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One of the exciting things about visiting a new city is exploring its unique attractions and special places. When travelling we often step out of our comfort zone and do things we wouldn't otherwise do. I remember being in New York a few years ago and looking for Empire State Building. I didn't have a map and figured it wouldn't be too hard to find. I stopped at a hot dog stand to ask for directions and unfortunately the vendor didn't know. So I approached a young couple with a map, who happily helped me. The building was just around the corner! I was gobsmacked - how is it possible that a man who works a few steps away from one of the worlds biggest icons doesn't know he is working almost next to it.
But it got me thinking - how many of us know the cities we live in beyond our local hang outs. If you live in Sydney, for example, when was the last time you visited Sydney Tower to see the incredible views it offers or when have you walked across Harbour Bridge?
I find the best way to learn about a city is to find the highest point and get a perspective of where everything is located. Here are some of my favourite lookout towers.
Sydney Tower – Sydney Corner Pitt Street & Market Street, Sydney
Located in the heart of CBD, Sydney Tower has been a feature of the Sydney skyline for over 30 years. Measuring 309 metres, it is one of the tallest buildings in the southern hemisphere and offers 360 degree views of Sydney. The tower contains two levels of restaurants, a coffee lounge, an observation deck, two telecommunication transmission levels and three plant levels. Ranked as one of the safest buildings in the world, the design has made the tower capable of withstanding earthquakes and extreme wind conditions.
Enjoy an incredible view from the observation deck – Blue Mountains to the west, Sydney shoreline to the north, Sydney airport and Botany Bay to the south and beachside playgrounds and Pacific ocean to the east.
If you are feeling adventurous, book in for a Skywalk and walk on air 268 metres above Sydney with the city streets directly beneath your feet. The Skywalk is Sydney's highest open air attraction.
The Sydney Tower Observation Deck is open 7 days a week from 9am to 10.30pm. Cost is only $12.50 for adults and $7.50 for children if you book online.
Black Mountain Tower – Canberra Clunies Ross Street, Canberra
Rising 195 metres above the summit of Black Mountain, the Tower presents 360 degree views of Canberra and the surrounding rural area. The tower features two open viewing platforms and also an enclosed viewing gallery, a theatrette, Panorama Café and Gift Shop as well as Alto Tower Restaurant – Canberra's only revolving restaurant.
Besides incredible views, the Tower also has a functional role. It provides communications facilities for the National Capital including radio telephony facilities, television transmitters, FM radio transmitters, mobile radio telephone and cellular phone base stations.
Day or night, you can identify significant buildings such as Parliament House, The War Memorial, The Royal Australian Mint, The National Library and others.
Black Mountain Tower viewing gallery and the Panorama Cafe and Gift Shop are open from 9.00 am until 10.00 pm, every day of the year.
SkyPoint is Australia's only beachside Observation Deck and offers breathtaking 360 degree views of the Gold Coast region. Located on level 77 & 78 of Q1 Building, the observation deck is 230 metres above sea level, although the building stands at 322metres high, making it the 25th tallest building in the world.
SkyPoint Cafe offers an extensive menu from coffee and cakes to delicious meals and Friday & Saturday night the café provides a range of platters and cocktails.
For an amazing experience, book in for SkyPoint Climb, which takes you 270 meters above sea level. You must have a moderate fitness and strength level and be able to comfortably walk approximately 280 stairs.
Opening hours are Sunday to Thursday 9am to 9pm and Friday and Saturday 9am to midnight. Cost is $21 for an adult and $12.50 for a child. Skypoint Climb is $89 for adults and $69 for children over 12 years of age.
Sky Tower – Auckland
Corner Victoria & Federal Street, Auckland
At 328 metres, Sky Tower is the tallest man-made structure in New Zealand and offers breathtaking views for up to 80 kilometres in every direction. The Tower has three spectacular viewing platforms as well as several restaurants including Sky Lounge, The Observatory Restaurant and Orbit.
Sky Tower offers two thrilling experiences – Sky Jump - leap off the tower and fall 192 metres to the ground while attached to a wire. You'll fall very fast for around 11 seconds and then come to a smooth landing in the Sky City Plaza below. If Sky Jump is too scary, then try the Sky Walk – Walk around the 1.2 metre wide platform at dizzying 192 metres.
Opening hours are Sunday - Thursday 8.30am - 10.30pm and Friday & Saturday 8.30am - 11.30pm
According to Guinness World Records, the CN tower is the world's tallest tower, standing at 553 metres above the sea. It has a number of observation levels, including Sky Pod located at 447 metres, LookOut Level which stands at 346m and Glass floor and Outdoor SkyTerrace at 342 metres. No matter which level you choose, you are guaranteed breathtaking views of Toronto and Lake Ontario.
EdgeWalk is the CN Tower's most thrilling attraction, and the first of its kind in North America. It is the world's highest full circle hands-free walk on a 1.5 m wide ledge encircling the top of the Tower's main pod, 356m (116 storeys) above the ground. Visitors walk in groups of six, while attached to an overhead safety rail via a trolley and harness system.
CN Tower features 3 eateries - 360 The Restaurant with a revolving view of Toronto more than 351 metres above sea level. Horizons Restaurant is located on The Lookout Level and Le Café can be found on the ground floor.
The Tower provides transmission for UHF, VHF Television, FM Radio, microwave transmissions and fixed mobile systems. It is also a leading event venue and hosts over 500 events annually.
The tower is open from 9am to 10pm Sunday to Thursday and 9am to 10.30pm on Friday & Saturday.
If you haven't explored the city you live in lately, why not plan a weekend of playing a tourist. Do a web search for "things to do in (your city)" and you will be amazed what fun adventures you will discover.