Five Best Views Above Chicago
A brief summary of great places to shoot in Chicago that anyone can get into...
Here is a list of the best views from above in Chicago as chosen by me. Most of these views have a cost associated with them, but you should already know that. George Jefferson didn't get to the top without putting in that work and neither will you.
This is in no particular order, but I do suggest the Hancock Observatory (now known as #360Chicago) over the Skydeck Observatory. I have to give warning before heading to any of these spots that include shooting through windows. Please click Orange Link below for tips on shooting through glass. It might save your trip.
5. Sears “Willis” Tower/ Skydeck
The Skydeck has stunning views of the Chicago Landscape from all directions. At the 104th floor it also makes it the highest observatory in the United States. The views from Skydeck are incredible for the common tourist/visitor, but photographers beware of the panes (pun intended) of shooting through glass.
Be reminded of the cons of shooting above the city as I mentioned in the opening statement. Definitely bring a polarizer to reduce window glares as well as a coat or some form of shade over your camera (helps reduce window glare.) Tripods are not welcomed at the Skydeck. I suggest a Gorillapod or a Magic Arm. Anything that is in the way of people will not be tolerated except for other people.
I have found the Skydeck to be really crowded; especially on the weekends. I also think that even if you brought a tripod it wouldn't really make much of a difference for low ISO and long shutters because at 104 floors up there's bound to be a little bit of shake. It's not noticeable to the naked eye, but as I've used my gorillapod and have gone as steady as can be... I still get some blurry long exposures.
4. Holiday Inn - Chicago River
Here’s the deal. You either pay for a room. Or you walk up to the glass windows on the 15th Floor lobby and start shooting until they ask you to leave. There is a bar near the windows so have a drink and then shoot away. At least you're a paying customer then. But, it seems like they're cool with you shooting as long as you are quiet and courteous. I had a drink when I went up there and it fulfilled both of my hobbies.
This one might have gotten away from us. They have started construction in front of this view so I'm not sure how much we're going to still have after it's finished... It's a shame if it's obstructed because it really was a great view of the city.
3. Wyndham Grand Chicago Riverfront
The only way to get this view is by purchasing a room or knowing someone who can get you in. Sorry. The rooms were okay when I stayed there back when it was called Hotel 71. Still, the views are incredible and this is the hotel they used as Bruce Wayne's bachelor pad in the Dark Knight. So, that alone makes it awesome.
2. Parking Garage on Hubbard and Orleans
Pay for parking or park on the street and take the elevator to the top of this parking garage. After recently visiting this spot I've come to learn that the view looking towards the Hancock may be forever altered with the construction of a new building. We shall see. I've heard it shouldn't affect the view of the Hancock tho. Either way, this is view is technically free.
1. Hancock Observatory / 360 Chicago
This is hands down the best view in Chicago. Same rules apply here that applied at the Skydeck. They do not allow tripods here. You can't even bring one up from what I've experienced. I used a Gorillapod and I wasn't hassled by anyone.
I like this view better because it offers a decent look at the skyline while offering some sunset colors in the evenings. 360 Chicago has been renovated quite a bit in the last year since new ownership. The views get quite crowded on the weekends so be prepared for elbow to elbow. It's really not that bad, but it can be annoying when everyone is lining up to take a 10 second Snapchat to prove they life the high life.