Lying face down on a glass window jutting out 1,000 feet above Chicago’s busy streets, I give thanks that I am not afraid of heights.
Of course, if I were, I wouldn’t have stepped onto the platform of the new Tilt  attraction on the 94th floor of the John Hancock Center. But there I stood, toes against the glass, with seven other brave souls gripping metal handles flanking the floor-to-ceiling windows.
Hydraulic pumps revved like jet engines and gently tipped the bank of windows forward—three times!—until we were suspended at a 30-degree angle out into the blue. A chorus of “Whoa!” erupted with each successive thrust and not just because of the sensation of falling. The emerging view merits a gasp or two. On a clear day, you can see 50 miles. I looked across rooftops toward Lake Michigan lapping the city’s shoreline and directly down at the crisscrossed, steel-girder facade of the John Hancock Center, the seventh tallest building in the nation.
When we were at the farthest tilt, staff member Diana Mudenda urged us to let go of the handles and lean against the glass.
I gingerly let go to face plant on the window, where baseball-size steel bolts and hefty framing secure three-layers of laminated, 1.25-inch-thick structural glass. It’s a little unsettling, but I feel safe.
We faux free-fall until the window bank rises and wedges inside the facade like a closed drawer, signaling the end of our minute and 15 second aerial adventure.
Stepping back from the platform, Rook Evans from Marshall, Missouri, says she is proud: “I’m only 80 years old and today is as good as any to start on a new adventure.”
The John Hancock’s newly renovated 360 Chicago observatory certainly upped its thrill factor with Tilt, the only attraction of its kind. Since Tilt opened in May, more than 12,000 visitors from around the world have experienced this new angle on Chicago’s skyline. Tilt’s daring view competes with sister-skyscraper Willis Tower’s The Ledge, a stationary, cantilevered clear box jutting out from the 103rd floor (1,353 feet up) of the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.
But today, Chicagoans Tim Yung and his 4-year old daughter, Jilliyn, came to Tilt on their daddy-daughter outing. Grasping his hand, she looks wide-eyed back at Tilt’s platform, “Daddy, I saw the whole world!”
Diana was cleaning our smudgy finger and nose prints from the glass so the next group could, too.
Open daily. Tilt tickets are $5 in addition to the 360 Chicago admission prices of $18 adults, $12 kids. (889) 875-8439; 360chicago.com The 360 Chicago experience includes panoramic city and lake views, an outside Skywalk, mirrored ceiling panels reflecting street views, and interactive touch screens and educational kiosks highlighting Chicago architecture, history and attractions in seven languages.
Read more of Kit’s travel adventures at www.KitTravels.com .
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