The Thrill of the New Observation Deck Experience

August 1, 2017 | by Carlie Miller

This past weekend I had a couple friends visit from out of town. Naturally, we worked our way through all the obligatory Chicago tourist activities. We shopped on Michigan Avenue, went to Navy Pier, ate deep dish pizza and we also checked out the new TILT! experience at the John Hancock Center.

I can remember visiting the observation deck at our fourth-tallest building here in Chicago several years ago and this new attraction had yet to be created. The original lure was simply a great view of Chicago. Now, a whole new experience has been designed and branded as a way to get both Chicago natives and out-of-town guests to visit this attraction.

We’re living in an experience age where people want something to post to their Facebook or Instagram feeds, and the tourism industry is taking note. All over the world, new interactive experiences at tourist attractions seem to be popping up, and TILT! is just one of these.

I decided to do some research to see what other unique observation deck experiences are out there, since I already knew that there were at least two in Chicago. Each experience I found has its own distinct name, logo and messaging. Here are some favorite observation deck experiences I found.


TILT! at CHICAGO 360, Chicago

TILT! officially opened at the newly renamed CHICAGO 360 (formerly John Hancock Observatory) in 2014. Visitors step onto a ledge, and are then tilted out at a 30-degree angle to experience downward-facing views of Chicago. Thankfully, I’m not afraid of heights, so this experience wasn’t too frightening for me. It was fun and unique, and now this picture lives on social media, right where the people behind CHICAGO 360 want it to be.


The Ledge at Willis Tower, Chicago

The Ledge opened in 2009 as a new thrill attraction at Willis Tower’s Skydeck. Four all-glass boxes extend four feet out from the building for visitors to experience panoramic views of Chicago and its skyline. A quick search for the Skydeck Chicago geotag on Instagram returns pretty much only pictures of people sitting or standing on The Ledge—a true testament to the attraction’s popularity.


EdgeWalk at CN Tower, Toronto

While I’ve taken part in both TILT! and The Ledge and enjoyed both, the EdgeWalk in Toronto is something I’m not quite sure I’m ready to experience. Opened in 2011, this attraction lets harnessed visitors walk around the edge of the CN Tower to get both an amazing view of the city, and an adrenaline rush. Fun fact: the EdgeWalk is the world’s highest full-circle, hands-free walk.


The Edge at Eureka Tower, Melbourne

The Eureka Tower was built in 2006, and with it, a glass box very similar to the Ledge at Willis Tower was created. This cube extends ten feet out from the building and gives floor-to-ceiling views of Melbourne. Unlike most of the other unique, thrill experiences at observation decks, the Edge was one of the only attractions of this type to be be built with the building, and not as an add-on feature.


Skywalk at Eagle Point, Grand Canyon, Arizona

While not located in a skyscraper, I would argue that the Skywalk at Eagle Point has one of the best observation deck views. Constructed in 2007 and located 4,000 feet above the Grand Canyon, the Skywalk at Eagle Point has a glass bottom and extends 70 feet out over the rim of the Canyon —an experience not for the faint of heart!

Seeing that each of these attractions has been built after 2006, and noting their immense popularity, I wouldn’t be surprised to see more and more thrill attractions being built at observation decks across the world over the next several years. With each one, we’ll likely see a new brand created around each new attraction.

Do you have any favorite observation deck experiences we should know about? Let us know in the comments!

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