In the battle between Chicago’s dueling skyscraper observation decks, the John Hancock Center (875 North Michigan Avenue) now has a new way to make tourists fudge their Huggies: The Tilt.
Five years ago, Skydeck Chicago at the Willis Tower (233 South Wacker Drive) opened its The Ledge feature to the public. It is essentially a series of glass cubes sticking out from the 103rd floor which allow people to step out above the sidewalk below.
The Hancock Center’s Tilt takes it one step further. Instead of merely going for a walk on air, it’s more of a thrill ride. You hold on to a pair of handles while you are tilted forward 94 floors over the city below.
Sure, it’s not as super-scary as the flinging and swinging rides atop the Stratosphere tower in Las Vegas that hurl riders through the air at about the same height. But for Midwestern sensibilities, it’s more than enough. Plus, the view of Chicago is infinitely scarier because Chicago is a 3D city, while Las Vegas is pretty much one row of small buildings, and then a flat brown suburb. There’s less thrill because there’s less visual depth.
With all of that out of the way, we sent our own Wendy Bright up to The Tilt on opening day, and she sent us these impressions from her phone:
- You can see TILT even from blocks away. On the south facade of the John Hancock Center, it glistens and the glass catches your eye as it pitches outward from the 94th floor.
- TILT officially opened today with an introductory rate of $5 (on top of regular 360Chicago admission). Lines were steady today, but not insane. You pay down below to go up to the 94th floor; you pay on the 94th floor for TILT.
- As I walked around the observation floor, I figured out one reason why it wasn’t crazy-crowded at 1pm on a tourist-filled Saturday in the city: “What is the TILT?” I heard people asking, some seemingly surprised by it once they got up there.
- “Are you going to do it?!” was another question I heard repeatedly.
- You cannot bring bags or cameras with you to the TILT. You need both hands to hang on, anyway.
- TILT faces the south, and has awe-inspiring view from there, of course. The TILT area is actually all glassed in on the 94th floor deck; only the 8 participants and a couple of staff people are allowed in. Perhaps so the whole deck can’t hear people’s reactions?!
- Overall, people about to do it and people just having done it seemed cool and collected. No hysteria to be seen. In my group of eight, once we started moving (super slowly), we all gasped and kind of reacted, like, “Oh God, okay, wow,” but nobody screamed.
- I later watched as a young boy got scared with the first movement, and his mom simply had him step back away.
- It’s certainly no thrill ride, but it is still a test of one’s bravery. I came away sweating.
- You are suspended down a little at a time, three times. The last time – at the full tilt – another woman and I were agreeing: “that’s enough, yep, we’re good with that!” It doesn’t last long. I felt physical pressure to stay balanced back away from the glass between me and thin air, and the hand rails on both sides help a lot.
- I read up on its design and truly felt safe with its engineering; you can see and feel the power of 31,000 pounds of steel, hydraulic motor, and three large pistons. (Thornton Tomasetti, engineers.) TILT feels very solid, smooth, and strong… So I myself didn’t experience a fear of falling or any vertigo.
- The French 360Chicago operators, Montparnasse 56, claim it is intended to be an interactive way to experience the dazzling views…and that it is one-of-a-kind in the world.
- It was undeniably beautiful up there in the sky and invigorating to experience the TILT. As some of their promo signs suggest, “Kiss The Sky!” I think I did.