John Hancock Center, Chicago

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  • John Hancock Tower
    John Hancock Tower
    by bladedragon
  • Lake Michigan shoreline toward the north
    Lake Michigan shoreline toward the north
    by Bwana_Brown
  • Lake Michigan and the city of Chicago
    Lake Michigan and the city of Chicago
    by xoxoxenophile
  • antistar's Profile Photo

    John Hancock Center

    by antistar Updated Feb 4, 2014

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    John Hancock Center, Chicago
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    The voice in the lift up the 314 meters to the Hancock Center's observation deck boasted that the skyscraper was the "most recognizable building in the world". Now I think the Hancock Tower is a fantastic looking building, but if they think it is more recognizable than the Taj Mahal, the Empire State Building, or the Eiffel Tower, to name a few, they must be living in some alternate universe that I've never been to.

    Personally, and this may be due to my gross ignorance, I only recognised the Hancock Tower because I mixed it up with the other great black monolith in Chicago, Willis Tower. I'd never previously have been able to put a name to the building, only say "yeah that's in Chicago!"

    The Willis Tower is also the Hancock Center's greatest competitor. They both have skydecks that offer grand views of the city, and they are both extremely tall buildings. Willis Tower obviously wins out in terms of sheer magnitude, but many in Chicago seem to think that the Hancock Center offers the best views. What cannot be argued with is that the Hancock Tower has the least queues. I also prefer its clean lines to the "staggered cigarettes" shape of Willis Tower. My personal view is that you should go up Hancock Tower for the love of great views, and the Willis Tower for the damn bullheaded desire to chalk off one of the record breakers from your list.

    At least those were my reasons for going up both :).

    Cost: $10.25 (plus local taxes = about $11).

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  • ralphbrasethDotCom's Profile Photo

    John Hancock, best view of Chicago bar none

    by ralphbrasethDotCom Written Nov 8, 2013
    View South from atop Hancock
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    There are only a handful of truly Iconic skyscrapers in the United States. Most look dated within 30 years. While the Trump Tower is a fine building, it is a building that will fade in significance over the years while the John Hancock will remain relevant and inspiring in 100 years. There are a half dozen reasons why and I'll touch on two. Although not three sided, the shape of the JH is that of a pyramid, a timeless shape. And not to pick on Trump, but it's a soul-less building. That little hottie will continue to be a hottie -- for ten more years. The Hancock is probably the most masculine building in the country with the possible exception of the Sears -- not Willis -- Tower. It is raw power that looks as if it ripped through the earth and settled on 100 floors with serious thoughtfulness. You must connect the building with the era. The JH topped off in 1969 during civil rights and civil unrest, love, sex and drugs. The young and old were suspicious of each other. Despite the differences, there was still a feeling among the vast majority of people that this was America, a land of dreams. 1969 saw Americans land on the moon. There was an invincibility, though not cockiness about the country. Politicians were expected to work together and didn't enact BS laws based on a two year voting cycle. Nope in those days, a great project might take 10 years and Americans could feel proud about having the guts to try anything. The JH embodies that spirit. It spits in the eye and kicks in the ass notions of doing anything that isn't excellent.

    Hey, I'm getting to the view in just a minute.

    Architect Bruce Graham conceived of the JH. One cannot take away from Graham the fact he envisioned the idea. However, the building would have never seen the light of day were it not for engineering miracle man, Fazlur R. Khan. His role and importance were so great that he will forever be given equal billing with Graham when there is any serious discussion of the structure. I know of no other architect that has been forced to share the credit with an engineer. Without going into too much detail, it was Khan who invented the method which allowed the building to rise 100 stories. The exoskeleton of the building is not merely decorative, it is load bearing. Having that property, the design group was able to significantly open up the interior of the building. There are only a fraction of the concrete and steel columns normally needed to support such a structure.

    Oh yeah about those beams that make up the exoskeleton -- they are hollow and inserted one into the other up to 1,100 feet. The building is stronger as a result. It also shaved off more that 50% of the steel such a building might normally use. The project came in under budget.

    Before going up to the top, go to a corner placing your chin on the apex and look straight up imagining how incredible it is that the building is a series of beautiful straight lines. It's also the best place to shoot a photo. The key to shooting a great photo is to get up as close as possible and shoot up. If it's taken at sunrise or sunset, you can see the subtle color of the building.

    Some other reviewers suggest skipping the viewing deck and enjoying the view from the bar a few floors below. It's a nice view, but you're only getting 100 of 360 degrees. Plus, when people are sitting at tables, they don't like having people's tushes in their face while they take turns shooting photos. It's harried. Trust me, it's worth the money to go up a few floors.

