Willis Tower and Our Skydeck Experience – Chicago

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During our travels, we have been to the top of a few tall buildings such as the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building, the Space Needle, and the Vancouver Lookout Tower at Harbour Center in Vancouver. Thus when we were in Chicago in June of 2016, we had to go up to the top of Willis Tower. I will continue to call it by that name on this post, but not without saying first that it will always be the Sears Tower for me.  All right, now that I got that off my chest, I wanted to say, we had a great time on our visit.  Apparently we are not alone in wanting to see the phenomenal views, because it was stated that approximately 1.5 million tourists visit the Skydeck each year. On a side note, the Skydeck Experience opened on June 22, 1974.

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We had bought a combo ticket at the Art Institute so we just had to the elevator and get our pictures taken. Once that was done, we went into a little theatre and watched a short little video called The Skydeck Experience.  Like it said it’s really short, but gave some information about Willis Tower, its history, and its name change from Sears Tower to Willis Tower (it still hasn’t stuck with anyone in Chicago either, lol).  Below is a video from their website sharing highlights and information about the building as well as a virtual tour. Enjoy.

The tower itself is 1,450 feet high (1,730 feet including twin antenna towers), and is the eighth-tallest building in the world; however, it is the second tallest building in North America and the Western Hemisphere. On a clear day, they say you can see four states: Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Visibility from the Skydeck is approximately 40-50 miles. Earlier I said the elevators were fast, well they operate at 1,600 feet per minute. Sadly the elevator is a closed box so we weren’t able to see the view going up as we did at Lookout Tower Harbour Center and the Space Needle, but it was still amazing.

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The Willis Tower building has 4.5 million gross square feet (418,064 gross square meters) of floor space; or roughly 101 football fields. That’s a lot of space, lol. All that space adds up to about 222,500 tons – that’s 445,000,000 lbs., 201,849,000 kg, or almost 20,000 city buses! The building also contains 25,000 miles (40,223 kilometers) of electrical cable. And approximately 43,000 miles (69,200 kilometers) of telephone cable runs through the building – enough to stretch across the continental United States 15 times! Those are some crazy stats, lol.

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After the video, we got in line for the elevator that took us up to the 103 Floor.  Man, that is high. After the very quick ride up the elevator, we were able to get our first view of the city. It was just before dusk and it was absolutely breathtaking.  I liked the fact that they also had boards with highlights of some of the buildings, parks, monuments, etc. It helped to be able to find things especially when you are not from the city.

Willis-Tower-UsOne of the most interesting parts of Willis Tower (besides the amazing views) was what they call the Ledge. They are glass boxes that extend out 4.3 feet from the skyscraper’s Skydeck.  It is so cool to be out there on the Ledge. You look out and down at the city and almost feel like you are flying. It was thrilling. Sadly there were a ton of people there also taking the same incredible photos, thus it took a while to get in one of the boxes, but it was definitely worth it. I cannot recommend this enough if you are on the Skydeck.

Willis-Tower-GeneHere is some more information about the Ledge. Each box weighs 7,500 lbs. and they are comprised of three layers of half-inch thick glass laminated into one seamless unit. Each box has a thin film over the top layer of glass, which helps assure a clear view of 1,353 feet straight down and is designed to retract into the building, allowing easy access for cleaning and maintenance. What I found interesting is that are built to withstand five tons of pressure and can hold 10,000 lbs. and have what is called “heat tracing” to melt snow off the glass. I am sure that is invaluable during the winter months, lol.

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After we left the Ledge boxes we just walked around a little more and took some more pictures.  It was so beautiful up there, and we hit it at a great time. We were there right before dusk so we got to watch the sun go down and the city lights come on. Absolutely incredible.  If you haven’t been up to the Willis Tower, you definitely need to make sure it is on your agenda while in the Chicago area. Here is a link to their website with more info, hours, pricing, etc. We are so glad we did. Hope you enjoyed our visit and experience. Please let us know if you have been to the top, and what you thought in the comments below. I would love to hear your stories. Thanks so much.

