More Coffee With a View, 1,000 feet up in Chicago’s John Hancock Center
One recent frigid but sunny December day—temperatures way below freezing and an icy wind—we decided to go up the famous 100-storey Hancock Tower in Chicago. We’ve never been up this tower before, in all the years we’ve visited Chicago, which is strange—perhaps because we’ve always been up the Sears Tower (except recently it’s been renamed the Willis Tower).
Anyway, we rectified that and it was a good experience. We approached the Observatory ticket office and lifts from the basement level, past the Cheesecake Factory (another Chicago institution) on the lower plaza on Michigan Avenue, now decorated with a huge Salvation Army Christmas tree.
A lift whisked us very quickly to the Observatory on the 94th floor. The Observatory occupies the whole floor, and floor-to-ceiling windows all round, including the south-facing Skywalk open-air viewing deck, give a wonderful 360-degree panoramic view. From up here one sees the city from a different perspective, as there’s a better view down onto the Lake Michigan and Navy Pier than from Sears Tower, and one can peer right down to Michigan Avenue’s Magnificent Mile, and the Water Tower more than 1,000 feet directly below. And, of course, take in a different view of the Sears Tower. A wall with information boards gives excerpts of the history of the city, highlighting some of its famous events, people, buildings—think fire, exhibition, railroads, stockyards, music, crime, labor protests, change in river flow, for example.
The John Hancock Center, known affectionately as “Big John” locally, is famous for its distinctive cross-beam construction. The building relies on a revolutionary technique in which tubular (as opposed to solid) steel forms a tapered obelisk structure. This design, developed by Bruce Graham and Fazlur Khan of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, reduced the cost of construction by half.
A small café, with tables and chairs strategically set out to enjoy the view out over the city skyline, is in the south-east corner. We had a coffee and enjoyed it in the sunshine, warm behind the glass, while savoring the view. The highest espresso we’ve ever had, I’d say!
Observatory Hours: 9am-11pm daily.
Entrance fees (tax will be added): $15 adults, $14 seniors, $10 youth 4-11 years.
Address: 875 N. Michigan Avenue, Chicago.
More information: www.hancockobservatory.com
Fun Facts about construction: http://www.hancockobservatory.com/en/Building_an_icon/construction.html