    I will go toe-to-toe with anyone foolish enough to suggest the Sears Tower (also designed by Khan and Graham) has a better view. The best time to go during the summer is Sunday night and Tuesday night if you are interested in avoiding crowds although half the fun is watching the wonder of kids. Get there an hour before the sunset and then stay another hour. You are three blocks from Lake Michigan. The view is spectacular. To the north you see the neighborhoods and jags of Lakeshore. Walk to the West side and take wonder in witnessing just how flat the land is. As a native Washington State guy, I never imagined such flat land existed. Go to the South side and look at the Jewel of the Midwest, arguably the finest city in the land and without question the most important one in regards to architecture. Look at the grid of streets that extend miles down the South Side. For six months a year you can see the glow of the stadium where the White Sox play.

    Between Memorial and Labor day, the city has fireworks every Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. and every Saturday at 10:15. Watch them from the JH. It is a very interesting perspective looking down on fireworks.

    BTW, of course you have to see the Sears. It's incredible, too.

    Before you go, spend 5 minutes to learn about guy named Mies van der Rohe. Those buildings and their creators owe a great deal to the father of modern architecture. Here's to big John.

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  • xoxoxenophile's Profile Photo

    Striking views of Chicago!

    by xoxoxenophile Written Feb 16, 2013

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Lake Shore Drive from the John Hancock Center
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    They whoosh you up to the top in a manner of seconds, and then you're free to wander around the area and take in the various views of the Windy City. I enjoyed seeing the gardens and pools on top of other skyscrapers--something I'd never considered before--as well as the shoreline and the traffic that looked like scurrying ants below.

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  • ArvidV's Profile Photo

    Chicago in four hours

    by ArvidV Written Nov 2, 2012

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

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    Hey,

    When we landed on O'Hare we had to get our bags and bring them from International to domestic. That was a breeze. When we came out of customs there was a bunch of people screaming and yelling to us: "bags transit to United - throw them here" and they almost took our bags out of our hands !

    So, we took the CTA train from O'Hare to Chicago, looked at the CTA-map we got at the O'Hare station and got of at Monroe station. Then we walked to the millenium park, looked at "the bean" or "Cloud gate" as its real name is. Then we continued north on the Michigan Avenue, taking pictures of skyscrapers and stuff until we came to the John Hancock Center.

    There we went up to the "Signature lounge" on 96th floor and had lunch. Their "Chicago StyleBeef Sandwich" was really good while the "Mini Cheeseburgers" were a bit dry. Also its really expensive up there, we had two sandwiches, on miniburgers, three beers and one cocktail and ended up paying 100$ with tip...

    Of course we took a lot of pictures of the city from up there. Afterwards we walked back to the train, we had some difficulties finding a station even though we had a map.

    However everyone (from beggars to police officers) were really, really helpful so finally we took the train from Clark/Lake.

    In total we were really happy with the short and intense visit to Chicago. Especially since we went further to Los Angeles and Las Vegas which is TOTALLY different.

    NOTE!!!
    In total this trip took 6 hours including the CTA blue line transport to and from O'Hare.

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  • goodfish's Profile Photo

    John Hancock Observatory

    by goodfish Updated Feb 15, 2012

    4 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

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    This is another big, tall thing (see my Skydeck review) included on CityPASS that we opted to do because we were sort of museum-ed out. "Big John's" glass observatory is perched a couple hundred feet lower than Skydeck in the Willis Tower but it was also less mobbed and has a bar and espresso cafe. For a small extra fee and a buck for blades, you can wobble around the synthetic "Skating in the Sky" rink for 1/2 hour during the winter.

    If not using a CityPASS for this one, you might be able to get away with not forking over for fast-pass tickets (twice the price of regular admission) as queues were shorter here than at Skydeck. Busiest times, they say, is between 11:00 AM and 6:00 PM. Open 9:00AM -11:00 PM daily.

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  • Dabs's Profile Photo

    Top 10-John Hancock Building

    by Dabs Updated Jun 19, 2011

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    John Hancock
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    Last visit June 2011

    Of the four tallest buildings in Chicago, if I had to choose one to go up to take a look at the city from above, I'd choose the Hancock which at 1,127 feet and 100 stories is the 4th tallest in Chicago.

    The 2nd tallest building in Chicago, the Aon building, doesn't have public access. I haven't tried to get to the top of the 3rd tallest building in Chicago, the Trump Tower, as far as I know the highest the general public can get is the 16th floor where there is a restaurant.

    Why choose the Hancock over the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower, the tallest building in Chicago and the US? The Hancock is located right in the heart of the tourist area on Michigan Avenue, the Willis Tower is in the business district. The Willis Tower often has a long line and a security check. But the main reason is that I think the view from the Hancock is better, you're right on the lakefront and Michigan Avenue.

