower is.

The 360 Chicago elevators — while smaller — could also potentially be crowded on a busy day. The ride up to the Observatory takes 40 seconds to climb 1,000 feet, making these the fastest elevators in North America. The ride up is accompanied by a witty narration, mostly explaining how fast you’re going (more than 20 mph).

Smackdown winner: Skydeck, because the feature comparing your height to other famous structures was pretty cool.

Tally: Skydeck — 2    360 Chicago — 4

John Hancock Observatory

Chicago CityPASS

Pick up a CityPass for express entry to both towers!

The Views

This particular section is probably the one everyone is most interested in — which tower has the best views? Well, the answer is completely dependent on personal perspective and taste. But I’ll give you my take on it.

The Skydeck has great views on all 4 sides of the building. You can see out over downtown Chicago, look down onto the Chicago River, and see all the way to navy Pier and Lake Michigan. The Willis Tower is the tallest building in the city, so nothing stands in the way of your view. On a clear day, you can literally see for miles.

Willis Tower Skydeck

Skydeck views

The 360 Chicago also has great views on a clear day. It sits right on Lake Michigan, and you can see across the lake to other states on good days. You can also look right down on Navy Pier, and see out over downtown Chicago. You can’t see the river from here, but you CAN see the Willis Tower in the Chicago skyline, which is pretty cool.

View from 360 Chicago

View from 360 Chicago

I felt like 360 Chicago has a more “open” feeling to it, with larger glass panes on its windows and mirrors on the ceilings. You are also able to get closer to the windows at the 360 Chicago to take photos.

360 Chicago observation deck

Inside 360 Chicago

After dark, I also feel like 360 Chicago has the advantage. True, one side of the building will just be dark since there are no lights on Lake Michigan, but seeing the Chicago skyline (*including* the Willis Tower) lit up at night is pretty special.

Smackdown winner: I think I have to go with the 360 Chicago, because I liked being able to see the Willis Tower in the skyline, as well as the gorgeous color of Lake Michigan on a sunny day. But this one was really close.

Tally: Skydeck — 2    360 Chicago — 5

Chicago at night

The Extras

Both of the towers offer some “extras” at the top to try and entice more visitors.

The Skydeck boasts “The Ledge,” which are a set of four glass boxes that extend roughly 4 feet out from the side of the Willis Tower that overlooks Wacker Avenue. The boxes — added in 2009 when the Skydeck underwent a renovation — have glass bottoms, so you can look down and see the street 1,353 feet below. If you stand in one box and have a friend stand in the next box over, you can take some cool photos of each other.

Willis Tower Skydeck

Being dramatic on The Ledge

The glass-bottom feature is the real draw here, because the boxes sit on the side of the building with the least impressive view (in my opinion).

Willis Tower Skydeck

Just be aware that there WILL be lines to get into these boxes, so be prepared to wait your turn.

Amanda on The Ledge at the Skydeck in Chicago

Getting a shot like this will take some patience!

The 360 Chicago used to have the “Skywalk,” which was an open-air walkway along the side of the John Hancock building that faced Willis Tower. When it was re-branded as 360 Chicago, though, they added Tilt. Tilt is a row of 8 huge glass windows that tilt out 1000 feet over the Chicago streets below. The cool part is that you can hang onto handrails inside as the windows tilt out, giving you a real rush.

Tilt at 360 Chicago

This is a super unique new feature, even though it does cost an extra $7 to try. (Though if you have a CityPASS, it's only $6.)

Tilt at 360 Chicago

Smackdown winner: Draw, because both extras are really cool. I like that The Ledge is free once you're at the top, but you'll have to wait in another line. And Tilt, while an extra cost, is unique enough to be worth it in my opinion.

Tally: Skydeck — 3    360 Chicago — 6

The Amenities

Both towers have basic amenities like restrooms, and both also have walls with fun facts about Chicago as a bit of extra entertainment.

The Skydeck has a little souvenir shop, multimedia exhibits about the tower, and a theater presentation called Reaching for the Sky, which focuses on Chicago's unique architecture.

360 Chicago also has a souvenir shop, as well as a small café/bar with tables and chairs on the south side of the building. Both towers have full-service restaurants on separate floors, but the café here is a nice touch. It suggests that you are welcome to just sit for a while and enjoy the views.

