Let’s face it; we love the feeling of being on top of the world, and North America just happens to be home to a slew of awesome observation decks. If you are looking to do something a little daring and more than ordinary on your next vacation, why not climb to the top and enjoy the view. From glass boxes 110 stories up, to glass floors looking across entire states, the choices are endless. From New York to Las Vegas to Toronto, explore the 12 best observation decks in North America.
13. Willis Tower (The Ledge) -Chicago, Illinois
Go up 110 stories above downtown Chicago to experience one of the most thrilling observation decks in the world. Four glass boxes make up ‘The Ledge’ located in the Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower. Over a million people visit these boxes annually, which protrude 4.3 feet out into the air. The Ledge has been home to many proposals and people can even get married in them. On a clear sunny day it is possible to see four different states over 50 miles. Not for the faint hearted, these glass boxes truly make it feel as you are standing in thin air. What better way to see the striking city of Chicago than from high above.
12. CN Tower -Toronto, Ontario
The CN Tower in Toronto offers not one but two observation decks. The first is the famous glass floor which looks down some 1,122 feet into the city below. The floor has been designed so visitors can jump on it, lay down on it and even run on it. Don’t worry, they promise it won’t break. Also on this floor is the outdoor sky terrace where you can take in views of the city. The SkyPod is up to 1465 feet and although you are indoors, this all glass observation deck gives panoramic 360 degree views of the surrounding area. On a clear day visitors can see up to 100 miles, all the way to Rochester, NY. For those true daredevils, the CN Tower offers an Edge Walk which puts visitors 1168 feet above ground, straps them into a harness and lets them walk around the Tower’s main pod.
11. Theme Building Observation Deck -Los Angeles International Airport
Although this is definitely not the highest observation deck on this list, it is incredibly cool. Based at the Los Angeles airport this 1961 tribute to the flying saucer underwent a $12.3 million renovation. New security apparatuses and structural upgrades were done to improve it. The design was originally designed by Disney and invites both flyers and non flyers to come use the free telescopes to watch the planes take off and land. The outdoor observation deck offers 360- degree views. This tower also offers a space theme restaurant where visitors will feel as though they have entered the world of ‘The Jetsons”. For anyone who loves planes, this is definitely the observation tower for them.
10. Top of the Rock -New York City
This is the first of three observation decks in New York City that have made it onto this list, perhaps because the city itself is unbelievably striking when looked at from above. The Top of the Rock is located in midtown Manhattan at the historic Rockefeller Center. Visitors at the top will have one of the best views of Central Park without it being too windy or too cold, a complaint other observation decks have around this city. The view as the sun is setting is one of the most popular times to go so be sure to buy your tickets ahead of time and show up early to avoid long waits. There are a total of three levels once you reach the top and make sure to explore all of them as they offer different views.
9. Calgary Tower -Calgary, Alberta
Calgary’s claim to fame isn’t just the famous annual Calgary Stampede. It also is home to the Calgary Tower which at 1228 meters above sea level is the highest 360° observation deck in the world. Getting to the top of this tower is half the fun with the multimedia tours that are now included with the price of admission. Guides will take you through the history of the city and some of its iconic landmarks as you ride the elevator to the observation deck. The deck itself is outfitted in a glass floor and provides panoramic views of the city. Visitors are now treated to touch screens which highlight some of the landmarks that you can see from the tower and provide facts and information about them. You won’t find a better view of the city than from this observation deck.
8. Stratosphere Tower -Las Vegas, Nevada
The Stratosphere Tower in Las Vegas opened in 1996 and captured the attention of locals, tourists and even celebrities. The tower itself is 1,149 feet tall with an outdoor observation deck that sits at an astonishing 869 feet high. The views are incredible and the deck offers a 360-degree of the entire city. During the day the views are of the city and surrounding mountains but it is at night when this tower really comes alive. Dusk brings a multitude of colors as the setting sun turns the sky into shades of orange and pink and the strip comes alive below you. There are plenty of things to do at the top of this tower including thrilling rides that dangle you over the side, places to eat, a gift shop and even a cozy bar to have a drink at.
