Chicago, IL

What is Chicagohenge and Why Do You Want to See It?

Natalie Frank, Ph.D.

Chicagohenge during spring equinox is an intriguing experience that shouldn't be missed
Catch Chicagohenge when the sun aligns almost perfectly with Chicago's east-west grid through March 23rdPhoto byWikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 4.0]

Chicagohenge is a stunning, natural phenomenon that can be seen in the city of Chicago during the spring on the vernal equinox when the sun rises due east and sets due west. This is one of two times of the year when day and night are roughly equal in hours. This unique event takes place on the same days each year and features a spectacular view of the city as the sun rises and sets, because it occurs when the sun is most closely aligned with the city's grid.

According to a statement from the Adler Planetarium, describes Chicagohenge as, "The time of year when nature and architecture harmoniously come together."

You can catch sight of this Chicago wonder during both equinoxes but given that spring heralds the coming of summer and warm weather, people often find the spring Chicagohenge more uplifting. In spring, it occurs on the vernal equinox around March 20th or 21st but you can experience it for several days before and after this date.

Make sure not to miss it to enjoy the breathtaking views of the Chicago skyline from the streets of the city awash in bright sunlight with the sun hanging precisely between the rows of buildings. While locations in downtown Chicago provide the greatest contrast between the sun and the buildings, the great thing about this free sight is that you can catch it anywhere on Chicago's east-west grid at sunrise and sunset. This means you never have to worry about crowds like you do with so many other sights and experiences in the Second City. With the right timing and just a little planning, anyone can join in on the festivities and witness this breathtaking sight.

"Finding a place to spot Chicagohenge is a no-brainer! Simply find one of Chicago’s east-west facing streets, plop a seat, and enjoy the view," said an official at the Adler Planetarium.

Set a reminder on your calendar now for the fall Chicagohenge which will occur on the autumnal equinox on Sept. 22, 2023.

Fun Fact: Chicagohenge is not really a "henge." A henge is defined as a land feature made up of a bank and ditch, both ring shaped, where the bank is on the outside of the ditch. The city is in good company however, as Stonehenge is also not technically a henge.

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