Skydeck Chicago – Willis Tower

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Formerly known as the Sears Tower and for a long time the tallest building in the world, the Skydeck at the Willis Tower is a quintessential stop on any Chicago trip. With a rich history and gorgeous views, a visit to Skydeck is a real treat.

History

Standing at an impressive 108 stories (or 1,451 feet) the Willis Tower is a key element of the Chicago skyline. It is also a building with an impressive history with roots that lie with one of America’s most beloved brands: Sears.

The idea to build the Willis Tower, which was then called and is still referred to familiarly as the Sears Tower, can be attributed to executives at the Sears, Roebuck & Co. back in 1969. At the time, Sears Roebuck was the world’s largest retailer, employing over 350,000 people. After spending years with its corporate staff spread out throughout the greater Chicagoland area, the company decided to consolidate them all under one, enormous roof.

At the time of the building’s commission, Sears Roebuck had space requirements of over 3 million square feet with still more growth anticipated in the near future. As a result, the company called upon the architecture firm of Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill (SOM) with the specific intent of creating one of the largest office buildings in the world. However, as Sears Roebuck’s projections for their space requirements continued to mount and their needs for efficiency became realized in the design process, the exact size of the building only grew. As a result, the plans for the Sears Tower quickly exceeded the 100 floor mark, a goal that would clearly surpass the yet-to-be-completed World Trade Center in New York.

Construction of the Sears Tower was completed in May of 1973, cashing out at a hefty $150 million price tag when all was said and done. At the time, the tower itself easily surpassed all others becoming the Tallest Building in the World, a title it held for 25 years. This title was helped along when two television antennas were added in 1982, bringing the building’s total height to 1,707 feet. Subsequently, one of the two antennae was extended in 2005. Though the building is no longer near the tallest in the world (that honor belongs to Dubai’s Burj Khalifa) its total height is 1,730 feet still makes it the tallest building in the U.S.

The initial projections for growth made by the Sears Roebuck Co. in the 1970s were never realized, and the building has been leased to other companies consistently since the 1980s. Sears itself moved out of the building in 1992 and sold it. It has since changed hands numerous times, but Sears continued to hold onto the building’s naming rights. Then, when the Willis Group leased three floors of the tower in in 2009, building naming rights were included in the deal. This move officially rebranded the property as The Willis Tower on 16 July 2009. The Willis Groups’ naming rights will expire in 2024.

Main Attraction

Despite its primary purpose as an office building, since its inception, the Willis Tower has been a major tourist draw. This is mainly due to its amazing Skydeck, located at the 103rd floor, which opened on 22 June 1974.

Visiting Willis Tower and its popular Skydeck is quite an experience. Located at 1,353 feet above the ground, it gives visitors a one-of-a-kind view of the city of Chicago and Lake Michigan. This includes four glass balconies which allow visitors to stand suspended above the streets.

Skydeck also offers its visitors museum-quality exhibits as well as fabulous 360 degree views of up to four states. The elevators are also quite an experience, allowing riders to ascend at the amazing rate of 1,600 feet per minute. There are also options for private parties and events at the tower’s 99th floor as well as a host of Kids Club activities to help younger visitors enjoy the experience of Skydeck.

Why It’s a Must-See

To get an unparalleled view of the Chicago cityscape as well as experience the thrill of the United States’ tallest building, a trip to Willis Tower is a must. Both young and old will be amazed by the breathtaking views of the city along with the chance to dance above the crowds below. Skydeck is a truly unique and amazing Chicago experience.

Where to Buy It

There are a number of ways you can enjoy admission to this attraction.

Save up to 20% online at Smart Destinations. If you add more than one attraction to the cart, you will get an automatic savings of up to 20%. It’s called Make Your Own Pass.

Pay Full Price and purchase a ticket from Skydeck Chicago – Willis Tower either online or in person.

Purchase a Tourist pass. Skydeck Chicago is available on the Go Chicago Card and Chicago CityPass..