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360 CHICAGO vs. Skydeck

Chicago visitors ask us all the time — "What are the highlights and differences between 360 CHICAGO and Skydeck?" and "Is 360 CHICAGO the same as the Willis Tower?"

All of these questions, guaranteed, are followed up with "which one should I visit?"

Here are the facts and details for both Chicago observation decks, with some commentary from guests who've visited 360 CHICAGO and/or the Skydeck in the Willis Tower to help you decide which one to visit.

360 CHICAGO John Hancock vs Willis Tower Views

360 CHICAGO Views

What is that black building in the Chicago skyline? That's 360 CHICAGO's location, on the 94th floor of 875 N Michigan Avenue, the building formerly known as the Hancock Building. 1,030 feet above the Magnificent Mile, you will feel like you are in the heart of the city with Chicago Skyline views 360 degrees around with changing views due to the proximity to Lake Michigan. On a clear day, you can see as far as other parts of Illinois and our neighboring states of Wisconsin, Indiana, and Michigan. 

Reddit comments from past guests:
"Iconic lakefront views and city skyline" and "better lake and city views, hands down!" "a must see!"

360 is ideal if you are staying around Michigan Avenue, for example if you are North of the River, down near Navy Pier, or on the Magnificent Mile. In addition, 360 CHICAGO has easy transit access and is close to shops and restaurants.

Skydeck Willis Tower Views

Skydeck's location is on the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower, on Wacker Avenue, with an entrance on Jackson Boulevard. Willis Tower is the tallest building in Chicago at 1,353 feet high. You can experience 360 views of the city from a different perspective than 360 CHICAGO. You'll see the city at a height as you experience from a plane, with predominantly views from the west as well as the Chicago River, Wacker Drive, and parts of Lake Michigan. On a clear day, you can see as far as the surrounding states of Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan.

Located on the South Loop, it is an ideal location if you are staying on or near Wacker Drive. This area also has easy transit access and many shops and restaurants.

Hannah R on Google visited both the 360 Observation Deck and the Willis Tower Skydeck and said:
"It was great to see the city from two different angles," and I liked 360 tower because it was on the outside edge of the skyscrapers, so you could see almost all of them on the other side."

Some of our guests that have visited both towers say, "Once you are at the top of any Chicago Observation deck, it's just high! The difference in feet isn't noticeable.

360 CHICAGO offers stadium seating for sunset viewing on the west side.

What are the best tower views in Chicago?

There is no doubt that 360 CHICAGO and Skydeck are the best observation decks in Chicago; both have fantastic views of the city from different perspectives. If you are going to choose one based on just the views, perhaps it depends on where you are staying in Chicago. North of the river, near Michigan Avenue is closer to 360 CHICAGO and south downtown, near Wacker Drive is closer to the Willis Tower Skydeck. 

Wait times 360 CHICAGO vs. Skydeck

360 CHICAGO has timed access to the elevator to control the wait times so that during busy tourist days, wait times are reduced for visitors. In addition, there is a skip-the ticket desk line to reduce time as well.  

Skydeck has timed elevator access during busy days and seasons and premium tickets to expedite entry as well.  Willis Tower earns the status of the tallest building in Chicago, so naturally, travelers want to see it. Perhaps the lines are longer than 360 Chicago, but wait time comments definitely vary by day, time, and season.   

Angela on Google suggests when going to Skydeck,  "Go early to avoid the lines."

The wait time difference between these towers? Our answer is: It depends! We all do our best to ensure visitors get more time enjoying the views.

360 CHICAGO TILT vs. Skydeck's Ledge

360 CHICAGO TILT

TILT is Chicago’s highest thrill ride it allows guests to grab onto the handlebars, lean forward, and hold their breath as the glass tilts to move 8 people 1,030 feet over Michigan Avenue. Guests actively participate in experiencing the movement and views from the glass. 

Court on Google said:
"I'd highly recommend the Tilt. You lay against the glass windows and they tilt you over the edge of the building for a couple minutes. It's pretty wild."

Skydeck The Ledge

The Ledge is a glass box that extends out 4.3 feet from Willis Tower. Guests step into the glass box, look down to experience what 1,353 feet above feels like. There is a  timed 60 (or 90 seconds for groups) to walk on the Ledge and take some fantastic pictures. 