Willis Tower Visitor Information:

Address:

233 S Wacker Dr..
Chicago, IL 60606

Phone:

312-875-9696

Hours:

March – September:
Sunday – Friday: 9 am – 10 pm*
Saturday: 8:30 am – 10 pm.*

October – February:
Sunday – Friday: 10 am – 8 pm*
Saturday: 10 am – 9 pm.*

Price:

General Admission:

Adult — Ages 12 and up: $26
Youth — 3 to 11: $18
Children Under 3: Free!

Expedited Entry: $49

Save time with an express line to elevators!
Expedited Entry includes General Admission
Children Under 3: Free!

Early Bird: $80

Enter before we open to the public to skip all of the lines and crowds and to enjoy an extended Ledge experience.
Available on Saturdays and Sundays only
Children Under 3: Free!

Day/Night Admission: $45

Ticket includes two entries within a 24 hour period for one guest.
Children Under 3: Free!

Admission and Art Institute of Chicago

Adult – Ages 14 and up: $48
Youth under 14 are free at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Skyscraper Combo

Adult — Ages 12 and up: $75
Youth — Ages 3 to 11: $45
Includes General Admission to the Skydeck, plus a Deluxe ticket for a hop-on/hop-off tour with Big Bus and one-time entry to the Chicago Architecture Center.

CityPASS Expedited Entry + 4 more Chicago Attractions

Adult — Ages 12 and up: $109.00 ($220.00)
Youth — Ages 3 to 11: $89.00 ($181.00)
Purchase CityPASS online for immediate, paperless delivery to your mobile device.  Learn More.

Directions:

COMING FROM THE NORTH

  1. Take Interstate 90/94 east
  2. Exit At Jackson Boulevard
  3. Go east (left) on Jackson several blocks. (You’ll cross a bridge!)
  4. After you cross the river, the first stoplight marks Wacker Drive

COMING FROM THE SOUTH

  1. Take Interstate 90/94 west (towards Wisconsin)
  2. Stay in right lane, follow signs to Chicago / Loop
  3. Continue east several blocks (You’ll drive under a building – the old Chicago Post Office – and over a river – the Chicago River.)
  4. Just after you drive under the old post office, exit (Right) at Wacker Drive / Franklin Street. Get ready! Watch closely for Franklin Street.

COMING FROM THE SOUTHWEST

  1. Take Interstate 55 north to Interstate 90/94.
  2. Take Interstate 90/94 west (towards Wisconsin)
  3. Stay in right lane, follow signs to Chicago / Loop
  4. Continue east several blocks (You’ll drive under a building – the old Chicago Post Office – and over a river – the Chicago River.)
  5. Just after you drive under the old post office, exit (Right) at Wacker Drive / Franklin Street. Get ready! Watch closely for Franklin Street.

COMING FROM THE West

  1. Take Interstate 290 east towards Chicago.
  2. At some point, you’ll drive under a building – the old Chicago Post Office – and over a river – the Chicago River.
  3. Just after you drive under the old post office, exit (Right) at Wacker Drive / Franklin Street. Get ready! Watch closely for Franklin Street.

Accessibility:

The Skydeck is completely accessible and ADA compliant. Ramps and elevators in the facility make access easy with strollers, scooters, and wheelchairs. The Ledge is also accessible by these means, giving everyone a chance to enjoy the view!

Other accessibility features at Skydeck include:

  • Complimentary wheelchairs on a first-come, first-served basis for those who need them.
  • Licensed guide dogs are permitted at Skydeck.

If you have any other questions about accessibility at Skydeck, please reach out at sales@theskydeck.com.

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4 thoughts on “Willis Tower and Our Skydeck Experience – Chicago”

    1. HI Laurie, thank you for checking out my post. I checked out your post too and loved all the history. Hope to make it back again before 15 years, lol. Glad you got to see it again. Thank you again for stopping by and sharing your post. 🙂

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