Chicago's Not-So-Secret Scenic Spot for Breathtaking Views

So I (Polina) have lived in Chicago for 5 years and I sure love visitors because I get to appreciate the great city that I Iive in. Most of us Chicagoans don't walk down the Magnificent Mile or see the Bean on a regular basis so I embrace the times I get a chance to be a tourist!

The Signature Lounge is the reason I have YET to visit the Skydeck at the Willis Tower (#itsstillthesears).

Here are some tips to get the best out of the Signature Lounge during your visit to Chicago.

Getting There

The Signature Lounge sits on the 96th floor of the Hancock At the North end of the Mag mile. If you're walking from Millennium park and have exhausted shopping at the Water Tower, it's the perfect spot to sit down, have a cocktail, and see the city from a birds eye view. There is entry on either North or South ends of the building, just look for the elevators!

Best Timing

Time this perfectly to catch the sunset! Your smartphone tells you when the sun sets so arrive at least 30 minutes before, just in case there's a line. The lounge has North, West, East, and South views so you can watch the sunset on the horizon, see the buildings light up from the suns golden light, or just sit and watch the colors of the sky change.


Avoid the line toward the bar (west) and scavenge to find an empty table, they are usually first come first serve! If you are still stuck standing in line (I have never done this so no reason that you should) go to the North looking side with less crowd and there has to be seating there. 

Photo Tips:

Ladies!! The Women's restroom is known to have the best views in the Lounge so don't hesitate to take your time and get some "bathroom selfies"!

"Feels like I'm falling"

Please, Please, Please turn your flash off on all occasions. It pains me to watch flash bounce off the windows.  

Looking North as the dusk sets in. Get this shot by touching martini glass in your smart phone screen to focus... get the perfect balance and voila! 

If using your smart phone, I'm using Iphone 6S, play around with the focus. Touch your screen to focus on different areas of the photo: there's going to be the sky vs. buildings vs. human. So if you're taking a sunset photo, focus on the buildings and let the sky shine (Edit Hint - use HDR setting in Snapseet App). 

No edit with focus on the buildings. 

People sitting at the windows are usually really nice and let you squeeze close to the window for the perfect shot; so smile!

And if you're obsessed with the GoPro, like myself, get yourself a window seat and turn on timelapse mode:

Even with difficult lighting, play around with silhouette shots, they are just as dramatic and give a certain human perspective on the skyline. 

Night shots are tough to capture but even worse with glare.. eeek!! Trick I use to avoid that awkward "lamp" in the sky look is using your non camera holding hand to cover up the reflection. Just move your hand around the lens nearly cupping it on the glass and watch the glare disappear. Keep your lens close to the glass and voila!

Photo with glare (ehw):

Same photo with strategic cupping around the lens:

PS - this is the women's bathroom view!

So now you know why we love the signature and why it's the ultimate stop for your getaway in Chicago. I say skip the Willis Tower and get yourself a drink and a view for less than the entry fee!! 

Other things to Remember:

  • If you're looking for the ultimate dining experience, the Signature Room on 95th floor is a restaurant with the same amazing view, It's not my cup of tea as I've already dropped $16 on my martini at the lounge.
  • Not Interested in having a drink? Lounge also serves coffee, tea, and dessert!
  • Peak hours are weekends during sunset hours (for obvious reasons!)
  • Lines are on the main floor and go pretty quick so don't be intimidated
  • There's no dress code in the lounge so come as you are!
  • The Hancock has an observatory floor, but again, avoid paying $$ for just a view when you can have so much more! 
  • If you're in a huge rush and can't sit down for a drink, don't avoid this place - go upstairs, walk through, take a picture and leave. There's no penalty!

Don't forget the 1/3  2/3 rule..Here - 1/3 sky, 2/3 land.. applies to anything you take a photo of!

Well.. I think it's obvious we enjoy the Signature Lounge quite a bit.. you really can't get tired of the ever-changing view. We hope these tips helped you get the best out of your 96th floor experience!

Did I forget anything or do YOU have an insider tip to the Signature Lounge? Share it in the comments below!


For the latest scoop follow @wanderingclass on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Periscope!