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Top sights in Chicago
For almost 25 years the Willis Tower, more commonly known as Sears Tower, held the title for the tallest building in the U.S. Second place isn’t bad, right? And as the 12th tallest in the world at a height of 1,451 feet, it is Chicago’s most beloved skyscraper.
In order to house their rapidly growing company, Sears commissioned architects Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in 1969. Architect Bruce Graham and engineer Fazlur Rahman Kahn led.
The Willis Tower was the first to ever use a bundled tube structure. Kahn’s design was so revolutionary that it was later used for the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa.
Graham’s design was inspired by a cigarette ad. He demonstrated the concept to a colleague by pulling cigarettes out of a pack to illustrate the 9 tubes at different heights.
Construction began in April of 1971 and was finished by May 1973. Economically efficient for a building its size, the cost to build was $150 million, about $800 million today.
Willis Tower’s observation deck is what makes it celebrated. At 1,353 feet, visitors can feel the building sway on a windy day and see over the plains of Illinois on a clear day.
The address of Willis Tower is 233 South Wacker Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60606. Public transportation is easy because it's in such a central location -- off Blue, Brown, Orange, Pink, Purple and Red Lines on the ‘L.
Parking is available at 221 W. Adams, and purchasing a parking card in advance online will get you a discount.
Skydeck Chicago is open 365 days a year from 9AM to 10PM April through September and 10AM to 8PM October through March. View at night for the romantic glittering cityscape, by day for the sweeping view of Lake Michigan.
The basic price for adult admission is $19.50. A variety of ticketing bundles with other Chicago attractions, like a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago, are available.
- When should I visit?
April - Sept: 9:00AM - 10:00PM |
Oct - March: 10:00AM - 8:00PM
- Is it expensive?
- Will I need a guide?
- Nope, but they are available if you want special insights into the building and its surroundings.
- How to get there
- Take the L, walk, or drive.
- Additional information
- As with other spectacular views, the best times to visit the SkyDeck are in the early morning and around sunset.
What people are saying about Willis Tower
The tour was very well organized and informative. The boat was spacious and comfortable but the real 5 star rating of the tour belongs our guide, Jake. He was polished yet wittily entertaining and so knowledgeable not only about the history of the buildings but also about the construction techniques and what each building contributed historically to the shaping of Chicago's cityscape. He gave us an excellent experience, one that we heartily endorse to anyone seeking to understand how the architecture and strategic city planning has informed the city of Chicago.
Our tour guide's name was Kevin, and he was, in a single word, fantastic! Not only did he know the subject very well, he had the perfect personality to be providing the history of the architecture of Chicago. He had so much information, that we were not able to retain it all! And he presented it in a very engaging way, that kept everyone interested. Our entire group of 10 people loved the tour, and Kevin's knowledge. Great tour.
The boat ride was fun clean and very enjoyable. I learned a lot and would do it again the view was wonderful when we saw something turned around and came back and saw something else we all enjoyed our time and enjoyed hearing all about the buildings
We took the last tour at 7:30 pm (end of July) so we could see the river in the day and with lights on. Both views were wonderful; glad we did it. Our tour guide really knew his facts , but also had a nice sense of humor. Highly recommend!
This is a great cruise ... comfortable and actually uses up the 75 minutes. The only downside is that the audio is not clear and one could hear much of the details of the architecture of the buildings.