Chicago is home to two different observation decks: the 360 Chicago vs Skydeck Chicago. Which is better? Each has their own unique spin to appeal to group travelers. But, when you’re deciding what to do in Chicago, which one should you choose: do you get Willis Tower’s Skydeck tickets or tickets to the John Hancock Center’s 360 Chicago?
You can save on both by clicking here for the Chicago Explorer Pass! Below we’ll offer tips on where to specifically buy individual tickets if you prefer not to bundle with other attractions.
Traveling to the big city usually means big city views. Skyscrapers reach up into the clouds—all at varying heights, colors and designs—crafting a unique skyline, serving as a sort of identification for avid wanderers. Many of these buildings, like New York’s Empire State Building and Seattle’s Space Needle, house observation decks where visitors can look down on the city below.
Willis Tower: Tower Skydeck
Formerly known as the Sears Tower (many locals still don’t recognize the name change), the Willis Tower’s observation deck—the Skydeck—is located on the 103rd floor. On the way up, you will meander through fun exhibits. Stand on various video screens to see what it looks like as you soar 103 stories above some of the city’s famous landmarks like Wrigley Field and the Chicago Theatre. The exhibit also compares the heights of varying world structures, and reveals how many Barack Obamas or Oprah Winfreys you would need to stack atop one another to equal the Skydeck’s height.
As you take the elevator up, a video screen reveals the number of the floor you are passing and what its height is equal to—the Roman Colosseum reaches the 13th floor at 182 feet and California’s towering redwoods reach up to the 30th floor at 402 feet.
When you reach the top, make a beeline for The Ledge, four glass boxes that extend out over the streets of Chicago. Kids will love looking down on the city below, watching cars and people meander the streets. Although it might be crowded, wait in line and you will have your own chance to take silly pictures in the famous boxes. The sweeping views are especially gorgeous at night with golden lights dotting the land below.
Want to know where to purchase Skydeck Chicago tickets? You can directly on their site, or try CityPASS Chicago.
John Hancock Center: 360 Chicago, Hancock Observatory
At the John Hancock Center, expect to see some spectacular 360 Chicago views as the building is situated in the heart of the downtown area. Located 94 stories directly above Magnificent Mile, the view of the surrounding buildings and Lake Michigan will astound your squad. With video screens connected to cameras, you can zoom in on what they’re seeing below.
Aside from the outstanding views, a more fun atmosphere of 360 Chicago stands out over the Willis Tower’s more serious demeanor. Colorful signs and fun elevator music had kids excited before they even reached the top. 360 Chicago also offers Sky School, a program that allows parents and educators to print out materials that will teach kids about Chicago’s history, architecture, science, art, math, and geography. Four modules can be found on the website for Early Childhood, Lower School, Middle School, and High School. The modules include pre- and post-visit activities as well.
In addition, 360 Chicago offers Tilt, rivaling the Willis Tower’s Ledge. Visitors stand against a window that tilts forward, giving them the chance to lie down and view the city before. Unlike the Ledge, however, Tilt costs an additional fee.
The CityPASS Chicago also works with 360 Chicago and offers Skydeck Chicago tickets too. So you and do both in one vacation!
360 Chicago vs Skydeck: The Verdict
Both Skydeck and 360 Chicago offer their own twist on family fun. Check out both and see which you like best for yourself. They offer very different views of the city due to their varied locations. With the Ledge and Tilt, each offers children a unique and exciting experience that they won’t soon forget. Overall, 360 Chicago seemed to appeal more to children and families while Skydeck held on to the classic appeal of observation decks like the one at New York’s Empire State Building.
No matter which you choose, you are sure to enjoy the views of the Windy City.
More Things to do in Chicago
While debating over the infamous 360 Chicago vs Skydeck towers, you’ll obviously want to do some other fun things while in Chicago! Here’s a few more of our Chicago guides to help:
- Trekking Around Chicago’s South Side
- Finding the Best Breakfast in Chicago, Illinois
- Best Chicago Museums for All Ages
Have you been to Chicago? Which is your favorite way to see the city from above? What do you think, the 360 Chicago vs Skydeck Chicago? Have you seen both?