Spring Break Chicago-Style: 360° Chicago at John Hancock Center

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There’s no need to get on a plane for Spring Break.  Lake County families who want to “get away” for Spring Break have an international vacation destination right on our doorstep!  Hop on the Metra or pack up the car for an exciting day-trip into Chicago with the kids. No hotels, no passports, no flight delays.  Enjoy all the culture, sights, and attractions of a world-class city and still put the kids to sleep in their own beds.  This week, we’ve prepared a series of posts to help you enjoy Spring Break Chicago-Style. Hold the ketchup!

On Monday, we told you about the Play Garden at the new Maggie Daley Park. Today we give you the inside scoop on 360° Chicago at the John Hancock Center:

L. Thomas | littlelakecounty.com | 2015
L. Thomas | littlelakecounty.com | 2015

Nothing is quite so impressive to little kids living in a big world than giant skyscrapers.  It’s natural that when you think of Chicago and skyscrapers your first thought is Willis Tower.  In my humble opinion, 360° Chicago, formerly known as the John Hancock Observatory, is a much better pick to get your sky high fix with children in tow.  Don’t get me wrong, we loved visiting the Willis Tower and so has Genevieve, but if you have to choose one for your family day trip, I’ve got to pick 360° Chicago atop the John Hancock Center hands down.

L. Thomas | littlelakecounty.com | 2015
L. Thomas | littlelakecounty.com | 2015

Height-wise, Skydeck Chicago atop the Willis Tower beats 360° Chicago at 1,353 feet versus 1,000 feet.   But seriously…when you’re that high up does it really matter?  I don’t know many 4-year olds, 14-year olds, or 40-year olds for that matter that would be able to tell the difference.  Both observatories have breathtaking views and comparable ticket prices.

L. Thomas | littlelakecounty.com | 2015
L. Thomas | littlelakecounty.com | 2015

Since tourists want bragging rights, Skydeck Chicago/Willis Tower tends to be the busier attraction.  There are certainly ways to work around it like visiting at off-peak dates/hours and 360° Chicago can be busy too, but generally speaking there are shorter waits at the John Hancock Center.   On our recent visit, we arrived first thing on a Saturday morning at 9 am the day of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and we walked right in with zero wait time.  I can’t promise you the same luck o’ the Irish, but I venture to guess that an early morning arrival, before tourists on vacation want to rise, will help minimize your wait time.

360° Chicago at the John Hancock Center
L. Thomas | littlelakecounty.com | 2015

Here’s what makes 360° Chicago really stand out, as an added attraction, you can experience Tilt, a retractable window that tilts outwards to provide a downward facing view from 1,000 feet up.  Yup, it moves! Cool huh?  Some important points you need to know before you go:

  • There is an extra charge ($7 at time of publication) for this attraction.
  • Only guests 42″ in height or taller may experience Tilt (which unfortunately left my little kids out.)
  • There is no photography allowed.

Not allowing photography can be a deal breaker for many. Still, I think it’s a unique and worthwhile feature so I will keep feeding my kids their veggies until they’re tall enough so we can all go.

360° Chicago at the John Hancock Center
L. Thomas | littlelakecounty.com | 2015

Other features my 4-year old and 6-year old appreciated was the LEGO model of the Hancock Center and the touch screen consoles.  The touch screens allow you to zoom in on the views you see out the windows and provide names and background for the buildings you see.  It was fun using the screens to locate the Lincoln Park Zoo and other landmarks. My son pretended it was a video game.

360° Chicago at the John Hancock Center
L. Thomas | littlelakecounty.com | 2015

But here is the real reason I like 360° Chicago so much – location, location, LOCATION!  While the Willis Tower is located in the Loop, the heart of Chicago’s business district, the John Hancock Center is located right on Michigan Avenue.  Coming from Lake County, I want to be able to park once and walk around to nearby attractions.  Little feet can only handle so much mileage and there is so much to see and do within a few blocks of the John Hancock Center.  Between the American Girl Store and LEGO Store in The Water Tower right across the street, we were occupied for two hours alone… which may be a good thing or a bad thing from your perspective.  We established a very firm “Not Buying Today” policy, which isn’t to say they didn’t try, but no tears were shed.

360° Chicago at the John Hancock Center
L. Thomas | littlelakecounty.com | 2015

360° Chicago in the John Hancock Center is another great Chicago day trip for your Spring Break staycation.  Stay tuned for our next installment in the Spring Break Chicago-Style series coming tomorrow!

360° Chicago at the John Hancock Center
875 N. Michigan Avenue, between Delaware Place and Chesnut Street
Open 365 days a year from 9am-11pm
Visit Hours and Pricing page for Ticket information
Get your parking validated for a discount at the John Hancock Center garage

Connect with 360° Chicago
Website | YouTube | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

About Loralie 251 Articles
When Loralie isn’t out exploring with her two pint-sized adventurers you’ll often find her in front of her computer plotting to take over the world (or at least Lake County.) She appreciates good friends, good food, expensive shoes and parents who make two lanes in the drop-off/pick-up line at school. Her spirit animal is The Hobbit. She invites you to join her on her quest for unique distractions, diversions and deliciousness in this county we call home. She is the Features Editor and Marketing Director at Little Lake County.

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