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Guide To The John Hancock Center

John Hancock Center
(credit: Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

John Hancock Center
875 North Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611

When I hear John Hancock in conversation, the first thing that comes to mind is a signature. After that, it's the fourth tallest skyscraper in the city of Chicago, sometimes mistaken by tourists for the Willis Tower, which still wins tallest in the city, if not in the world. Although it has lost it's "second tallest in Chi-town" status to Trump International Hotel Tower and the Aon Center, John Hancock Center is still big fun.

The Hancock, as locals call it, is in the Streeterville area of Chicago, and is still a formidable building at 100-stories and 1127-feet (344 m). Tourists gawking up at its heights sometimes fall prey to pickpockets. I once overheard a visiting elementary schooler from Indiana say, "Tall buildings really freak me out." I expected the mom to say something reassuring, but she replied, "Yeah, they scare me, too." Most visitors and locals alike think they're pretty awesome.


John Hancock Observatory

Total Tower Experience - includes a General Admission ticket, open-air Skywalk, exclusive JHO souvenir and a turn on the new interactive telescopes.

Adults (12+) $23

Youth (3-11) $18

Children (under 3) FREE*

General Admission:
Adults (12+) $15
Youth (3-11) $10
Children (under 3) FREE*

9a.m. to 11p.m. (last admission at 10.30p.m.)

From the Top:

Even in the winter, there's plenty to explore in The Hancock. If you don't suffer from acrophobia, check out the observation deck, 1,000 feet up, and Chicago's only open-air skywalk. The views are spectacular and consistently voted best in the city. On a clear day you can see 4 states and up to 80 miles away. They are once again featuring Skating in the Sky from January 1st through April 8th of 2012, with a synthetic ice rink more than 1,000 feet up.

They now have the first interactive telescopes in the USA and a free multimedia sky tour narrated by Lookingglass Theatre founder, and everyone's friend, David Schwimmer.

While you're on top of the world, drop by for coffee or a glass of wine at Lavazza Espression café. They feature cuisine designed by 3-star Michelin chef Ferran Adrià. Try an Espresso, the mousse like coffee you can eat, named one of the best inventions of 2006 by TIME magazine. They've also got gelato and a great kids menu. You can even hop on their free WiFi. Their hours are the same as the Skydeck.

Signature Room and Signature Lounge

Sun: Brunch 10a.m. – 2p.m., Dinner 5p.m. – 10p.m.
Mon through Thurs: Lunch 11a.m. – 2:30p.m., Dinner 5p.m. – 10p.m.
Fri and Sat: Lunch 11a.m. – 2:30p.m., Dinner 5p.m. - 11p.m.

If you really want to impress and the sky's the limit, make a reservation at The Signature Room on the 95th floor or drop in for drinks at The Signature Lounge on the 96th. The Signature Room at the 95th bills itself as the restaurant Chicago looks up to. Check out their 360° degree views of the entire city, exquisite food and art deco. Of course they feature floor-to-ceiling windows. They serve daily lunch and dinner, and Sunday brunch. The Signature Room serves some of the tastiest seafood, steaks and chops in the city and over 60 items, including made-to-order omelets, carving station and a seafood raw bar for brunch.

Best Buy

Middle Ground:

Want a good work out or need to work off some of the excellent food you indulged in on top of the tower? If you skip the elevators it's 1,632 steps from main lobby to the Observatory on level 94. That equals 58 times up and down the Michigan Avenue Plaza.

Hancock also offers major retail therapy. Sign your John Hancock to a few charge slips while you're in the building. You can go eco-friendly with hair and skin products or get a neck and shoulder massage at Aveda. Buy Chi-town themed souvenirs at Accent Chicago. You'll even find a branch of Chase Bank here. Get your outdoor adventures in gear with North Face. Take care of your toes with Hanig's Footwear and Fingers & Toes Nail Spa. End your shopping spree with Elephants, where they feature animal-themed gifts, stuffed animals and candy.

The Factory of the Cheesecakes
(credit: Bonnie Kenaz-Mara)

Well Grounded:

If all that shopping and city gazing has you tired, The Cheesecake Factory is on the ground floor. Its golden, cave-like atmosphere and excellent food provide the perfect place to relax and recharge.

The Cheesecake Factory

875 North Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 337-1101
Walk down the steps from Michigan Avenue
Indoor and patio seating available
Mon – Thurs 11a.m. - 11:30p.m.
Friday: 11a.m. - 12:30 a.m.
Saturday: 10:30a.m. - 12:30p.m.
Sunday: 10a.m.-11p.m.

Jamba Juice and L'Appetito round out the in house dining options with smoothies and juices and an authentic Italian café, deli, bakery and specialty market.

Self-parking is available at the John Hancock Parking Center.

CBS Chicago Insider's Tip: CityPASS - gives you almost 50% savings on Chicago's biggest attractions: Shedd Aquarium, The Field Museum, Adler Planetarium OR Art Institute of Chicago, and John Hancock Observatory at $76 for adults $76 and $59 for kids.

See their website for group rates, fast pass line jumping and other options.

Bonnie Kenaz-Mara explores adventures in urban-odd ball-off the wall-alternative-eco-punk parenting in Chi, IL. at
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