Visitors on Reddit said:
"It's a glass cube sticking out from the building, so you can look straight down to the street" 
Another says  "It's good for a photo, you don't do much there."

How long should you spend at 360 CHICAGO vs Skydeck Willis Tower?

This answer is it's really up to you! It depends on what you like to do and what you are interested in. 

CloudBar at 360 CHICAGO

360 CHICAGO Observatory Activities - Stay as long as you like.

For a major attraction, 360 CHICAGO has a relaxed vibe, it includes a lot of seating, so you don’t feel rushed, and you can take your time. Your ticket allows you to stay as long as you like. With a general admission ticket, visitors have access to CloudBar- the highest bar in Chicago, to absorb the magnificent views and order snacks and drinks (alc. or non-alc). It's open day and night for all ages.

There are weekly events, including Yoga, and regular rotating art exhibits. The observation deck is a popular location for photographers because they have the space for tripods, that you can bring and set up any time of day or night. 

On the ground floor, there is a new multi-media concourse with videos, stories and models highlighting Chicago (and the John Hancock Tower)  history and facts. A downloadable app is available for interactive learning that you can use during or after your visit.

Skydeck Activities

Skydeck features regular fitness events and interesting antenna lighting events on a regular basis.
There are lots of interactive displays, exhibits and engaging activities for kids, such as fact sheets, coloring pages, and scavenger hunts. The observatory level area does have a time limit for some of the activities on the level. 

Justin on Google said, "There are many fun stations to take pictures and many interactive and informative facts on the wall. Our kids were entertained."

A Reddit guest said:  "Skydeck recently updated their museum area, and it's pretty cool."

How much does it cost?

Here is the current pricing for these two observation decks as of April 2024. 

360 CHICAGO Pricing: 

Adult 12 & up - starting at $30 - includes timed entry with a skip-the-ticket desk line for one price regardless of day, time or season and you can stay as long as you want, as well as access to CloudBar.  
Child (3-11) - starting at $20 -and includes all the above.
Additional tickets are available for a TILT ticket, or a Sip & View (includes a drink) or Sip, TILT, &. View ticket. Each ticket includes the general admission.
Children under 3 are free 

Buy a Chicago City Pass and get 48% off your 360 Chicago Admission ticket, including four more top Chicago attractions. It's valid for 9 days with instant access on mobile.

Skydeck Pricing: 

Adult (12 & up) from $32-$44 -prices vary based on date, time, and season, including general admission and access to The Ledge.
Child (3-11) - from $24-$36
Expedited entry - from $45-64 per person for expedited entry - timed entry with the express line to elevators
Kids under 3 - are free

At Skydeck, you can also buy a Chicago City Pass and use the discount on your Skydeck admission ticket as well as four other top attractions.

Is 360 CHICAGO or Skydeck Willis Tower worth it?

The best way to evaluate value is to research the options for yourself and read reviews from past guests. Draw your own conclusions based on your preferences and what you define as good value. What's clear is guests agree; the view from both observation decks is fantastic! 

Learn more about 360 CHICAGO here

Learn more about Skydeck here. 

Regardless of the observation tower you choose, enjoy the views and your time in Chicago! 

In review: what's the difference between 360 CHICAGO and Skydeck?

  • Skydeck’s observatory is higher at 1,353 feet (412 meters) while 360 CHICAGO is at 1,030 feet (314 meters). 
  • Many believe that 360 CHICAGO offers superior views over Lake Michigan and the city of Chicago.
  • Adult admission to 360 CHICAGO starts at $30 whereas Skydeck starts at $32.
  • Youth admission is also cheaper at 360 Chicago, $20, vs. Skydeck, which charges $24.
  • There are more seating and lounge areas at 360 CHICAGO and CloudBar.
  • At 360 CHICAGO once you enter the Observation Deck, you can stay as long as you want and take in all the experiences.
  • 360 CHICAGO offers TILT, Chicago's highest thrill ride that allows guests to lean forward over the city of Chicago. Skydeck offers The Ledge, a glass cube that extends out from the building where visitors can stand.

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