Embrace the vertigo—the view from these skywalks, glass bridges, and see-through observation decks are worth it. Check out the slideshow for dizzying images of the Alps, the Grand Canyon, New Zealand, and more.
Sure, the views of the Grand Canyon are spectacular from pretty much any angle, but none are as thrilling as looking through the glass walkway that juts out over the Canyon’s western rim; the horseshoe-shaped path is suspended 4,000 feet (shudder) above the canyon floor. Tours include a hop-on, hop-off shuttle bus ticket that takes you to the Skywalk as well as viewpoints back on terra firma.
At the CN Tower, only two-and-a-half inches of glass separate you from the city of Toronto 1,122 feet below. (Don’t worry—they say the glass is strong enough to withstand the weight of 35 moose.) If looking a quarter-mile straight down isn’t enough of a thrill, take a stroll along the CN Tower’s EdgeWalk, a five-foot-wide outdoor platform—with no handrails, just a safety harness—116 stories above the ground. We’ll stick with the view from inside, thank you.
One of the newest glass-floored attractions, the Glacier Skywalk in the Canadian Rockies, doesn’t open to the public until May 1. When it does, you’ll definitely want to add it to your must-do list. The curved walkway extends 100 feet off the edge of a cliff, holding steady 918 feet above the Sunwapta Valley. From the observation platform, you can see out across the valley and up into the mountains of Jasper National Park.
The Spinnaker Tower is a destination unto itself, rising higher than the London Eye, Blackpool Tower, and Big Ben. Take in the view of Portsmouth Harbor from any of three observation decks; the first hosts the 328-foot-high Sky Walk with a see-through floor. The third-floor Sky Deck, 360 feet above sea level, is exposed to the elements, so you can feel the sea breeze as you look out over the water.
The Kinzua Sky Walk was once a railroad bridge, used to transport coal, oil, and lumber across Pennsylvania’s Kinzua Gorge. When a powerful tornado destroyed the bridge in 2003, it was rebuilt as a pedestrian walkway, with glass panels installed so visitors can look down into the gorge. You also get a nice, long stroll over the wilderness, as the Sky Walk extends for 624 feet.
Okay, you may not be stepping into the void, per se, but this outing does require an extra bit of courage. Visitors enter a glass cube the size of a phone booth that extends off the edge of Aiguille du Midi in the French Alps. The elevation: a staggering 12,605 feet. From there, you can see Mount Blanc and other alpine peaks, the mountain climbers trying to summit—and a 3,300-foot drop immediately below.
The Eureka Tower claims to be the tallest residential tower in the entire Southern Hemisphere. You can take in the view from the 360-degree observation deck or open-air terrace, but, for a little bit of extra cash, you can step into The Edge—a glass cube that sticks out nearly 10 feet from the rest of the building, more than 980 feet above the ground. Even the elevators here are thrilling: They reach the 88th floor in less than 40 seconds.
A visit to the Dachstein Sky Walk starts with a gondola ride, which delivers sprawling vistas of its own, but it’s only upon arriving at the platform that you’ll get to peer straight down, 820 feet, at the Dachstein glacier and up into the Alps. Not enough high-altitude scenery? Take a walk across the suspension bridge—the highest in Austria—for more breathtaking views.
From the main observation deck in Auckland’s Sky Tower, look down—way down—at the city through a glass floor that’s just an inch and a half thick. (Touch-screen computers with live cameras will tell you what you’re looking at.) And, since this is New Zealand, of course that’s not the only thrill the Sky Tower provides—you can also base jump off the tower.
Chicago is no stranger to glass-floor thrills—The Ledge’s glass boxes supply dizzying views from Willis Tower—but its latest attraction, opening this spring, promises to give a different perspective of the city. The John Hancock Tower’s Tilt puts visitors in glass boxes that literally tilt forward, leaning out over the city. From that vantage point—1,000 feet in the air and 94 floors up—you can see up and down Chicago’s Magnificent Mile. If you can keep your eyes open.
SOURCE: Condé Nast Traveler