CN Tower – SEE IT

CN Tower Nacelle Looking West

CN Tower Nacelle Looking West

CN Tower Facts

Built by the Canadian National Railway and opened in 1976, the 1815′ 5″ CN Tower ruled the sky as world’s tallest tower from opening day until 2010, when the Burj Kalifa eclipsed it. Like it’s baby predecessor, the Skylon Tower, the CN was built using the slipform method. It consists of a base, a main pod, a nacelle, and a huge antenna covered in a radome.

Building floor levels at this tower are calculated based on a 9.96′ floor-to-ceiling height. Remember, CN is a free-standing observatory and communications tower, not an office building like the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower or One WTC.

The tower was sold to the current owner, Canada Lands Company in 1995, accompanied by a slight renaming to Canada’s National Tower, which allowed it to keep the CN moniker.

Both the tower and its builder have long and storied histories. CN’s history dates back to 1832. Today Canadian National Railway is a major transportation conglomerate covering Canada and also cutting a swath along the Mississippi River down to New Orleans. Its stock is traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

Construction began in 1973 and was completed in 1975. Even though skyscrapers in Asia and the Gulf States have eclipsed it, the Skypod or Nacelle remains the tallest observatory in the entire Western Hemisphere today. In the Western Hemisphere CN Tower still rules the sky.

Toronto, Street Views

CN Tower Street Level, Base, Elevators

The tower is a pleasant throwback to the 1970s, because it is a product of that era. It’s old school. No movies, no Twitter feeds on flat screens. My one regret – not eating in the 1970s era cafeteria down in the basement. This is what the NYC museums and other attractions had when I grew up. We waited about 45 minutes from ticket purchase till the time we arrived at the elevator bank. If you can afford a Premier Access ticket, it’s a worthwhile investment.

One of the most unique features of CN Tower is EdgeWalk, where you don a safety harness and walk around the circumference of the roof of the main pod while attached to a cable system. No super-tall in the United States offers this. Current costs are $195 CAD + tax per person and it includes the observatories as well. Elsy and I did not do the EdgeWalk, but we saw six people finishing one from the street at dusk.

CN Tower Lookout Level – 1136′ / 346m – 114th Fl.

The first thing that struck me when I got to the Lookout Level is the similarity in some aspects to Chicago. CN Tower is located across the street from Union Station, just as Willis Tower in Chicago is. Both Union Stations are the largest in our respective countries. Toronto’s Union Station serves both GO Rail and VIA Rail. The Blue Jays play next door in Rogers Centre, which has a retractable roof. Both cities front one of the Great Lakes. The effect of the sun shining spots on the earth through the clouds hearkened back to Chicago, Alaska, and other places I have been.

Toronto is the largest city in Canada, and is the capital of Ontario. The CN Tower gives a full and true 360-degree view. Speaking of 360, if you eat at the restaurant called 360, you get free admission to the main pod observatories (Lookout Level, Glass Floor, Outdoor Sky Terrace); you still have to pay for the Skypod. This is a similar arrangement to the Skylon Tower and has been the subject of many complaints about One WTC. Elsy and I did not eat at 360, so we cannot speak about the food or service one way or the other.

CN Tower SkyPod (Nacelle) – 1,465′ / 447m – 147th Fl.


The Nacelle or Skypod has a plumb bob which shows how much the tower sways in the wind. Up here, you can feel the swaying at times. Elsy started to feel a little woozy after about 15 minutes. This is the tallest observatory in the Western Hemisphere. The Nacelle is a somewhat confined space compared to the much larger main pod some 300 feet below. There is about enough room to walk single file. The elevator going up here holds 12 people.

Up here, you are standing far above the final approaches to Toronto City Island Airport as planes land below you. Toronto City Airport is one of the few remaining city center airports. Recall that Chicago’s Mayor Daley infamously destroyed the iconic Meigs Field one night in the name of “security.”

Back to the Skypod, it’s well worth the add-on fee to come up here; it is arguably the entire point of coming here.

CN Tower Glass Floor – 1122′ / 342m – 113th Fl.

CN Tower’s glass floor is the first ever put in an observatory. The glass floor was installed in 1995. The Sears or Willis Tower Ledge came 14 years later in 2009. One WTC’s Sky Portal uses live video feeds to flat screens under the glass floor to give the illusion of looking straight down the side of the building.

CN Tower Outdoor Sky Terrace – 1122′ / 342m – 113th Fl.

The Outdoor Sky Terrace is a nice touch and one that is sadly disappearing from modern observatories. The very fine mesh detracts from the view and doesn’t lend itself well to photography. It’s obviously there for safety reasons, but I got a little spoiled by the coarser mesh at Skylon that let me brace my lens.

CN Rail Museum

After we descended, I visited the CN Rail Museum briefly while Elsy rested. From there, we made a pharmacy stop, ate at a gyro joint, then headed back to Niagara Falls. We would have one more day there.


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