7 Epic Chicago Panoramas

Travel Lists

Chicago is know?n? for many things, among them is ?its world-renowned architecture. Relics left by some of ?the ?most esteemed names in the industry’s history, from Ludwig Mies van der Rohe ?to ?the Burnham brothers, pack the landscape. Seeing the skyline from as many ?vantage points as possible is one of the city’s greatest attractions. These seven places offer epic ?views of Chicago.

1. Solidarity Drive at Museum Campus

Museum_Campus_Skyline_Mike Warot.JPG
Photo via Flickr/Mike Warot

Chicago’s Museum Campus is home to the Adler Planetarium, Field Museum of Natural History, and Shedd Aquarium. While these world-class museums are the advertised attractions of this 57-acre lakefront campus, the skyline view is a worthy draw. Park along East Solidarity Drive, a tree-lined promenade, and head to the end of the road where you’ll find the Adler Planetarium and unobstructed views of the lakeshore and skyline from the large theater-like concrete steps that lead down to the lake. Visit around dusk when the skyline begins to twinkle as the sun sets behind it.

2. The Navy Pier Ferris Wheel

Photo via Flickr/Michaeltk

The world’s first Ferris wheel was unveiled in Chicago at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. Riding the replica at Navy Pier is not only a fun way to give a nod to the city’s past, but it also offers breathtaking views from 150 feet above the skyline and Lake Michigan.? From your open-air cabin, you’ll be able to see Lake Point Tower, the John Hancock Center and a plethora of other skyscrapers during your snail’s-pace rotation. ?The ?Navy Pier ?Ferris wheel?? is open year-round? and costs seven dollars.?

3. North Avenue Beach

Photo via Flickr/Vlxa

Chicago’s 26-miles of Lake Michigan beaches sit at the foot of the city’s skyline. North Avenue Beach in Lincoln Park, arguably the city’s most popular, offers expansive southward views of the skyline. Station yourself on the outdoor deck of Castaway’s, a boat-shaped restaurant at the beach, to take in the view while sipping a beer from one of Chicago’s local craft breweries (both Revolution Brewing Company and Half Acre Beer Company are served). For an even better view venture out onto the breakwater that extends from the south end of the beach. From there, the only thing between you and an incredible view is the lake.

4. The Skydeck at the Willis Tower

Photo via Flickr/Charlotte

At one time Willis Tower (formerly, and still to locals, known as the Sears Tower) was the tallest building in the world. Today it’s 12th … and since the completion of One World Trade Center in New York, it’s only second tallest in the U.S. Over the last decade the iconic building has lost its name and its first-place ranking, but it hasn’t lost its incredible view. In fact, the addition of the Ledge to the tower’s Skydeck has only enhanced the experience. The glass-bottomed boxes protrude from a series of windows on the 103rd-floor offering views of both the skyline and the 1,353-foot plunge toward the city below. While most Chicagoans won’t pay the admission fee ($19.50 for adults), it’s a worthy addition to any out-of-towner’s itinerary.

5. Cite at the Top of Lake Point Tower

Photo via citechicago.com

Lake Point Tower sits slightly removed from the rest of Chicago’s skyline and its position in the lineup gives it virtually unobstructed and 360-degree views of the surrounding city. It’s a residential building, whose famous past residents include Sammy Sosa and Mikey Rooney, but views from the top of the tower are possible at the 70th-floor restaurant Cite. Many of Chicago’s iconic skyscrapers (and three states) are visible while dining at this award-winning and critically acclaimed restaurant.

6. The Chicago River Aboard an Architectural Boat Tour

Photo via Flickr/Rob Lee

The architectural boat tours along the Chicago River don’t just offer views of the skyline, they take you right through it. These up-close-and-personal journeys float you by some of the most famous buildings in the city like the Trump and Marina City towers. Wendella Boats has been giving tours since 1935 and the Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise is another option.

7. The John Hancock Observatory

Photo via Flickr/Poom!

There’s nothing like taking in Chicago from the observation deck of one of the buildings that defines the city’s skyline. The observatory on the 94th floor has 360-degree views of the skyline and a cafe (although currently closed through the spring for renovations). Wills Tower has its Ledge, but the John Hancock has Tilt, angled windows that let you lean over the city. If 1,000 feet above the city isn’t high enough, head up one more floor to The Signature Room at the 95th, a restaurant and lounge with stunning views in every direction.

Lauren Kilberg is a Chicago-based freelance writer and blogger. Her travels have found her camping near the Pakistani border of India, conquering volcanoes in the Philippines and being humbled in Haiti.

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