By Monica Poling
SkyView Atlanta: The bustling metropolis of Atlanta offers plenty to see—both from the ground and the sky. Rise above it all with a trip in SkyView Atlanta’s 20-story Ferris wheel in Centennial Olympic Park. The wheel is outfitted with 42 climate-controlled gondolas and is open until 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday and midnight Friday through Sunday, making for awe-inspiring sunset and nighttime views.
To fly in style, visitors can opt for SkyView Atlanta’s VIP gondola experience, which lets riders skip the line, and features rich Ferrari leather seating and a longer flight time. Additionally, it’s equipped with a glass floor for an even more exhilarating way to enjoy the elevated panoramas.
Skywalk Observatory: The only skyscraper observatory in New England, the Skywalk Observatory is located on the 50th floor of Prudential Tower and offers 360-degree views of the city, overlooking well-known landmarks such as Fenway Park, the Charles River, Harvard University, and the Boston Common and Public Garden. Additionally, the observatory’s Acoustiguide audio tour offers insight on the city’s history and culture while identifying points of interest that can be seen from above.
Head two stories up to the Top of the Hub restaurant to indulge in the Hell Mary, a cocktail created by head bartender Arley Howard. This award-winning take on a bloody mary was named best in Massachusetts last year at the “Chopped” Best Bloody Mary Brunch, part of the New York City Wine & Food Festival.
Skydeck and 360 Chicago: There are multiple options for enjoying Chicago’s skyline. Formerly the John Hancock Observatory, 360 Chicago rises 1,000 feet above Lake Michigan and views stretch to four neighboring states. Equally impressive, the 110-story Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) is among the tallest buildings in the world and features the Skydeck, which sits 103 floors above city streets and is open 365 days a year.
A must-try experience at Willis Tower, The Ledge is a glass-floored balcony that extends 4 feet beyond the building. Likewise, 360 Chicago offers a unique view with Tilt, which allows eight guests at a time to cling to metal handrails as its glass window slowly leans over the Magnificent Mile.
Griffith Observatory: Although it was built on a hilltop to maximize views of outer space, Griffith Observatory also provides one of the most panoramic ways to see LA. The attraction is always free to visit and is set high above a glittering tableau that’s made up of such recognizable destinations as downtown LA, Hollywood and much of the city’s coastline.
Loews Hollywood Hotel is also home to gorgeous vistas that can be enjoyed during regularly scheduled yoga sessions. Proving that Zen and adrenaline can go hand in hand, classes are held atop the rooftop helipad with views of the Hollywood sign.
Minneapolis Institute of Arts: The larger of the Twin Cities houses a free fine art museum in a historic, neoclassical structure that also happens to have one of the most engaging viewpoints. A large picture window inside the museum gives guests a beautifully framed perspective of the skyline, along with signage that identifies visible buildings. While there, visitors can also peruse one of the top art collections in the country.
In addition, more Minneapolis sights can be taken in on the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway, a 50-mile route that loops past neighborhoods, rivers, lakes, woods and waterfalls. The route also includes the historic Stone Arch Bridge, considered one of the best places to take a picture of the city.
Empire State Building: When it comes to views of New York City, King Kong clearly had it right when he climbed to top of this landmark. Although nothing can beat his view from the top, visitors have two spectacular ways to see the city from safer vantage points: from the Empire State Building’s main observation deck on the 86th floor and from the Top Deck, located on the 102nd floor.
Those who visit after the sun sets could be in for a special treat, too. The building’s tower lights change color regularly to commemorate special occasions throughout the year, and are sometimes synchronized to music from area radio stations.