    You can pay the admission fee to go to the observatory or you can go have a drink at the Signature Lounge on the 96th floor. The drink is as much as admission but you got a drink! This used to be a local secret but not anymore, on a Saturday night we waited 20 minutes in line for a table. Try to go near sunset, for both the day view and the night view, both equally stunning!

    Ladies, check out the women's bathroom in the Signature Lounge, the view is amazing! (sorry guys!)

    Included on the City Pass and the Go Chicago Card

    A few more facts if you're not bored yet:

    The elevators are among the fastest in the world, making the trip to the 94th floor in about 39 seconds.

    Built in 1969, floors 4-12 are parking, 13-41 are office space, and the rest up to 92 contain some of the most exclusive condos in the city.

    It was financed by the John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company, hence the name.

    The Hancock is featured in at least 2 films-Risky Business and Poltergeist III

    Chris Farley died at age 33 in his 60th floor apartment of a drug overdose.

    If you are athletically inclined, there is an annual fundraiser called Hustle up the Hancock where you can climb up 1,632 stairs up to the 94th floor.

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  • machomikemd's Profile Photo

    Better Than Willis Tower Part 2

    by machomikemd Updated Jun 10, 2011
    outside
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    part two of my 2 part Hancock Tower Tips with more pictures.

    I like the hancock tower more than the Willis tower even though the Willis tower is taller and why? because the Willis tower does not have the awesomeness of a Signature Room and Lounge on the top floors, that is why! This skyscraper was named for John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company, a developer and original tenant of the building and the buiding opened in 1968 and since then, offered an alternative view to the famed Willis Tower and the Observatory is a direct competitor of the Skydeck of the Willis Tower. The John Hancock Center is a multifunction building that includes 48 stories of apartments, 29 stories of offices, shops, a hotel, a swimming pool, an ice rink, restaurant and on top of the 344 meters (1127 ft) tall building radio and television facilities. This is a two part tip with more pictures of the Hancock Tower.

    John Hancock Observatory
    888.875.VIEW phone
    Open 9:00 a.m. - 11:00 p.m. Daily

    Total Tower Experience - includes a General Admission ticket, open-air Skywalk, exclusive JHO souvenir and a turn on our new interactive telescopes.

    Adults (12+) ....................$23
    Youth (3-11) ....................$18
    Children (under 3) ............FREE*

    (pls see my separate Signature Room at 95th and Lounge Tips)

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  • machomikemd's Profile Photo

    Better than Willis Tower Part 1

    by machomikemd Updated Jun 10, 2011
    tall
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    I like the hancock tower more than the Willis tower even though the Willis tower is taller and why? because the Willis tower does not have the awesomeness of a Signature Room and Lounge on the top floors, that is why! This skyscraper was named for John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company, a developer and original tenant of the building and the buiding opened in 1968 and since then, offered an alternative view to the famed Willis Tower and the Observatory is a direct competitor of the Skydeck of the Willis Tower. The John Hancock Center is a multifunction building that includes 48 stories of apartments, 29 stories of offices, shops, a hotel, a swimming pool, an ice rink, restaurant and on top of the 344 meters (1127 ft) tall building radio and television facilities. This is a two part tip with more pictures of the Hancock Tower.

    John Hancock Observatory
    888.875.VIEW phone
    Open 9:00 a.m. - 11:00 p.m. Daily

    Total Tower Experience - includes a General Admission ticket, open-air Skywalk, exclusive JHO souvenir and a turn on our new interactive telescopes.

    Adults (12+) ....................$23
    Youth (3-11) ....................$18
    Children (under 3) ............FREE*

    (pls see my separate Signature Room at 95th and Lounge Tips)

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    • Food and Dining
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  • dircelo's Profile Photo

    enjoy the view!

    by dircelo Updated Apr 4, 2011

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    view from Michigan Avenue with Old Water Tower
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    Not only the Sears Tower offers marvelous views over the city and Lake Michigan, but on sunny days you climb that landmark! After that, enjoy lunch or dinner in the Cheescake Factory, one of the countries great chain restaurants. I have to make a separate tip for that, oh oh.

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  • evilprebil's Profile Photo

    Eye in the Sky

    by evilprebil Updated Jun 19, 2010

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

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    100 stories high, the lesser known & smaller skyscraper compared to the Willis Tower (ex Sears tower). The observatory is on the 94th floor and gives an awesome view of the city and Lake Michigan. Great way to chill out and look down on the city, there's also a section where it's "open air" so you can feel the wind and hear the street noise.
    They have a "Sun & Stars" which only costs a little a more than the regular ticket so you can visit in the morning and then go back as often as you want, say if it was the summer and there was a firework show on Lake Michigan.

