Even if heights make you jittery, it’s worth bucking up for the sky-high views at the John Hancock Observatory. The trip up to the 94th floor takes just 40 seconds on North America's fastest elevators; they travel at 1,800 feet per minute. Up top, the observatory includes an open-air Skywalk (the highest feature of its kind in the Midwest).
On a clear day, the 80-mile viewing expanse takes in portions of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin. Multimedia audiovisual sky tours (available in seven languages) point out highlights dotting the landscape. For extra cash, zoom in on sites using interactive telescopes. There’s no rush to get in and out; guests can hang as long as they like at Lavazza Cafe enjoying espresso or glasses of wine. Little tourists love the Kids' Zone, and ice-skating is offered on a tiny faux rink between January and March (additional fees apply).
The observatory is open daily; come before 11 a.m. or after 6 p.m. on weekdays to avoid the crowds. General admission is $18 for adults, $12 for kids. Buying a CityPass can save you a couple bucks on this and other Chicago attractions.