7. Clingmans Dome Observation Tower -Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
This 54-foot observation tower isn’t the easiest one to get too but the views from the top can be absolutely breathtaking. The tower is located on the summit of Clingmans Dome, the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and offers spectacular 360° views of the Smokies and beyond. Visitors will have to be willing to climb the steep half-mile walk to the tower at the top though. The road is paved making things a little easier but it is important to note that the hill is too steep for wheelchairs. It seems the earlier the better to catch an amazing sunset and avoid the crowds of people. Morning is also when the clouds are often low and you can see far out above them. Nature at its finest, this observation deck is a must do.
6. Space Needle -Seattle, Washington
It takes only 41 seconds to whiz up the elevator to this observation deck located in the Space Needle in the wonderful city of Seattle. The deck sits up 520 feet and offers amazing panoramic 360-degree views of the city. Visitors will be privy to views of the Mountains including Mt. Rainer, the bustling waterfront and the city streets below. The camera at the top allows each visitor to take the perfect sky high selfie, for free. Just use your ticket, stand back and smile; the picture will be emailed to you later that day. There is an abundance of technology inside the observation deck as well, giving people information on how many visitors have been through, where they came from and more. This interactive experience coupled with spectacular views makes this observation deck once of the best in North America.
5. The Infinity Room at House on the Rock -Spring Green, Wisconsin
The House on the Rock could just be home to the world’s most bizarre and vast collection of stuff. But the real treat here is the Infinity Room, or as some call it the weirdest but coolest observation deck in North America. What is it exactly? The Infinity Room is an enclosed, pointed platform with 3,200 windows. These windows provide a gorgeous view of the surrounding forest. But what makes this room unique is the fact that it starts at a reasonable 30 feet wide, but tapers to just one inch at the end. The optical illusion when you are standing at the entrance is truly intimidating. Just be prepared to walk through some pretty strange and unusual rooms that feature everything from the world’s largest cannon to carnival games to mannequins to reach this observation deck.
4. Glacier Skywalk -Banff, Alberta
Located on the icefields parkway, this skywalk/observation deck is home to some of the best views in Canada. The metal walkway with its glass viewing platform is on the border of both Banff and Jasper National Park, giving stunning views of the surrounding mountains. Suspended 720 feet above ground, visitors will gain an understanding of the glaciology, wildlife, flora and fauna that is below. An interactive storytelling experience paves the way for a new kind of skywalk that combines thrills, exceptional views and education. See the beauty of the West Coast from a different perspective and be one of the first visitors to this stunning deck. Operating from May until October this new attraction has garnered the attention of thousands of visitors already.
3. Empire State Building -New York City
It may just be the most famous observatory deck in the whole world, with dozens of films being done here and millions of memories being made. Sure it can be cold and windy, but not much can beat the view from the 86th floor of the Empire State Building. The deck wraps around the entire building and offers views of Central Park, The Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty and many more iconic landmarks. High powered binoculars and multi-media handheld devices are there to enhance your experience. If you want to go higher, visitors can take the manually operated Otis elevator to the 102 floors where buildings can be seen up to 80 miles away. The entire city comes into view while looking out the windows on this floor. Whichever deck you choose to visit; the view of the city will be something captured in your memory forever.
2. Grand Canyon Skywalk -Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Grand Canyon National Park has always been a popular tourist spot with its striking and dramatic landscape, interesting history and picturesque photo opportunities. The Skywalk was established in 2007 to allow visitors to walk out above the canyon floor and give them the experience of a lifetime. The horseshoe shaped platform extends 21m out and is 4,000 feet above the canyon floor. It gives views into the gap of the canyon itself along with the Colorado River. The experience is meant to make you understand how grand and vast this canyon actually is, and it surely does not disappoint with its all glass floors and epic photo opportunity. It is important to note that it will cost visitors a hefty admission fee to walk the Skywalk and there are no cameras or phones allowed on, so pictures will also cost you a pretty penny.
1. One World Trade Center -New York City
The newest observation deck in North America also happens to be the tallest on this list at 1,776 feet. Visitors now have the chance to head up to the 100th floor of the One World Trade Center via SkyPod, a particularly fast elevator that whips you up in less than 60 seconds. Floor-to-ceiling LED technology in each elevator will offer a time-lapse of the development of New York’s skyline from the 1500s to today. Other experiences that await visitors here is a program that tells the personal stories of those who helped build the World Trade Center, a short presentation about life in NY and breathtaking 360-degree views of the city. Interactive technology is located throughout the deck and it truly promises to be one-of-a-kind.