Last weekend we were heading into downtown Chicago to check out the Christmas scenery and do some shopping. Since we'd be on the Mag Mile, I suggested to my husband that we visit the John Hancock Observatory. I had never been up to the observatory on the 94th floor, but I had been to the 95th floor to dine at the Signature Room. It's a cool experience, especially at sunset.
One hint for anyone who drives a huge van like we do - you won't fit into the parking garage! It had a 6 ft. 7 clearance, which we learned wasn't enough as we scraped as we headed in. We found a garage a couple blocks over with the 7 ft. 7 clearance and we were good to go. They were even offering a rate of $14 for 5 hours for the holidays. Wouldn't you know it, we got back to the garage after 5 hours and 12 minutes and our parking fee shot up to $31. Gotta expect that in the city.
Anyway, to enter the observatory, you actually walk down a floor from Michigan Avenue. I had checked out prices online in advance at www.jhochicago.com. General admission was $17.50 for adults and $11.50 for kids. The Total Tower Experience was $27 for adults and $21.50 for kids, but there was an online coupon I printed off for $5 off, so we did the Total Tower Experience which ended up being $22 for adults and $16.50 for the kids. The main reason I did this is because I wanted to be able to do the open-air Skywalk and it didn't appear to be included in the regular admission. "Chicago's only open-air skywalk" wasn't quite what I expected. It was a small section of one wall where the windows are covered with screens so that you get to feel the outside air. It turned out that you could enter and exit at will and the Total Tower Experience wasn't required, but for about $5 more, we got to check out the interactive telescope (regularly $2.99) and got a t-shirt (a $19.99 value). So, the extra $5 was still worth it.
The kids loved getting a scoop of gelato from the cafe and we also got a free picture with Santa, free face painting and free balloon art. By the way, we also took the fastest elevator in North America up to the top. It was such a smooth ride that we didn't even realize at first that we were moving.
If you're in the city, this is a fabulous activity. It was easily accessible and right across the street from Water Tower Place. The views are great (I happened to be there on a clear day) and it's loads of fun!