Chicago: John Hancock Center and The Magnificent Mile


I had planned to spend the rest of the morning walking the Magnificent Mile.

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It turned out to be not a a great idea because it was quite deserted on a weekend morning. All the shops were closed. At least it gave me the chance to casually stroll the street and taking the rare pictures of a deserted street.

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The Magnificent Mile is the name given to the section of the Michigan Avenue. This is Chicago’s elite shopping street, very much like our very own Robson Street except much bigger. You can get almost any luxury brands here.

In the later part of the day when the shops opened, I went to the Apple store. He he he … let me tell you a trick. If you want to make a long distance call for free, go to the Apple Store and use one of the demo iPhones. I was surprised that it worked when I called home to Vancouver.

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At the south end of the Magnificent Mile is the Wrigley Building. This is the HQ of the Wrigley Company who not only makes chewing gums but also carries brands like Altoids, Lifesavers, and Skittles. They own a lot of chewing gum brands, not just Wrigley. Next time you buy a pack a gum, read it carefully and you will probably find that it’s made by the Wrigley Company.

The Wrigley is an iconic building in Chicago having one of the best site for a corporate building. Fronting the busy intersection of the Chicago River and Michigan Avenue, this building is built in the likeness of the Giralda Tower in Seville’s Cathedral. Suanne and I was in Seville just last summer (see the post of the Seville cathedral here, the tomb of Christopher Columbus).

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The Water Tower is dwarfed amidst all the tall buildings around. However, this tower is the only building that survived the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Today, it symbolizes the old Chicago while the rest of the city around it is newly built. If not for the Great Chicago Fire which sparked a massive rebuilding of the city, perhaps Chicago would not be as well known for its skyscrapers and architecture that we know of today.

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See that white building with the words Water Tower Place? Behind it is a skyscraper. Oprah Winfrey stays there. This ugly boxy looking building shouts luxury — luxury hotel, luxury apartments, luxury shops, luxury everything.

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The highlight of the morning is to visit the John Hancock Center. I wanted to visit one skyscraper and had been debating with myself between the Sears Tower (one of world’s tallest) or the John Hancock Center (better views). Almost everyone I asked tells me that while Sears Tower is cooler to visit, it is the John Hancock Center that will be more interesting.

From the outside the building does not seem like it is that tall. Not especially when compared to the imposing Sears Tower. But the John Hancock Center is 100 stories high.

From the design aspect, you might think this is a corporate office building. It is, but half of the building is actually … residential. Jerry Springer live in this building.

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So, John Hancock Center it is.

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It was still early. Hardly anyone in sight. Go getting a pass is pretty fast. When I was outside the Sears Tower the previous day, I could see lines forming inside the building.

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$15 … not too bad. I remembered that the Empire State Building was really expensive. Peons pay $25 and for the privilege to skip the lines, it is $55!

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It was great being having the empty area to myself. I took my own sweet time reading every display before proceeding to the top.

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Before I got on the elevator to the 94th floor where the observatory is located. I picked up the multimedia guide.

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The multimedia guide is free. It is really useful to get the most out of the visit as it points out a lot of trivia and information that you otherwise would not realize.

For instance, most of you know that Chicago is known as the Windy City but do you know why they are given the nickname? You might have thought it is because it is windy in Chicago but no, that is not the case. The name came from a reference to the the citys politicians who “blew a lot of wind.” There are other theories around the nickname.

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Some more trivia of the John Hancock Center.

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The Sears Tower is now called the Willis Tower. I still think the Sears Tower name sounds better.

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Above is more trivia of firsts from the city of Chicago.

Zippers? I thought that was a Canadian invention.

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I would love to visit McDonalds HQ someday and get the inside scoop of the McDonalds operations. I am just fascinated with how they run the company although I hardly ever eat at McDonalds.

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The view of the Magnificent Mile from up above.

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From the distance on top of the John Hancock Center, I finally spotted the United Center. That, my friends, is the home of the Chicago Blackhawks.

It takes a while to warm up to the Blackhawks. Will you support Blackhawks to win the Stanley Cup now? Or is that hurt still festering inside you?

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