Smackdown winner: 360 Chicago, because I like the fact that you can grab a snack (or a drink!) and a seat. The Skydeck has no seating at all, which would be nice if you just stood in a line for 2.5 hours!

Tally: Skydeck — 3    360 Chicago — 7

Bar at 360 Chicago

The bar at 360 Chicago

Photo Ops

Both towers will offer to take professional photos of you in front of a green screen before you board the elevator. You can then purchase these photos later on, with a variety of Chicago backgrounds to choose from.

The Skydeck offers one of the green screen photos at the bottom of the tower. It also has a photographer at the top of the tower at The Ledge, who will take a photo of you standing in one of the glass boxes, with the city far below.

360 Chicago also has a professional photographer at the bottom of the tower. At the top, you can also get professional photos taken if you choose to do the Tilt.

Smackdown winner: Draw, because both towers offer similar photo ops. (The prices are a little cheaper at 360 Chicago, though.)

Tally: Skydeck — 4    360 Chicago — 8

On The Ledge at the Skydeck in Chicago

Or just take your own photos!

Getting there

Both towers are easily accessible using Chicago public transportation. There's an “el” (elevated train) station just a block from the Willis Tower, and the Red Line metro will get you within walking distance of the Hancock building. CTA buses also make stops nearby both. If you’re already downtown, it’s easy to walk to either building.

Smackdown winner: Draw, because both are relatively easy to get to.

Tally: Skydeck — 5    360 Chicago — 9

The "El" in Chicago

The “El” in Chicago

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Final Results: 360 Chicago wins!

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The Skydeck at the Willis Tower is iconic in Chicago, which means it’s also more expensive and will have longer lines.

So, if you want a great view but don’t want to wait for it, go to 360 Chicago.

(Or, you can always do what I did, and visit both! That way you can make up your own mind.)

View from the Skydeck in Chicago

You can save on admission to BOTH of these towers with a Chicago CityPASS (as well as admission to the Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum, The Adler Planetarium, and more). The best part is that the CityPASS includes automatic fast pass entry to both towers, which is absolutely invaluable on a busy day at the Willis Tower!

 

READ NEXT: 3 Reasons Why Buying a CityPASS in Chicago is Worth It

Have you visited either the Skydeck or the Hancock 360 in Chicago? Or both? If so, which one was YOUR favorite?

To help you out with your own trip to Chicago:

And check out hotels in Chicago to find your perfect place to stay.

Disclaimer: I was given free, fast pass entry to both the Skydeck and (former) John Hancock Observatory on my first trip to Chicago, and received a complimentary CityPASS on my second trip to re-visit both towers. As always, though, all opinions are 100% my own. 

 

61 Comments

  • Alouise says:

    Love reading the pros and cons of both towers. I thinks sometimes it’s okay to have a tie. The ledge looks really cool, it’s nice to have an obstructed view.
    Alouise recently posted..A Lesser Known Way To Make Some Extra Money

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Thanks, Alouise! I discovered I really like doing these sorts of comparison posts. I’ll have to keep an eye out for opportunities to write more in the future.

      I hope to not always have a tie (and, with my pizza post, I didn’t), but, in this case, it was impossible to pick a favorite! Both are great options.

  • Micah says:

    If you’re looking to save some coin, try checking out the Signature Room in the Hancock. For the price of a drink you can sit at the bar and take in the same view you’d get from the observatory, minus the wait, the pricey tickets, etc. (Oh and did I mention you’ll have a drink in your hand?)
    Micah recently posted..The Temples of Tikal

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Haha, good tip! In fact, some high school-aged kids were trying to do this the night my friend and I went up, but decided against it after they were warned that their IDs would be checked, and they might get thrown out for being under 21. But it’s definitely another good option!

    • Maggie says:

      You took the words out of my mouth! The signature lounge is definitely the most impressive bar in Chicago. And ladies, visit the restroom! It has the best view in the bar!

