Commissioned as the corporate headquarters for the Sears, Roebuck & Company, the aptly named Sears Tower was the tallest building in the world when it opened in 1973, and retained that title for twenty five years.
The building has 108 occupied stories and reaches a total height of 1,729 feet at the tip of its spires. When Sears moved to a new suburban campus in 1994, they sold the building. The naming rights eventually went to a new major tenant, the UK's Willis Group Holdings, and although officially it is now the Willis Tower, many Chicago residents still refer to the building as the Sears Tower.
Touch the Sky
Located on the 103rd floor of the building, the Skydeck is one of Chicago's most popular tourist attractions. On a clear day from this lofty perch, you will be able to not only enjoy the splendor of Chicago's magnificent architecture, but also see four different states. When you enter the building and purchase your ticket, you'll be whisked to the Skydeck on some of the world's fastest elevators, and of course, the trip is non-stop. Reaching the observation floor, you'll be able to take in exhibits about the building and the surrounding views. A fairly recent addition to the Skydeck is "The Ledge," an enclosed glass platform that extends out from the building. With a glass floor looking down from 103 stories up, you'll feel like you're walking on air, if you're brave enough.
When to Visit
The views change during the days and nights. If you want to include a spectacular sunset in your visit, plan to arrive 45-60 minutes prior to sunset. Afterwards, the Chicago skyline begins to light up into a bright grid plan of nighttime activity.
There are nine food outlets on the lower levels of the building, open Monday to Friday, and the Skydeck is completely ADA accessible; a limited number of free wheelchairs are available. A number of gift shops with Chicago and Willis Tower memorabilia are located on the Skydeck and elsewhere throughout the building. Be sure to ask a Skydeck team member to take a photo of you and your family or friends, or a professional photographer is also available to snap your picture and have a finished photo in a custom folder ready for you when you leave.
General admission tickets for those 12 and older are around $20. For older children, aged 3 - 11, the price is discounted. Children under the age of 3 are admitted at no charge. Guided tours as well as tours combined with other local attractions are available at additional cost.
Hours and Location
The Skydeck is open every day of the year, from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. in April through September, and from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. the rest of the year. Final entries of the day are admitted thirty minutes prior to closing time. The building is located in downtown Chicago in what is known as the Loop district, with the Skydeck entrance on the Jackson Street side of the building. It is easily reached by all types of mass transit in the Chicago area, and of course, on foot if you are already taking in the sights of the popular Loop district.