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  • tim07's Profile Photo

    John Hancock Center

    by tim07 Updated Mar 7, 2010
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    This distinctive 100 storey building constructed in 1970 is a Chicago landmark. It's home to offices, shops, restaurants and apartments.

    The main reason to visit though is the observatory on the 94th floor. From here the Observatory and the open-air Skywalk give you stunning views of Chicago.

    The Observatory is open daily between 9am & 11pm. Prices can be found on the website below.

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  • Lizchiq's Profile Photo

    Best view in Chicago!

    by Lizchiq Written Oct 26, 2008

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    The John Hancock observatory and Signature Room offer among the best views in Chicago. On a clear day, the views from this skyscraper are quite breathtaking, towering over all of downtown Chicago, the Loop, the River, Navy Pier, and more. You can see many of the iconic Chicago sites from the floor-to-ceiling windows.

    I think you might have to pay to actually enter the J.H. observatory, so a nice way to get the view but avoid paying an entrance fee is to order something (appetizers, drinks) at the Signature Room, on the 95th floor of the building. That way, you can get the view and some snacks!

    I've been to the Signature Room twice. Once, it was a beautiful and clear day, but on my second visit, it was quite foggy. On a foggy day, it's just not quite the same...

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  • MatthewMetcalfe's Profile Photo

    Hancock Observatory: 360 Degree Views of Chicago

    by MatthewMetcalfe Written Oct 22, 2008

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    The Sears Tower is on the top Right.
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    The John Hancock building is located North of the Chicago river. At the top is the Hancock Observatory that gives outstanding 360 degree views of the city. The skywalk is located 94 stories up and is open air. Although it's open air there is no chance of falling, rails and screens are in place to prevent that. Should it be cold outside, you can opt to skip the skywalk part and still enjoy the 360 degree views from inside. There are lots of signs inside that point out landmarks and let you know a little about the history of what you are looking at.

    It was a great quick stop on our touring and really gave an excellent aerial view of Chicago.

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  • Jefie's Profile Photo

    For a great view of downtown Chicago

    by Jefie Updated Oct 13, 2008

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    John Hancock Center, aka
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    The 100-story John Hancock Center was completed in 1969 and at 344 m tall, it is currently the third highest building in Chicago. The Hancock Observatory is located on the 94th floor of the building and offers a great view of downtown Chicago. At $15, tickets are a bit more expensive than those at the more popular Sears Tower's Skydeck, but it's usually less crowded (there was no line-up at all when I showed up). The elevator ride to the observatory lasts 40 seconds, and there's a funny pre-recorded message that helps take your mind off the fact that you're traveling at 32 km/h. Once you reach the Observatory, you can walk around the floor to take pictures, although I was a bit disappointed to find out that it's nearly impossible to take pictures on the skywalk, the only portion of the floor that is screened. Everywhere else there are windows, which makes taking night pics quite difficult if you've got an automatic camera like mine. The good news is that for an extra $3, your ticket can give you access to the Observatory the next day if you want to take both day and night shots. Another nice feature of the Observatory is that there is some interesting information about the history of Chicago along the walls, as well as a souvenir store.

    The Hancock Observatory is open every day from 9:00 am to 11:00 pm.

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  • Bwana_Brown's Profile Photo

    Check out the view from the John Hancock tower

    by Bwana_Brown Updated Sep 12, 2008

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Looking south - Sears Tower at distant right
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    I really enjoyed my little excursion to the top of the John Hancock Center! After attending a technical session on the opening day of the IEEE convention, there was nothing on for me in the afternoon so I took a shuttle back to my hotel and then quickly walked north to where this 3rd tallest of Chicago's skyscrapers is located.

    Having read that it can be cheaper as well as more enjoyable to skip the 94th floor observation deck in favour of the 96th floor Signature Lounge cocktail bar, I marched through the lobby to the special elevators that will whisk you straight to the top! Another gentleman turned up as well, just before the elevator arrived, so I hit the Signature Room button and off we went. However, on the short journey up I realized that would take me to the 95th floor restaurant, so I also punched the button for the Signature Lounge. The gentleman asked me if that was where the good views were and I said it was - being the big expert! We chatted a bit as we continued upward, turned out he was from France and had been teaching history in Quebec, so I asked him to join me for a beer while we enjoyed the views from our window seat in the Lounge.

    We had a great spot looking out toward the south where all the major skyscrapers are located and also took a stroll to the north side where we saw the Oak Street Beach along Lake Michigan's shore (2nd photo) as well as looked down onto the 871-foot 66 story Bloomingdale's skyscraper (3rd photo). The service in the Lounge was very fast and friendly as we relaxed in plush seating, sipping on Guinness and Heiniken beers as we discussed quite a number of things. It was a great way to spend an hour or so and the beer wasn't all that expensive either at $9 - especially since it costs $12 just to get into the Observation Deck!

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