  • Kieron says:

    Loving this smackdown series for Chicago – it’s definitely helping with our travel planning and I guess we’ll just have to visit both of these buildings to make up our own mind! 😉
    Kieron recently posted..A Local’s Guide to Philadelphia

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Thanks, Kieron! Unfortunately, this is going to be a short-lived smackdown series, as I don’t really have anything else to compare! I did go see 2 different imrpov shows, but that’s not really something you can review, since it changes every night! I am planning at least one more Chicago post, though, so stay tuned! Glad you’re enjoying these and finding them helpful!

  • Claire says:

    Definitely agree with the bar at the Hancock comment. I did this when I was in Chicago. All the views plus a cocktail. It was a gorgeous day and a Saturday and there was no wait.
    Claire recently posted..Memories of New Zealand

  • suzer says:

    As a native Chicago-an, it’s Hancock hands down! The views are just so much better…and you can pop to the lounge one floor down for drinks afterwards, to continue the viewing!
    suzer recently posted..The Rest of my Life -or- Now What!

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Thanks for weighing in! And it’s good to hear that as a Chicagoan you’ve visited both these places! I always find it interesting that people who call a large city home often never do the “touristy” things themselves. I mean, I understand why, but I think I’d want to explore and get to know my city, no matter what!

  • Your smackdowns are so detailed!! Really enjoyed reading it, as we’ll finally get to go to the Observatory later this year. Jess is from Chicago, so we’ve been there quite a few times now, and she took me to the Skydeck, but we never made it to the Observatory. We were thinking about going to the Signature Restaurant and enjoy the views from there, as some people also suggested in the comments, but I like the idea of having a ticket that I can use during the day and at night.
    Dani | Globetrottergirls recently posted..Leon’s no gem – that’s what we love about it

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Glad you’re liking my smackdown posts, Dani! I’m definitely going to try to do more of these in the future as I’m able to. They’re fun! And hopefully they’re providing some helpful insight to others – like yourself!

      I liked the idea of the Sun and Stars pass at the Observatory, too. And, since the Signature Room is free, you could technically buy the pass, and then go down for a drink, too!

  • Kendra says:

    This is fantastic! I love how detailed you are and all the pictures! I went up to the Sears Tower when I was about 5 (also, I have a hard time calling it the WIllis Tower. lol I hate that they changed it!) but I’ve never been to the Hancock Observatory. I’m originally from the Chicago suburbs and you’ve influenced me to want to go see them both sometime!
    Oh and the cafe in the Observatory sounds awesome! I would love to get a coffee and just sit up there!
    Kendra recently posted..Hello from Scott

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Thanks so much, Kendra! I find it weird to call the Sears Tower the Willis Tower now, too… I think, to most people, it will always be the Sears Tower no matter what.

      Hopefully you’ll get a chance to check the Observatory out sometime! Going up at night was one of my favorite things I did in Chicago.

  • Ayngelina says:

    At first I was going to balk at the prices and then I saw the night views. But I can’t help but wonder if there is a chichi bar somewhere that I could get a $10 cocktail AND the view?
    Ayngelina recently posted..How I Quit Happy And Got Much More

    • DangerousBiz says:

      The night views alone I think would be worth the admission price… Seeing the city all lit up on a clear night was amazing. But I’m sure there are plenty of other buildings you could get a great view from, too!

  • Cat says:

    As a Chicagoan, I totally vote for the Hancock because it’s right on the lake and you can see five states on a nice day. Tip – if you go get a $5 beer up at the restaurant, just a few floors down from the deck, you get similar views for much less money!
    Cat recently posted..Things Not to Expect in your Spanish Flat

    • DangerousBiz says:

      You’re not the first one to suggest the Signature Lounge at the Hancock! Sounds like a pretty good bet for people wanting to skip the lines and avoid the admission charge. And it seems like Chicago has a lot more love than I realized for the Observatory! Very interesting to know.

  • Guess I’ll just have to do both!

    Pictures made me remember what an absolutely beautiful city Chicago is!
    Debbie Beardsley recently posted..Is a Yurt Lodging

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Chicago certainly is a very nice city! I can see why so many people fall in love with it. I don’t think it would be very hard to do!

  • Rebecca says:

    Gah! So mad that it’s a tie!!!

    But considering that I went up to the top of the Sears Tower when I was in town when I was a kid, and it was a tie, I’ll probably try something new and do the Observatory. Great post!!!

