Positioned between the Magnificent Mile and Lake Michigan, the building formerly named John Hancock Tower (now 875 N. Michigan Ave.) is home to 360 Chicago. Situated on the 94th floor, it is an attraction whose name expresses the strength of what, in my opinion, should be the first attraction to visit in Chicago, to fill your eyes with the city from the most spectacular point looking down at it.
Not only for that, but for so many other reasons…. Did you know, for example, that this distinctive building was also a film location? Let’s take a look together at all the useful information regarding 360 Chicago: the route, what makes it special, and a few tips on how to best plan your visit!
Let’s start by saying that any season and any time of day are perfect for visiting. The best time is at sunset because 360 Chicago is counted among the best places to watch the sunset from, but the views of Lake Michigan in full sunlight and of Chicago’s skyscrapers lit up at night are also worth it.
The tour begins with a gallery in which the origins (and anecdotes) of 360 Chicago and of the city are recounted through pictures and words on the walls, with a mention to even the most recent projects and a special focus on the 9 most distinctive neighborhoods. At the end of it, you get to the elevator, and not just any elevator, but the fastest elevator in North America, which will take you to the 94th floor in 40 seconds while you enjoy watching a short introductory film (you can check it out on our reel). As the elevator doors open, Chicago – and one of the most beautiful views in the United States – will appear before your eyes.
But how was the John Hancock Center born?
Funded by the John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company, the building was originally intended to be the second tallest building in the world. The tower’s construction, though, was halted in 1967 because of a flaw discovered in an innovative engineering method used to pour concrete in multiple stages. The interruption caused quite a few financial problems and the owner went bankrupt. It was John Hancock who took over the project, retaining the original layout, architect, engineer and main contractor. Works then ended in 1969 and its first resident was Ray Heckla, the original structural engineer. The skyscraper was for a long time the tallest building in Chicago (it is now the second tallest), and it is still among the tallest buildings in the United States and in the world, a member of the World Federation of Great Towers.
Once you arrive at the Observation Deck, you can enjoy a 360-degree view of the city from the highest point. Thanks to touch screens scattered along the way, you can understand – in 7 different languages – what you are observing and read about the history and special features of the neighborhoods.
Then it’s time for the TILT, Chicago’s highest adrenaline experience that in just a few minutes will give you the impression of “flying” above the city. Taking videos and photos during the activity is only permitted if you secure an action camera to your head because your hands must be firmly secured to the supports, but you can get an idea with this video.
Personally, I found it fun and peculiar, you really have the feeling of falling into the void at first, then instead it feels like flying. Seeing the cars whizzing three hundred meters below you, having the impression that you can skim over the roofs of skyscrapers… an absolute thrill that’s worth experiencing!
And to end this already incredible experience, there is no better way than relaxing at CloudBar, which I have told you about in detail here.
Sit back and enjoy the view of the lake, the lights of Chicago or even just the sky seen from a closer vantage point, while drinking a good cocktail or a Magnicity Pilsner – the beer brewed exclusively for 360 Chicago by the Moody Tongue brewery, the first in the world to have two Michelin stars – and sampling local products to taste some of the city’s best culinary products. The atmosphere is relaxed and you really struggle to take your eyes off those glass windows and that view, as your curiosity and desire to see it at all hours and from all angles, grows.
A visit to 360 Chicago is a well-rounded experience, the best way to start learning about every aspect of the Best Big City in the US.
Movie Locations: Poltergeist III
For due clarification, the film was not shot on the same floor as 360 Chicago, but since the John Hancock Tower is among the main locations of the film, I could not fail to mention it.
It is the very tower that you see in the poster, the skyscraper where Carol Anne is sent by her parents to live with her aunt and uncle who run the very building. It was the most disappointing film in the trilogy, for a variety of reasons including the lack of the Freeling family – aside from Carol Anne and Tangine – due to the actors not wanting to make the third film, why you ask? Because of the curse surrounding the films, due to the death of two actors: Dominique Dunne was killed by her ex-boyfriend shortly after the filming, and Julian Beck (replaced in the third film by Nathan Davis) died of cancer after the second film. Unfortunately, the “curse” also affected the third film, because after the filming ended, the little star died at only 12 years old, due to a misdiagnosis and subsequent unnecessary treatment.
The other reason why the movie was a flop is due to the lack of development of new characters and subplots, a consequence of the fact that 10-15% of the script was not shot to speed the movie up, so seeing the film is like reading the book by skipping the middle pages.
So, am I telling you that if you haven’t seen you should avoid seeing it? No. It is not entirely to be discarded, the direction is very good and the special effects for the time are really spectacular and all done on the set, with no post-production apart from the lightning bolt in the final scene. The other reason not to discard the viewing is that you can see places in the John Hancock Tower that are otherwise inaccessible!
Visiting 360 Chicago: hours, tickets and planning the visit
Let’s get to the useful information. 360 Chicago is open daily from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., last admission is one hour earlier at 10 p.m. The length of the visit depends on you and on the type of ticket: if it includes only the Observation Deck, if you also have the cocktail at the CloudBar, the TILT… with the full package the visit can take up to an hour and a half. If you book your ticket in advance (which is always recommended), I suggest you arrive a little before schedule so that you can take your time reading and observing the history of Chicago and 360 Chicago on the short tour at the entrance.
As I mentioned earlier, it is reported to be among the most beautiful places in the world to watch the sunset from, and that is a good time to go so you can sit and sip a cocktail while you admire the sun setting over the city. However, this is also the busiest time of day, especially in the high season, so you’ll have to judge carefully.
If you arrive by car there is also a parking but it costs about $54.
On this page you can find all the different types of tickets available – from $30 to $50 per person.