I’ve explored the Windy City from plenty of angles: often on foot, sometimes by boat, but never before from the air. To say that touring Chicago by helicopter provides a different perspective would be a huge understatement.
Taking off from Midway Airport, located to the southwest of the city, I immediately developed a new appreciation for how vast Chicago actually is. Most visitors will spend the majority of their time in the downtown area, perhaps venturing north to Lincoln Park or Wrigley Field or south to Chinatown or US Cellular Field. Flying high over the city from the far south side all the way north past Wrigley makes you realize how much more there is to explore.
We soared higher and higher as we passed over colorful railyards, streets lined with traditional Chicago row houses and US Cellular Field, the home of the Chicago White Sox. Heading northeast toward Lake Michigan, we circled around Soldier Field as the pilot pointed out the Field Museum and the Adler Planetarium, as well as the Shedd Aquarium with a line stretching down the sidewalk. From there it was a straight shot north along the lakefront, soaring over the Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier and flying even with the observation deck at the John Hancock Building, the second tallest building in the city.
As we turned inland and made our way up to Wrigley Field, the long, diagonal stretches of Elston, Milwaukee, and Lincoln Avenues – some of Chicago’s main drags – seemed to sprawl forever, again accentuating how vast the city is. After pausing above Wrigley to snap shots of the famous marquee, we started the journey south again. One last spin around downtown took us past the Willis Tower (best known to most as the Sears Tower), even with the Ledge’s glass boxes and close enough to see the bright orange shirt of a visitor standing inside.
Finally, we glided west to the United Center, home of the Chicago Bulls, before returning south to Midway, navigating around an approaching Southwest airplane in the process. Thirty minutes after we first took off in the tiniest helicopter I have ever seen, we were back on solid ground and I was wishing it could have lasted longer. I got to see all of the highlights, but if I had been riding on my own or with friends, I probably would’ve asked the pilot to linger a bit longer over some major landmarks. While he seemed willing to customize the tour, two strangers were sharing the ride with me and I didn’t want to get too demanding. Overall, for those looking to splurge a bit, this tour is definitely worth it.
Photos courtesy of Katie Aune.
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– Katie Aune