    Totally can’t wait to visit next week now. Fingers crossed on the weather!!!
    Rebecca recently posted..New Zealand – Greymouth and Pancake Rocks

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Sorry! I really couldn’t pick a favorite, even when throwing in all the niggly facts! I’ll admit to being really indecisive… But, honestly, both towers had good points and are well worth a visit!

      I’ll hope for good weather for you, too. If you end up going to the Observatory, you’ll have to let me know what you think!

  • Kim says:

    Ha! I love that this was a tie. I totally agree though. It really depends on what view you want. I really need to get to Willis Tower now that they have the class bottom viewing area. Glad you had a good time in the city. Great post! :o)
    Kim recently posted..Sightseeing’s Serious Side

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Thanks, Kim! The glass boxes in the Willis Tower were really fun. It was great to watch little kids – and adults, too! – freak out about stepping out on the glass.

      Hopefully I’ll make it back to Chicago soon to explore even more!

  • Dave and Deb says:

    Fabulous post and what a great idea! Thanks for all the tips. I haven’t been to Chicago before so I may just have to do both since it was a tie. I didn’t know that it wasn’t called the Sears Tower anymore, I am a little behind on the times it seems.:)
    Dave and Deb recently posted..Glowworm Caves- a Dazzling Display of Light

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Thanks so much! I wanted to write about them both, so I figured why not do a side-by-side comparison? It was fun! Definitely want to try and do this more in the future if I can.

      And you’re not behind on the whole Sear’s Tower thing… most people in Chicago (and elsewhere) still call it the Sears Tower, and always will!

  • You captured some shots of my hometown! I’ve been to both the Hancock Building and Willis Tower many times — love ’em both. Nice post about them and the details, too. Chicago is a great city and underrated by some (usually by people who haven’t been there).

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Thanks, Cathy! Even though I was only there for a weekend, I thought Chicago was a great city! Definitely deserves more attention.

  • Mike says:

    Hancock wins due to the location and the lounge. The Sears Tower is only convenient to people getting there from the burbs or by car. It’s located in the west loop in an area full of office building’s that’s dead on evenings and weekends. Hancock is right off the always bustling Mag Mile.

  • flapane says:

    Thanks for your article.
    I’ll be there in a few days, and I’ll definitely choose JHT Observatory.
    I am sad that it isn’t THE higest skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere, but anyway, never mind 🙂

    • DangerousBiz says:

      I’m really glad you found my review helpful! I think you’ll really like the Hancock Observatory. Have fun in Chicago!

  • dave says:

    My wife and I visited the observatory last weekend. We went straight to top no wait. I think the thing you will get at either place will be great pictures! But standing on a piece of glass did not apeal to us. Stepping outside the door at hancock to feel the air and temerature at that heigth was amazing. Got plenty of great pics from behind the gla ss and a different high behind the screen! 5/29/12

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Yes, you will definitely get great photos at both! And, if standing in the that glass box isn’t appealing, then the Hancock is definitely the better bet. Shorter (or no) lines, but still great views!

  • Rob says:

    Can someone tell me the pricing on the professional photos, particularly at Willis Tower? It mentions the option but I couldn’t find a price on their website. I’m interested in the pro photo at the Ledge because (a) I’ll be on my own (b) I’d quite like a night shot, which requires a long exposure, and it says you’re not allowed to take a tripod with you

    • DangerousBiz says:

      I just tried looking, too, Rob, and also could not find the prices listed anywhere. I didn’t purchase any photos at the Skydeck so I’m afraid I can’t help you out! My best advice would be to just call them and ask about their photo packages.

      • Rob says:

        Thanks for checking for me 🙂 I’ll take my chances and see what happens when I get there.

        Thanks for the page, I possibly wouldn’t have known about the Observatory before I saw this. I’ll try to cram as much Chicago into my 3 days as I can 🙂

  • Adriana says:

    Thanks for doing this review, but it leaves me unable to decide!!
    I will be going on a family trip to Chicago for the first time for the Marathon.
    I need good travel tips!! (anyone??) Please.
    ; )

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Exciting! Well it’s really up to you which one you visit! I might go with the Hancock… be a little different than the rest of the crowd!

  • KT says:

    Hi, Thank you for your precise analysis.

    I will go to Chicago next week. Can you help me with the following question?

    #1. In Signature Lounge can people have a full view (360 degree)? I saw from somewhere that Signature Lounge faces only west. So we can only have 360 view in Signature Room or Hancock Observatory.

    Thanks!!

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Hi KT. Sorry, but I have not been to the Signature Lounge, so I can’t really advise you on that. You have a 360 view from the Skydeck at Willis Tower and the Hancock Observatory – both have windows on all 4 sides of the building. But I have no clue about the bars/lounges! I would check out their website to see if you can find out. Or, better yet, give them a call or e-mail!

  • Syaza Nazura says:

    The Observatory has another photo opportunity at the Tilt! now, where up to 8 people can go on at one time. It’s a fun thing to do 😀
    Syaza Nazura recently posted..2nd Annual Midwest Actuarial Student Conference.

  • Jeanne says:

    I grew up in Chicago, and still remember when eating lunch at the top of the Prudential Building was such a thrill, because for a brief time it was the tallest building.

    When the Hancock first went up, I was sure I’d never like it, but it became a favorite of mine not long after my first visit at sundown…

    The view of Lake Shore Drive and the North Shore is stunning from that view, and at sundown there is no equivalent. The entire city glows!

    I’ve been able to view our city from many points at the Hancock Building… from the Observatory at the top, the Cafe to relax and watch the setting sun, the Signature Lounge for drinks and conversation as the city comes to life in the evening, and one memorable night when I had a glorious birthday dinner at the 95th watching as the sun set over the city…

    Yes, I’ve been to the Sears Tower, but didn’t find it as interesting… Aside from the architecture of the building itself which I never cared for, I always felt the location itself might have been greatly improved upon if it had been nearer the lake itself… perhaps near Lake Shore Drive so it could take advantage of the beautiful views on the South Side of the city. Then to change it’s name?

    The clean lines, of the building itself, and the different options available at the Hancock Building will keep it as my favorite place to view our city… day and night!

  • James Lehmann says:

    Last comment got cut off, I’ll try again.I was saying I did both towers both at day and at night. I would have to say I’m a bit partial to the Sears/Willis. I had fast pass tickets to each so there was virtually no line. Got great scenic pics, shots of me in the boxes, and the pro shot you have to pay for was great, the camera is angled from above so it ‘looks down’ on you and captures your feet as you’re surrounded by the glass. The Hancock tower also has a feature called tilt where you stand right against the glass, bars to jold-on to, and hydrolically (sp?) you are tilted out about 20 degrees over the side.

  • Kelley says:

    With the renovations at the Hancock (now called the 360), the observation deck is the runaway winner. Tilt is both terrifying and awesome AND there’s now a full café with really tasty food and good bar drinks. I went up most recently on a Saturday night with a friend; great view, great fare, and a great deal 🙂

  • David says:

    Do either of those towers have open air ( with out glass) aria?

    • Amanda says:

      No they don’t as far as I know! The 360 used to have a fenced-in open-air section when it was the Observatory, but I’m fairly certain they got rid of that when they rebranded.

    • IloveNYC1931 says:

      No, both towers don’t have outdoor space. For John Hancock, its design makes it impossible to have outdoor platform. But I think it’s possible to set an outdoor observation deck on Willis Tower, cause the building is simply nine bundled tube structures of different heights, and technically each of these tube structures can have an outdoor viewing platform on the roof. However the owner of the building don’t want it so it’s still impossible to have outdoor space.
      If you like outdoor observation deck, you can go to New York City and Los Angeles, NYC has two buildings that have outdoor observation decks, and Los Angeles has one, that is US Bank Tower.

  • Shantice says:

    This article helped my boyfriend and I choose to visit 360 Chicago this past weekend. The experience was wonderful! The wait was pretty much non existent and you could NOT beat the water views. The Tilt was cool but I can’t help but wonder how sitting in the famous “Ledge” at SkyDeck would have been. I suggest going with enough time to see the views while the sun is still up but right before the sun is going down so you can also see the city shine at night. It’s a win-win! Thank you for helping us with this decision.

    Best,
    Shan 🙂

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