I love the John Hancock building. I love its location at the north end of Chicago’s Magnificent Mile (that’s the famous shopping area on Michigan Avenue). I love its structural expressionist style and the architects’ use of X-bracing on the exterior so that the building could be taller with wide open floor plans. I love the restaurants and shopping at the base. The Signature Room on the 95th floor is where my family has celebrated some of our most special occasions.
And of course, I love the Observatory. Located on the 94th floor, the John Hancock Observatory (JHO) provides Chicago’s best lake view and on a clear day you can see four states. There are tons of activities to keep you busy up there but I’m going to give you a list of just five reasons why *I* think you should go NOW.
1. Skating in the Sky: You won’t literally skate in the sky, but it might feel like it. From January 1-April 8 (with the exception of Friday 2/24 through Wednesday 2/29 because they need to make room for the Hustle Up The Hancock) you can ice skate up on the 94th floor with the world at your feet. The synthetic rink is 900 square feet and overlooks the lakefront and Lake Shore Drive. 25-minute skating sessions are $5 (on top of your JHO admission), and if you don’t bring your own skates you can rent a pair for only a dollar!
2. Free Concierge service: You expect to find a concierge at a hotel, but probably not at the John Hancock Observatory. This is a great service for tourists who need a little help planning the rest of their day as well as locals looking for something new and different. The Sky High Concierges are there to make dinner reservations, find tickets to shows, and even book hotels. They also have lots of take-and-go information that you can grab on your way down to ground level!
3. Open-air Skywalk: Take a breezy stroll OUTSIDE and enjoy the view with the wind blowing through your hair! The Skywalk is totally safe: think of it as a screened-in porch that just happens to be 94 floors up. The Skywalk is open year-round!
4. Free Multimedia Sky Tour: Every single visitor can get, if they choose, a headset so they can enjoy a tour of the JHO and buildings (and other features) surrounding it. The tour is FREE and narrated by David Schwimmer (yes, please!) who is internationally famous for playing Ross on “Friends”, but locally famous as well, for being a co-founder of the Lookingglass Theater. The tour is offered in seven languages (English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin and Spanish) as well as a kids’ version. Did I mention it’s free?
5. Inexpensive city parking AND Free (for a limited time) VIP line privileges: If you know anything about Chicago parking, you know that parking downtown (especially in the Loop and north of the Chicago River in the shopping district) is crazy expensive. For those of you who have never had to park in Chicago, here’s a reference point: parking in these areas in a garage during peak hours for 3-4 hours can cost $28-34. (I told you, CRAZY.) Get this, though: if you go to the John Hancock Observatory and buy tickets at the entrance, they will validate your parking for the garage right there in the building (primo parking!), and you’ll pay only $10 for up to three hours of parking. That’s a year-round special. For a limited time (through April 27, 2012), you can get a Free Fast Pass Upgrade, which will get you to the front of the line going up to the JHO AND back down, when you’re done exploring! Click here to print out the coupon, which is good for up to four people.
So there you have it, my five reasons to visit Chicago’s John Hancock Observatory, NOW. Want to learn more? Visit the JHO website, and if you want to check out a video I made last May when I interviewed Carey Randall, Director of Sales and Marketing at JHO, click here. (You’ll see the Lavazza Cafe, the interactive telescopes, and more!)
Disclosure: The John Hancock Observatory is a sponsor of LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER Chicago, and as a part of the sponsorship I agreed to write a post about this amazing Chicago attraction. As usual, words and opinions are mine.