Chicago Observation Decks: John Hancock vs. Willis Tower

Whenever I visit a new place, I like to visit observation decks to get a different perspective on the area. Being up high and being able to watch the world below brings me a sense of wonder. It’s astounding to see how cities were built and how far they stretch.

Chicago offers two observation decks with spectacular views of the Windy City.

John Hancock’s 360 Chicago Observation Deck

  • 360 Chicago Observation deck feels open with its large glass panes.
  • You’re able to get closer to the windows to get better views of the city below.
  • Has better view of Lake Michigan and the buildings along the lakefront.
  • Has a nice seating area where you can relax and enjoy the view of the city.

Tip: Instead of paying the fee for the observation deck, visit the Signature Bar Lounge on the 96th floor to enjoy the view as you sip on a cocktail. Ladies, be sure to check out the view from the women restroom in the lounge.


Willis Tower’s Skydeck Chicago

  • The observation deck feels more compact compare to 360 Chicago. Most likely due to the large crowd that the Ledge draws in.
  • You’re able to see Lake¬† Michigan but the view doesn’t do the lake justice like the view from 360 Chicago.¬† Nonetheless, the city view is still fantastic.
  • There’s less seating areas where you can sit and enjoy the view of the city.

Tip: There are four glass ledges. There is a photographer at the furthest ledge and is best if you want a picture without people.

chicago willis tower the ledge


Regardless of which observation deck you chose, make sure to give yourself plenty of time. You’re bound to wait at least 30 minutes before riding the elevator up during peak times. Expect to wait 15 minutes + for the elevator ride down as well. I once made the mistake and it almost cost me a delicious dinner. I forgot that there was a line to take the elevator down when I visited 360 Chicago. I had dinner plans in 30 minutes and was seriously contemplating on taking the stairs when I remember I was on the 94th floor. Luckily, my party was also running late to dinner.

No matter which observation deck you choose, you are sure to enjoy the views of Chicago!


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