John Hancock Center

john hancock center

The Sears (ok, fine, Willis) Tower may have the new glass skydecks, but only the John Hancock Observatory can boast an open air viewing deck with an even better view of the lake and Chicago’s Magnificent Mile. Whether you are a tourist or longtime resident, a visit to the John Hancock Observatory is a great activity with amazing city views. On a clear day, visitors can see Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan from the 94th floor. If visiting at night, expect a beautifully lit view of the Chicago skyline. If you have the chance, we recommend going during the summer and plan to be at the top during a Navy Pier fireworks display!

The 1,127-foot-tall John Hancock Center was designed by Bruce Graham (Architect and Design Partner) and Fazlur Khan (Chief Structural Engineer) from Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill and was developed in 1964 by Jerry Wolman. John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance assumed ownership in 1966. The famous Chicago landmark is currently owned through a joint venture between Golub & Company and the Whitehall State Real Estate Funds. The 100 story complex consists mostly of office space, some retail and broadcasting space, and 700 condominiums. The broadcasting section of the building contains eight major television stations and 12 radio stations which broadcast from the tower’s antennas.

Construction of this massive complex took a mere 36 months (five million man-hours) with a not so mere $100 million at the time of construction. Ever wonder how a building that tall stays standing? The large black X’s stacked on the outside of the building allow it to sway five to eight inches in 60mph wind. It can even withstand winds up to 132 mph! Oh, how I admire engineering. The X’s also allows for less inner support beams, creating more floor space. It also holds the nation’s fastest elevators!

The Hancock Observatory recently underwent renovation, making it a brighter and even more interactive space to visit. Visitors can also enjoy a new multimedia tour narrated by David Schwimmer and stop for a beverage at the new Espression by Lavazza Cafe.

The Signature Room on the 95th floor offers dining options with an incredible view. The restaurant is open daily for lunch and dinner and on Sundays for brunch. If you just want to grab a cocktail while enjoying the view, head to the 96th floor, open until 12:30pm Sunday – Thursday, and 1:30 on Friday and Saturday. Reservations are highly recommended. It is also a very elegant private event space available for weddings, receptions, gala events, etc.

Interested in celebrating your next birthday 1,000 feet up in the sky? The Hancock does birthday parties (for quite a fee) at the recently redesigned John Hancock Observatory complete with cake and an included multimedia tour. The package includes decorations, a free parking spot, and access to the Espression by Lavazza Cafe.

Basic Info
Location: 875 N. Michigan Ave.
Phone: 312.751.3680

Getting There:
L: Red Line to Chicago Avenue
Bus: #10, #125, #143, #144, #145, #146, #147, #148, #151, #157
Driving: From Lake Shore Drive, exit at Michigan Avenue. The most convenient parking in the area is located at John Hancock Center with entrances off Chestnut (westbound) and Delaware (eastbound).
For more detailed directions, click here.

Admission Hours & Prices
Every day 9am – 11pm
General Admission: $15 (ages 12-64)
Children: $10 (ages 3-11)
Free 3 and under
A FastPass is available, as well as a Sun & Stars package, which allows you to enter the Observatory once during the day and once at night for the one special price.


Tessa McLean

About Tessa McLean

There is just something about that feeling when you have been away — maybe for a weekend, a month, 6 months — and you’re driving into Chicago and that first glimpse of the city skyline appears. It just always makes me smile.

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