Chicago is known for some of the most amazingly unique and historic architecture in the world, so where do you start? The John Hancock, The Water Tower, Willis Tower, Marina City, Navy Pier, Wrigley Building … so much to see, on a budget and a ticking clock! I’m here to help you zero in on three must-sees — how to enjoy the amenities and activities each building has to offer, along with a few insider tips on capturing some of the most beautiful photography at each stop. Let’s get started with a little Chicago architecture stroll…

John Hancock Tower

This building may look modern to the unassuming eye, but it was in fact an architectural feat to complete this project — in time and on budget. The construction came to a screeching halt in 1967 due to an error in the pouring of the concrete. Eventually funds to finish the project were found and the snags that they came across during construction were ironed out, allowing the skyscraper to be completed in 1969 to the tune of $100 million dollars…give or take some change. This 100-story tower welcomed its first resident, Ray Heckla, the original building engineer responsible for the residential floors from 44 to 92. Heckla moved his family into the tower in April 1969, before the building was completed, and continued to help oversee the final stages of construction.

Insider Tip: Looking for a unique perspective? Visit TILT, located 1,000 feet above the famous Magnificent Mile and downtown Chicago in the John Hancock Building. This isn’t for the faint-hearted — you’re projected out above the street as the team at 360 Chicago tilts you forward for the only downward (and safe) facing views of Chicago. Get your Go-Pro and camera ready. This makes for a stellar photo op like nothing else.

For more information and to purchase your tickets click here.

The Wrigley Building

Some may know Wrigley as your childhood chewing gum… and you’re not far from the truth. It was built as the headquarters for chewing-gum magnate William Wrigley Jr.’s company, with excavation beginning in January, 1920. The Wrigley Building is one of the oldest pieces of architecture in Chicago, and one of my favorites for its unique perspective, no matter where you take the picture. If you can believe it, this building, although not very tall today, was the tallest building in Chicago from 1922–1924.

To this day, the ornate details of each window, marble façade, and iconic clock tower that sits at the peak of the building all make this one of Chicago most beautiful structures. Over the years, many changes were made, mainly to aid in the ever-evolving building codes and demanding consumer needs, allowing for the wealth of retail space at the foot of the building.

Insider Tip: Some of the coolest photos I’ve taken, like this one, are from directly underneath the bridge connecting the two sections of the structure together. The Wrigley Building is also a main stopping point for all architectural tours including one of the best; Chicago Architecture Foundation Wendella Boat Tour.

Learn more here.

Willis Tower

Willis Tower, aka the Sears Tower, as us locals affectionately call it, is one of the tallest buildings in the world. A visit to the 110-story gem is not to be missed while visiting Chicago. Although not as historic as the other towers we’re talking about here, the Willis Tower dates to 1970, so it’s just shy of 50 years since construction teams first broke ground. It took a total of three years to complete and used enough concrete to make an eight-lane, file mile long highway … now that’s a lot of concrete!

One of my favorite pastimes as a child was taking the elevator up and waiting for my ears to pop — yes, that’s how high in the sky you go (Fun Fact: they have 104 elevators moving at any given time, 1,200 feet per minute)! For those who enjoy a good ’80s movie, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off showcased this iconic tower in the scenes where Ferris hits Chicago and takes his friends to the top to view the city like never before. Well, you can still do that, except now it’s taken to a whole new level, with the Ledge, where you can step out into the clouds at Skydeck Chicago.

Insider Tip & Fun Fact: You can see four states from the top of the Willis tower on a clear day — Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan.