Although the lines are usually long (you can buy a discount card such as Go Chicago or the City Pass to shorten the wait), the Willis Tower does a great job of entertaining people in line with interesting facts. Before heading to the 103rd floor, we watched a nine-minute video about the tower, which was actually fascinating. Even the (super short!) elevator ride was fun, comparing the current height to other attractions around the world.
Skydeck offers one of the best views of the city and beyond. On a clear day, you can see four states (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin). I think the city view here is better than the lake view, but overall, the view is incredible.
The Attraction (Ledge):
I am terrified of heights and thought there was no way I would be able to get on the Ledge. The first step was the hardest for me to take, but once I was on it, I thought it was so worth it. It was a whole new way of experiencing the city.
Lines are shortest as soon as Skydeck opens. If you want to get photos at sunset, go at least an hour and a half before the sun is going to set to make sure you get up in time. Weekends are super crowded, so try to go on a weekday.
360 Chicago (John Hancock Center)
We didn’t have to wait to go up to 360 Chicago, but I noticed the walls also had fun quotes and interesting facts about the city and its many neighborhoods. Once you get up to the observatory on the 94th floor, the viewing areas are divided by direction, and each area has an interactive screen that tells you more about the buildings you are seeing.
It’s no secret that I prefer lake views to city views, and I thought the lake views from 360 Chicago were breathtaking. It was also easier to spot other Chicago landmarks with the interactive screens.
The Attraction (Tilt):
Honestly, I had no interest in doing the Tilt experience. My desire to face downward at 1000 feet was nonexistent. My father-in-law and brother-in-law did it though, and they said they preferred the Ledge. I watched them do the Tilt experience and was surprised by how short it was.
Go to the Signature Lounge for gorgeous views and delicious drinks. Like Skydeck, the earlier you get to 360 Chicago, the better the lines should be.
Personally, I give a slight edge to 360 Chicago, but I think both places are worth visiting. I loved seeing the city from a different perspective with the Ledge, but the lake views at 360 Chicago are just too stunning to ignore. The Willis Tower was built away from the lakeshore and is a further distance from most of Chicago’s other landmarks, but it is still an incredible view.