Man-Made High Points

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Ross D. Franklin, AP

What compels humankind to keep building upwards? Competitive spirit? Capitalist drive? Whatever it is, from a tourism perspective at least, heart-stopping views are a big draw. It seems lofty lookouts, lounges and other precarious perches can provide the high point of a vacation. And the dizzying distances between the ground and the top of the world's vertigo-inducing structures -- from a skyscraping observatory at the top of the world's highest tower in Dubai to a 55th-floor infinity pool in Singapore -- just keep increasing. Where it will stop, no one knows. From observation decks to sky-high parks -- here are ten top places built for a bird's eye view.

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Grand Canyon Skywalk, Eagle Point, Arizona

The result of a collaboration between the Hualapai Nation and a Las Vegas developer, the Grand Canyon Skywalk is the ultimate test for those with any fear of heights. The glass-bottomed, U-shaped, cantilever structure spans 70 feet and juts out over the brim of the Grand Canyon -- with the thundering Colorado River just a faint rumble 4,000 feet below. Completed in March 2007, the see-through Skywalk takes a visit to the already imposing Grand Canyon to a whole new level.


Karim Sahib, AFP / Getty Images

At The Top, Burj Khalifa, Dubai

After something of a downturn, courtesy of the recession, things began to look up in Dubai with January 2010's opening of the viewing platform in the world's tallest building, the 2,716.5-foot Burj Khalifa. At The Top, the outdoor viewing platform half a mile above ground on the 124th floor, offers incredible views of the Persian Gulf. Although a February 2010 incident that trapped 15 people in an elevator and 60 people on the observation deck closed the platform to the public, it reopened in April.



Roslan Rahman, AFP / Getty

SkyPark, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

June 2010 saw the opening of the boat-shaped SkyPark -- nearly 660 feet above Singapore. The park, which is the size of three soccer stadiums, includes a 500-foot-long infinity pool, several restaurants and bars (the first opens this fall), 250 varieties of trees and 650 other types of plants. Views look out over the city and to the South China Sea. This watery wonderland is perched atop the 2,560-room Marina Bay Sands resort. The pool is for hotel guests only, but day passes are available for access to the observation deck.


STR, AFP / Getty Images

The Observatory, Shanghai World Financial Centre, China

Eleven years in the making, Shanghai World Financial Centre -- China's highest building -- was finally completed in August 2008. The highest of the tower's three observation decks is 100 floors up, 180 feet long and sits at 1,555 feet -- making the deck 72 feet higher than the Burj Khalifa's At The Top. High-speed elevators shoot up the 100 floors in just one minute and high-tech "dampers" built into the building reduce its sway during high winds or earthquakes.


Hoang Dinh Nam, AFP / Getty Images

Ba Na Cable Car, Ba Na Mountain, Vietnam

Those visiting Central Vietnam can take vacationing to new heights on board the world's longest and highest single cable car ride. Linking the foot of Ba Na Mountain with the peak of Vong Nguyet Mountain in the Truong Song Range, the Ba Na Cable Car service began operations in 2009 and stretches a hair-raising 16,541 feet from its start point, which is 4,239 feet above sea level. Stunning Ba Na found fame in the 1920s when it was a favorite of wealthy Vietnamese and the French. By the 1940s, the town had hundreds of villas, hotels and even an opera house, but war brought the town's growth to a halt. Now, thanks to its incredible new cable car system that soars over lush jungle and waterfalls, it's been rediscovered.


China Photos, Getty Images

Qinghai to Tibet Railroad, China

You'll feel on top of the world (and maybe a little light-headed) as you travel along the Qinghai to Tibet railway -- the world's highest and longest plateau railroad. The first rail link to connect Tibet with other parts of China, the railroad carried its first passengers the 1,225 miles from Xining to Tibetan capital Lhasa in 2006. The highest points of the line, which zigzags through the Kunlun and Tanggula mountain ranges, are 16,640 feet above sea level and the train makes a stop at Tanggula Railway Station -- 16,627 feet above sea level, the highest railway station in the world. Oxygen masks are standard issue for all passengers.


Sky Bar Times Square Inc.

The Sky Room, New York

When you're craving a night out with altitude, head for the Sky Room -- an elevated Fashion District establishment and the highest rooftop lounge in New York. The drinks, the desserts and the 360-degree views are equally heavenly -- gaze out over Manhattan and the Hudson River as you quaff a Mile-High gimlet (Prosecco and Chambord). Basking above it all on the 33rd and 34th floors of the Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Times Square, the two-level lounge offers a slew of distinct spaces, including the North Terrace with its retractable roof and the South Terrace with private cabanas.


gravitywave, flickr

Bloukrans Bridge, Eastern Cape, South Africa

Africa's tallest bridge is the site of one of the world's highest commercially operating bungee jumps, run by Face Adrenalin.The bridge is 709 feet above the churning Bloukrans River, which marks the border between the Eastern and Western Capes. The terrifying drop is a seemingly interminable seven to eight seconds. Even getting to the stepping off point takes nerve-jumpers have to trace their way out along a see-through grid before they prepare to plummet. The less adventurous can sit on the observation deck and watch.


Torsten Blackwood, AFP / Getty Images

Eureka Tower, Melbourne, Australia

Eureka has loomed above Melbourne's Southbank district since 2007. The Skydeck, the Southern Hemisphere's highest public vantage point, is on the 88th floor of the 975-foot-high tower, while the 89th floor is home to a dinner venue called Eureka 89 that offers a six-course tasting menu with wine pairings four nights a week. Visit the Skydeck, and you can also experience the thrilling Edge -- a glass cube that slides out from the side of the building.



Man-Made High Points

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Avala Tower, Belgrade, Serbia

The 671-foot-high Avala Tower has the dubious honor of being a replacement for the tallest tower ever destroyed, other than the World Trade Center towers. The current building, which opened in 2009, was built to replace the original 1965 TV tower which was bombed by NATO in 1999. This Belgrade landmark sits just outside the city on Avala Mountain -- site of the country's first public park. Visitors can peer out of the tower's Observation Deck six days a week (it's closed on Mondays) -- but only for a strictly enforced maximum stay of 15 minutes. Serbia's Prince Miloš planted the surrounding park with every variety of Serbian tree in the early 19th century, which makes for verdant viewing from above.

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