Chicago has two world-class observation decks – 360 Chicago and Skydeck Chicago – making it difficult for a visitor to choose.
Since both are excellent modern observatories, visitors are confused – from where should they see the city’s skyline?
In this article, we compare 360 Chicago and Skydeck Chicago so that you can make an informed decision.
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Visit 360 Chicago and Skydeck Chicago
If time and money permits, we suggest you visit both the observatories.
Both are historic buildings – 360 Chicago observatory has been around since 1969, while Skydeck Chicago opened its doors to its first visitor in 1974.
Both the decks offer stunning views of the Chicago skyline, and the experience is very different.
You can either purchase the 360 Chicago ticket and Skydeck Chicago ticket individually or opt for the combo ticket which gets you entry into both the observatories at a 5% discount.
If you are holidaying in Chicago for a longer period, buy the Chicago CityPass, which gets you access to both the observatories along with three more Chicago’s top attractions.
Now, let’s compare Willis Tower Skydeck Chicago and 360 Chicago on six parameters.
Location of observatories
Despite the reasonably different views from their observation decks, the two buildings are not very far from each other.
Location is important because based on the tourist attraction you are visiting or the hotel you are staying in, one observatory may be closer than the other.
360 Chicago is located on Michigan Avenue, and Skydeck Chicago is on Wacker Avenue (entrance is on Jackson Boulevard).
However, if you won’t be staying in the city center, the location won’t matter much because they aren’t that far apart.
360 Chicago observatory is only 3.2 Kms (2 Miles) from Skydeck observatory.
Height of both observatories
Skydeck Chicago’s observatory is higher than 360 Chicago’s observatory.
Skydeck is on the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower, at the height of 412 meters (1353 feet).
360 Chicago is on the 94th-floor of the John Hancock Building, at the height of 305 meters (1000 feet).
But the views from 360 Chicago’s observation deck aren’t anything less.
Cost of tickets
Besides the observatories, both the Chicago attractions also offer interesting exhibits and experiences as part of general admission.
Skydeck Chicago’s standard ticket costs $30 for guests 12 years and above, while those between 3 to 11 years pay a discounted price of $22 for entry.
The cost of 360 Chicago tickets depends on the day of visit.
Monday to Friday, visitors aged 12 years and above pay $30, while kids aged 3 to 11 years pay a discounted rate of $20.
On Saturday and Sunday, visitors aged 12 years and above pay $35 for entry, whereas children between 3 to 11 years get a discount of $12 and pay only $23.
At 360 Chicago, you must pay extra to experience the TILT, while at Skydeck Chicago, their Ledge experience is part of the entry ticket.
The average waiting time at Skydeck Chicago is double the waiting time at 360 Chicago – during peak times.
This is because Skydeck Chicago gets almost double the number of visitors 360 Chicago gets.
This is why if you are traveling with impatient kids (or elderly adults) it may be worthwhile to opt for 360 Chicago.
Whichever observatory you opt for, do purchase your tickets in advance to avoid waiting in lines.
Sometimes the opening times of the observatories may help you decide on which one to visit.
360 Chicago is open daily from 9 am to 11 pm, and the last entry is one hour prior to closing.
Skydeck Chicago opens from 9 am to 10 pm from March to September, Monday to Friday.
The observatory opens from 8.30 am to 10 pm on Saturday and Sunday.
Whereas, Skydeck Chicago opens from 9 am to 8 pm from October to February, Monday to Friday.
The observatory opens from 9 am to 10 pm on Saturday and Sunday.
The last entry is 30 minutes before the closing.
TILT vs. Ledge
What differentiates Chicago’s two observatories is their unique feature – 360 Chicago’s Tilt and Skydeck Chicago’s Ledge.
360 Chicago’s Tilt
Access to 360 Chicago’s Tilt is not included in the standard ticket.
You can buy 360 Chicago tickets with the Tilt experience beforehand, or you can decide to upgrade at the venue.
Skydeck Chicago’s Ledge
Skydeck’s Ledge is glass boxes extending out 1.3 meters (4.3 feet) from the skyscraper’s Skydeck on the 103rd floor.
The Ledge is different because instead of looking through glass windows (as in other observatories), you look through the glass floor.
There are four such boxes, and access to The Ledge is part of the regular Skydeck tickets.
Both Skydeck Chicago and 360 Chicago have their advantages and disadvantages.
What is best for you depends on what you expect from your visit to the top.
If the height of the observatory is crucial for you, opt for Skydeck Chicago, which is 107 meters (351 feet) taller than its counterpart. Book Tickets
Visitors who prefer shorter lines and lots of glass windows will be happier visiting 360 Chicago. Book Tickets
If you are still stuck on Skydeck Chicago or 360 Chicago, opt for the Chicago CityPass and see fantastic views from both decks.
Whichever observatory you choose, please remember to:
- Buy your tickets online in advance. It helps you save money, and also avoid long queues at the venue
- Check the weather and ensure the day is clear before booking your tickets
If you have time on your hands, you can read up more on Skydeck Chicago and 360 Chicago before deciding.
Observatories have a certain romance after dark, which is why some tourists visit Skydeck Chicago after dark.
The travel specialists at TheBetterVacation.com use only high-quality sources while researching & writing their articles. We make every attempt to keep our content current, reliable and trustworthy.
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Other observatories in USA
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