Most Original City Views

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For decades, the best city views were usually from a stuffy revolving restaurant atop a sky scraping hotel or office building. But now you don't have to drink in overpriced cocktails along with panoramic vistas (unless you want to). Check out our list of America's Ten Most Spectacular City Views, culled from dozens of beautiful bird's-eye perches. For each town, we included one iconic classic and a lesser-known locals' favorite for fun (often minus the long lines and waits). Which ones have that ultimate "wow factor?" Read on to find out!
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Most Original City Views

For decades, the best city views were usually from a stuffy revolving restaurant atop a sky scraping hotel or office building. But now you don't have to drink in overpriced cocktails along with panoramic vistas (unless you want to). Check out our list of America's Ten Most Spectacular City Views, culled from dozens of beautiful bird's-eye perches. For each town, we included one iconic classic and a lesser-known locals' favorite for fun (often minus the long lines and waits). Which ones have that ultimate "wow factor?" Read on to find out!

Most Original City Views

The Classic: Skywalk Observatory at the Prudential Tower. The "Pru" vaults 52 stories and 749 feet above Greater Boston. The 50th-floor Skywalk's state-of-the-art Antenna Audio Tour details such noteworthy sites as the gold-domed State House, the Boston Common, and baseball's legendary Fenway Park. On clear days you can scan the scalloped coast down to Cape Cod. Even locals stop by, usually networking at the 52nd-floor Top of the Hub or visiting the trendy Shops at Prudential Center.

Local Choice: HarborWalk to Independence Wharf. HarborWalk is an ambitious ongoing project linking Boston's diverse waterfront neighborhoods as well as inland trail networks. The Fort Point Channel section offers free, fascinating views of the working maritime port, culminating in the 14th-floor observation deck at Independence Wharf.

Most Original City Views

The Classic: The Skydeck at Willis (formerly Sears) Tower. The world's fifth tallest building (1,451 feet; 1,730 including antenna) boasts killer views of Chicago's "Gold Coast" skyline along Lake Michigan and the Chicago River. From the top you can see up to 50 miles and four states. Step out, if you dare, onto the "The Ledge"-a brilliantly designed and reinforced glass bay that juts out 4.3 feet from the building.

Local Choice: Adler Planetarium. The Western Hemisphere's first planetarium, a stellar 1930 example of Deco style, occupies a peninsula jabbing dramatically into Lake Michigan. Come for uninterrupted skyline views, theater shows, and exhibits like their collection of antique astronomic instruments.

Most Original City Views

The Classic: The Denver Museum of Nature and Science. The view is free from adjacent City Park, but this world-class museum brims with interactive edu-tainment and exhibits from Saturn's moon Titan to totem poles. The outdoor Anschutz Family Sky Terrace offers the fab photo op of the downtown skyline silhouetted against the snowcapped Rockies, while the glass-enclosed Leprino Family Atrium-straddling three floors linked by architectural rings symbolizing the natural world's circles, orbits, and cycles-oozes cushy sophistication. You can see 120 miles of mountains, including more than 200 named peaks: 32 soar above 13,000 feet, topped by "fourteener" Mt. Evans.

Local Choice: Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre. The Mile High City's other moniker is Queen City of the Plains, and Denverites prefer viewing the city against the vast prairie expanse, framed by spectacular sandstone formations rivaling Sedona or Utah's national parks, at this city-owned haven 15 miles west in Morrison.

Most Original City Views

The Classic: Top of the Stratosphere. The Strat rises 1,149 feet: the tallest structure west of the Mississippi. Unlike hipper-than-thou rooftop bars like Mix (THE Hotel at Mandalay Bay) and GhostBar (The Palms), there's no steel-hand-on-velvet-rope door policy and the panoramas encompass not only the Strip's surreal Top-40 International Architectural Hits but downtown (Glitter Gulch). There's the obligatory observation deck and fancy restaurant, but three thrill rides elevate the cool factor, including X-Scream (a giant teeter-totter) and Big Shot (thrusting passengers straight up 160 feet at 45MPH-over 4 Gs). Though not that terrifying, locals quip you should have your chiropractor on speed dial.

Local Choice: Mount Charleston. You can drive, bike, or hike to the top of this 11,918-foot peak, where outfits offer horseback riding year-round and skiing in winter. It's just 40 minutes yet a world away from the Strip's hustle-bustle. As a bonus, it's often 20-30 degrees cooler when it's 110 in the shade elsewhere. The primo scenic hike: Griffith Peak, overseeing Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas, and Lake Mead.

