Home to the first skyscraper, Chicago, Illinois, set a precedent of what can be accomplished with imagination, perseverance, and a little bit of iron and steel. Architectural visionaries and engineering geniuses pioneered the way, creating the blueprints of what is now Chicago’s remarkable cityscape.
Here at Expedia Viewfinder, examining and learning about architecture is one of our favorite ways to explore any location. Because its buildings and structures are such an integral part of the Windy City, we partnered up with Chicago Architecture to discuss some of the top places to view the cityscape during a trip to Chi-Town:
The Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower, is the tallest building in the city. Completed in 1974, this 110-story building was the first of its height, and it reigned as the tallest edifice in the world for almost 25 years.
The Tower’s Skydeck on the 103rd floor is a popular attraction for tourists and locals alike. On a clear day, the views extend for 50 miles, across four states: Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois. For an extra thrill, step out onto the glass-encased ledge, which reaches out 4.3 feet into midair. Below, the grid of streets, moving cars, and people appear miniature, as do Wrigley Field, the Chicago River, and Millennium Park. For a particularly remarkable scene, venture to the Skydeck in the evening to witness the metropolis sparkling with life.
Erected in 1930, Shedd Aquarium is a neoclassical structure located just south of the city on a small peninsula facing Lake Michigan’s greenish waters.
Over the years, Chicago’s skyline has grown up and out, making this the perfect spot to see the city’s concrete and steel silhouette. The unrivaled views are best seen from the grassy area outside the aquarium. With Lake Michigan in the foreground, Chicago’s reflection on the water does not disappoint.
John Hancock Center
Built a few years before the Willis Tower, the John Hancock Center is shorter in stance, but revolutionary to the history of designing and engineering skyscrapers in the United States. An important landmark and testament to new-age architecture, the building succeeds in providing a view and vision.
The 360 Degrees Observatory Deck, located on the 94th floor of the John Hancock Center, offers a view of the city that proves Chicago is devoted to innovative design. At 1,000 feet in the air, the views include The Magnificent Mile® shopping district and the Water Tower, the latter being one of the only buildings that survived the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. As if the cityscape wasn’t spectacular enough, the observatory features an audio tour, interactive technology, and the exhilarating opportunity to stand on windows that tilt down toward the streets below. Vertigo, anyone?
Navy Pier Ferris Wheel
The original Ferris wheel was built for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition Fair in Chicago. With the intention of rivaling Paris’ Eiffel Tower, the Ferris wheel was created as an American symbol of architectural power and ingenuity. What better place to admire how high American architecture has risen than with a ride on the Ferris wheel at Navy Pier?
This pier stretches 1.5 miles into Lake Michigan, making the gondolas an ideal place to catch sight of the city from the water. Buildings such as the John Hancock Center, Aon Center, and Trump Tower, among dozens of others, are visible from seats on the wheel. Beholding the steel giants in the distance, it’s easy to see what the big architectural fuss is all about.
Chicago is an aesthetically pleasing city, where the buildings and structures keep everyone looking up and around. For the most unique views on your next trip to Chi-Town, visit these top destinations and marvel at the Chicago skyline from every different perspective.