Where to see a Perfect Chicago Sunset
Deep dish pizza? Yesss. Great jazz and blues? Ab-so-lutely. Some of the most storied sports franchises in the nation? Yuh-huh. But sunsets in Chicago?
Okay, yes, the sun sets over Chicago – every day, in fact. But unless you are directionally challenged, you probably realized that Chicago, with all its incredible sights, history, cuisine, and majestic skyline, faces east across Lake Michigan. And meteorologists predict that the sun will continue to set in the west, for the next few billion years anyway.
But have no fear, there are still some great spots around the city where you can enjoy a sunset served up Chi-Town style.
Soaring 1,000 feet above the streets of Chicago on the 94th floor of the iconic John Hancock Building is the 360 Chicago observation deck. It’s not hard to figure out what the 360 is for – fully enclosed by glass, every vantage point offers a breathtaking view of the city, lake, and beyond. The panorama is stunning at any time of day, but the sunset from up there is truly magnificent. Interactive activities, as well as a bar and café, will keep you occupied while you wait for the Midwestern sky to be set ablaze with color. The John Hancock Building is at 875 N. Michigan Avenue.
What better place to watch the sunset than from the top of the city’s tallest building? Willis Tower – known for decades as the Sears Tower, and once the world’s tallest building – is the undisputed king of Chicago’s skyline. Boasting an observation deck even higher than 360 Chicago, it offers views of four states: Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan. The view from the 103rd floor is the best in the city. While the daylight hours see lots of people coming up for a peek, it’s a little quieter at dusk, and the always-gorgeous vista is bathed in the soft, romantic tones of the Chicago sunset. Willis Tower is at 233 S. Wacker Drive, but all you have to do is head toward the tall building. It’s hard to miss.
Jutting more than half a mile into the blue waters of Lake Michigan, Navy Pier contains parks, gardens, shops, restaurants, vendors, attractions, and exhibitions. It’s no surprise that this landmark is Chicago’s top tourist attraction. If you have the energy – and comfortable shoes – you can walk the 3,300 feet from the entrance at 600 E. Grand Avenue to the end for a fantastic view of Chicago’s famous skyline. And since you’ll be looking west…well, there is the sunset, big as life. To ratchet up the experience, hop on the Centennial Wheel and be whisked up to 200 feet in the air. The views of the city and lake are arresting, to say the least.
Chicago Lakefront Trail
Back on the ground, the Chicago Lakefront Trail runs along the western shore of Lake Michigan for an impressive 18 miles. Cycling, rollerblading, walking, and enjoying the lake breezes are favorite activities among Chicagoans. Many hit the trail to admire the flower gardens, boat harbors, and interesting work in the art galleries. The fact that it’s east of the city means you’ll be looking at the sun go down behind that elegant skyline. Can you say dramatic? There are actually many places along the trail where you can look west and get that perfect shot. Instagram, get ready.
From the Lake Itself
What if you could back up, away from the city, and take in the silhouette of the entire Chicago skyline with a kaleidoscope of brilliant reds and oranges behind it? You can, and it’s as easy as taking a sunset cruise with one of the local tour operators. Enjoy 90 minutes on tranquil Lake Michigan and take advantage of the full-service bar on board. The boats feature a climate-controlled indoor lounge if the evening air feels a bit nippy. Visit your concierge to determine which cruise best suits you.
Chicago Botanic Garden
Nothing could be more relaxing than enjoying the sunset in a peaceful garden full of flowers, trees, and fountains. Escape the bustle of the city and head to Chicago Botanic Garden at 1000 Lake Cook Drive in Glencoe. Established more than 40 years ago, its 385 acres embrace 27 gardens, four natural areas, nine islands, and six miles of shoreline. A few spots – including Evening Island and the Japanese Garden – provide striking views of the setting sun. The garden’s flora, silhouetted against the color-infused sky, produce views and impressions you won’t soon forget. The fountain and pond near the entrance are truly spectacular in those ethereal moments surrounding sunset.