Wallace and I recently got to visit our new friend Christopher Rondeau at one of Chicago’s greatest attractions. Christopher is the Associate Sales Manager at 360 Chicago (formerly John Hancock Observatory). Our visit lasted a little over an hour, but I wish we could have spent half the day there.
The first thing you’ll notice in walking off of Michigan Avenue into the John Hancock Building and taking the elevator is just how fast those bad boys go. They used to be the fastest elevators in America. (They were recently surpassed by those at One World Trade Center in New York City. That building has a way of taking Chicago titles).
Once you’re up on the observation platform, you’ll get some of the best (some say the best) views of Chicago available and in every direction—360 degrees. (“360 Chicago.” Get it?)
360 Chicago does have some great historical roots. You can see and get your picture taken on an old window washing platform. There’s a time capsule of sports items and news from old Chicago. But that’s about where “old” at 360 Chicago ends. Everything else is new—brand new—thanks to the recent changes in ownership in the last two years. And I gotta say, Wallace and I are loving the change.
John Hancock Observatory was good before but 360 Chicago will floor you now. The views are breathtaking in every direction—south to the Museum Campus and downtown Chicago, west to the sprawling Chicago suburbs, north to the neighborhoods and shoreline, or east to the seemingly endless horizon of Lake Michigan. It’s breathtaking in a way that makes you say, “Yeah, I know using ‘breathtaking’ is cliché, and I still don’t care.” Wallace and I enjoyed gazing out on a horizon with too many points of interest to take in at once. It’s the kind of view you hope for when visiting a big city.
IT’S IN THE TECH
The views alone would be reason enough to visit, but lucky for us (and you) 360 Chicago offers so much more. They have high-tech screens that let you zoom in on what you’re seeing with your eyes, effectively replacing those old, see-through, quarter-swallowing binoculars Americans have come to know, though not necessarily love. The screens are interactive touch screens that give you information in five different languages. You can zoom in on something—say, the Museum Campus for Instance—and the screens will let you know exactly what you’re looking at.
They also have screens connected to other well-known skyscrapers throughout the world. You can see a live feed from those places while you’re in Chicago, which is just amazing to a guy who grew up playing computer games on floppy disks. Wallace might have been more stunned than I was.
The last technological thing we should mention is the most obvious: the now-famous “Tilt” attraction. This was seriously so much fun. It felt like being at an amusement park. Maybe better since I don’t know of any amusement rides that dangle you 100 stories above one of the country’s greatest cities. Wallace and I hopped on the platform and prepared for our ride. We rode it with a bunch of young high schoolers, which luckily gave us permission to scream right alongside them.
You hold onto the side bars and the floor/wall begin to tilt out, away from the building, and over empty air. At terrifying heights. The “tilting” stops at a 10 degree incline. Then it tilts to 20 degrees (more screaming ensues as your sense of balance fights against your mental recognition that you’re not actually in danger of falling). Then it goes to 30 degrees. Sheer laughter/panic/terrifying elation. When you’re finally tilted upright, you can’t stop laughing. And that’s the kind of afternoon Wallace and I always want to have because it’s the kind of experience any visitor to Chicago wants.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that the space at 360 Chicago is wonderful. There’s a small gift shop; plenty of room to stretch out, sit on the floor, and take in some views; and there’s even a cafe up there. Rather than get coffee, a sandwich, or a cold one (we were on the clock, after all), we opted for some delicious gelato. We sat eating Nutella gelato and facing north up the lake shore overlooking the beaches and the northern neighborhoods. Yeah, it was as great as it sounds.
If you’re planning a wedding or an event, you can also rent out the 360 Chicago space for yourself. If you just want to catch 4th of July fireworks, there’s no assigned seating. Simply purchase a ticket to 360 Chicago and then sit by your favorite window (first come, first served).
The whole experience is everything Wallace and I look for in a Chicago attraction: fun, unique, a great value, and memorable. And if you’re staying with us at the Best Western River North Hotel when you come to Chicago, get your discounted adult and/or student 360 Chicago tickets from our front desk. You won’t regret it.