Most Original City Views

The Classic: Griffith Observatory. Even the other kinds of stars come out to play at this handsomely designed working planetarium/astronomic facility nestling like a celebrity-owned mansion amid lush landscaping in Griffith Park. Free public telescopes are available for stargazing most evenings, but even by day the city views out to the Pacific and around the coastal mountains redefine stellar, thanks to its lofty 1,134-foot perch on the southern slope of Mount Hollywood.

Local Choice: The Grove Parking Structure. Only in Los Angeles, the city of cars, would a parking garage provide prime views. The Grove is an upscale outdoor shopping complex (not as dorky as it sounds). Visitors galore gawk at the expanse seen from the parking structure, but few check out the top level where you find unobstructed 360-degree views of LaLaLand.

Most Original City Views

The Classic: Café du Monde. Though a local joke runs that the best Big Easy view is from any barstool, we prefer this institution revered for its downy beignets. It sits smack dab in the middle of the French Quarter by the mighty Mississippi. You can drink in river views with the strong chicory-laced coffee at the patio, which percolates with character and characters 24/7.

Local Choice: St. Charles Streetcar. There's no streetcar named Desire anymore, but like San Francisco's fabled cable cars, this 165-year-old mainstay has been designated a Moving National Historic Landmark. Though commuting locals pack the olive-green wooden cars, if you nab a window seat, $1.25 buys a glimpse into the genteel past as the 13-mile route wends through the stately mansions of the Garden District, its oak and magnolia trees dripping with Mardi Gras beads year-round.

Most Original City Views

The Classic: Top of the Rock. The Top of the Rock Observation Deck crowns Rockefeller Center's GE Building, straddling the 67th-70th floors. Unlike the even more iconic (and crowded) Empire State Building, glass panels rather than wire mesh guarantee unobstructed views of the city from Harlem to Wall Street, as well as the Hudson and East Rivers and other landmarks like the Statue of Liberty. You can combine the deck with a tour of the 1933 Art Deco masterpiece for a discount.

Local Choice: Central Park. While some tout the Staten Island or Hoboken ferries, locals know you can admire the historic buildings lining Central Park West and Fifth Avenue from various vantage points like the Great Lawn (scene of free concerts in warm weather), jogging trail on the Reservoir's west side, top of The Rambles, rocks above Wollman Rink, or The Conservatory.

Most Original City Views

The Classic: The Duquesne Incline & Observation Platform. Built in the 1870s, one of America's few remaining funicular railways ascends to the stylish Mount Washington neighborhood in red cable car chugging like the little engine that could. From the summit observation deck, sightseers discover why Steel City is considered a shining example of urban renewal. The Allegheny and Monongahela rivers converge to form the Ohio, the watery troika ringing downtown's glittering Golden Triangle with landmark skyscrapers and 15 modernistic bridges, all lit up like Christmas trees at night.

Local Choice: PNC Park. The home of baseball's Pittsburgh Pirates hits a grand slam for views from nearly every seat of the skyline, as well as the Roberte Clemente Memorial and Seventh Street Bridges spanning the Allegheny.

Most Original City Views

The Classic: Coit Tower. Though imbibing at Top of the Mark is another tourist itinerary mainstay, it's impossible to ignore this 1933 Art Deco beauty crowning Telegraph Hill. Avoid the only road up (often clogged with parking near-impossible). Instead climb the steep Filbert Steps: landscaped stairways and footpaths emanating from various directions. Zoning regulations ensure unimpeded 360-degree panoramas from the tower base, but take the elevator in the conical Coit for the really eye-popping look: Alcatraz, the Golden Gate, the Bay Bridge, Transamerica Building, Fisherman's Wharf, Nob and Russian Hills, Lombard Street (itself in/famous for its zigzag of tight hairpin turns). The interior is just as magnificent, with dozens of 1930s WPA murals by local artists depicting various neighborhoods and daily scenes.

Local Choice: Golden Gate Bridge at the Lincoln Blvd./Long Ave intersection. Almost every turn in San Francisco reveals a stunning new vista, but this ultimate photo op from Fort Point in the Presidio provides the best angle on the bridge as well as a picture-postcard glance up at the city from the pier.

Most Original City Views

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