Sears Tower (now known as the Willis Tower)
Summary of attraction: The tallest building in the world from 1973 to 1998, the Sears Tower is one of Chicago’s most recognizable landmarks and popular tourist attractions. The 108-story, 1451-foot (442 meter) skyscraper was completed in 1973. Its observation deck, called the Skydeck, is an incredible 1353 feet (412 meter) above ground and on a windy day (the type of weather activity that gave Chicago its nickname the Windy City) visitors can experience how the building sways. The installation of all-glass balconies in 2009 now gives them the opportunity to look through the floor to the street as they extend approximately four feet over Wacker Drive from the 103rd floor.
Pros to visiting: The Sears Tower is known worldwide not just for its distinction as being the fifth tallest building in the world, but also because it was one of the first modern skyscrapers. No visit to Chicago would be complete without going to the top of the Skydeck. On a clear day you can easily see the Hancock Tower, Navy Pier, Soldiers Field and Lake Michigan, which to the human eye appears to go on forever.
Cons to visiting: Lines can be long, especially on a summer weekend. Tickets aren’t cheap but there is the option of purchasing the city pass, which for $76 ($59 for children) gives you admission and no waiting in lines for the skydeck as well as four other major Chicago attractions. (Tickets for just the Skydeck are $17 for adults and $11 for children.) Also, the day D and I were there personnel seemed extremely lax about letting visitors “do whatever” at the top. (A large group of foreign tourists actually sat down on the floor and started eating a full meal that came from Tupperware containers.)
Conclusion: If you’ve never gone up on the Skydeck I highly recommend doing so. If you went once but it was 20 years ago, I recommend a return visit since the Skydeck area was renovated after its renaming (the addition of the all-glass balconies). Where else can you view four states from just one spot?
Just one of the many incredible views offered to visitors from the Skydeck.