Chicago – Willis Tower formerly Sears Tower Skydeck

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April 24, 2012 by travelingsole

A little Chicago history… Remember the great Chicago fire in 1871? After the fire, the city brought in a lot of architects to rebuild Chicago. They had a clean slate to work with and they wanted to do the best they could with it.

Do you know where Sears Tower got its name? Sears, Roebuck, & Co. Sears had a lot of little offices all over the city. The owners were trying to add some efficiency to their labor force and needed a way to get all 350,000 employees under one roof. A skyscraper was the answer to this quest. They hired the firm of Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill (SOM) to design the tower.

The owners and the architects were all sitting at dinner and the architect pulled out a pack of cigarettes. He pulled the cigarettes out of the pack and held them at different heights to demonstrate to the owners what he had in mind for the structure. I don’t understand it all but because of the size the different heights made a more structurally sound building.

Source of the picture and the following facts.(Wikipedia haters don’t even say anything. Hi Kristi)

The Sears Tower is one of the tallest buildings in the world. It has been topped by skyscrapers like the Twin Towers, Taipei 101, Petronas Towers, and current tallest Burj Khalifa in Dubai to name a few. But since 9/11 Sears Tower is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.

Sears Tower was sold in 1994 but kept the naming right until 2003. When the naming rights expired a London-base insurance broker Willis Group Holdings received naming rights in their negotiations to lease 140,000 square feet of space on three floors. Naming rights are up for grabs again in 2024 if you want to be famous.

Enough about facts and history.

Sears/Willis Tower is a touristy place. For a reason. It is beautiful up there. You can see four states. We stood in line for 2 hours to get up to the Skydeck but it was worth it. The elevator to the top goes 18 mph and it takes 60 seconds. Your ears pop. We were up 103 floors to watch a Chicago sunset. The lights of the city and the sunset is a perfect view for me. (I’m a city girl)

From the Skydeck you can see the city in all directions. The west side has 2 glass boxes suspending you 103 floors above the streets. They were so crowded it was hard to get out there. It’s the weirdest feeling to look straight down and see the ground 1,353 feet below.

Tickets for the Skydeck are $17.50 for adults. If you don’t have a lot of time or hate lines you can buy a fast pass to the elevator for $35. The City Pass* also allows you to skip some of the lines.

See the slideshow below for a few views from the top.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Thanks for reading,


*City Pass is $84 and it gets you into Willis Tower Skydeck, Shedd Aquarium, The Field Museum, Adler Planetarium or The Art Institute of Chicago, and John Hancock Observatory or Museum of Science and Industry. You also get the benefit of skipping lines.


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