Aerial views of any city — whether from a skyscraper observatory or an overflying airplane — are thrilling. But Chicago, as a prairie city, provides vistas that enable you to see for miles and miles and miles and miles. The following are photos I had the pleasure to take of the lakefront, from downtown to suburban Evanston, during a flight out of Midway Airport, and shots from visits to the observation decks atop Willis (formerly Sears) Tower and the John Hancock Tower.
A visit to the John Hancock Observatory on a clear, blue sky day — such as the one we experienced in July 2017 — is a perfect way to absorb the beautiful natural setting in which Chicago is located. But even on a less sparkling day, you can some inspiring sights.

Oak Street Beach, at the lower right, is located just across Lake Shore Drive from the "Magnificent Mile" of Michigan Avenue and right below the John Hancock Observatory. Looking north, the arm of land reaching into Lake Michigan markets the beginning of North Avenue Beach.

North Avenue Beach, in foreground, has a ship-shaped beach house. Across Lake Shore Drive, looking north, are the narrow Lagoon, Diversey Harbor, Belmont Harbor and Montrose Harbor.

Diversey Harbor (foreground), Belmont Harbor (middle) and Montrose Harbor (right) fill up with recreational watercraft during the summer. The harbors are surrounded by Chicago's verdant Lincoln Park.

The park in the foreground, at Fullerton Avenue, was recently created from landfill on what had been a heavily eroded stretch of the lakeshore.

North Pond Nature Sanctuary, where I have spent many happy days photographing birds and other wildlife, is at the top center. The angular building to the upper right is Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, where I am scheduled to present a six-month exhibition of my nature photography in 2021. To the south (foreground) is Lincoln Park Zoo and South Pond.

Navy Pier, long a working ship pier, was converted to a tourist attraction in the 1990s. It has been undergoing a multi-year upgrade with new landscape, a new and larger Ferris Wheel, and more local food options. The red-brick building at the end of the Pier (with turrets) is a ballroom that hosts special events.

The Navy Pier ballroom and the photogenic lighthouse.

A space between skyscrapers affords a view of Buckingham Fountain, the south end of Grant Park, and the facade of the Field Museum of Natural History.

The north end of Michigan Avenue Bridge over the Chicago River is flanked by the turrets of two of Chicago's most famous  buildings: the Tribune Tower (left) and the Wrigley Building (most obscured on the right).

A night view of the skyline and Chicago's South Side. The tallest building on the left is Aon Center, Chicago's second-tallest building. On the right is Trump Tower.

Willis Tower, formerly Sears Tower, is the tallest building in Chicago, and for many years after its opening in 1974, it was the tallest building in North America. Its location near the southwestern edge of  downtown affords much broader views of the southern and western expanses than the John Hancock Observatory, as clearly seen in the first nighttime photo.

The sparkling lights of nighttime Chicago lead the eye out to the southern and western horizons.

A gorgeous night view of Chicago's towering architecture from Willis Tower Skydeck. The green and red lights on several building signal that this photo was taken during the Christmas holiday season.

A special event for photographers arranged by Choose Chicago, the city's official tourism bureau, enabled this pink-hued sunrise photo very early on a summer morning.

Willis Tower Skydeck provides beautiful views of the Museum Campus, Northerly Island and Burnham Harbor.

United Center, located not far west of Willis Tower, is home to the Chicago Blackhawks hockey team and Chicago Bulls basketball team.

You may also like

Back to Top