Willis Tower Skydeck: It’s Really High Up

November 4, 2011 2:00 PM

Willis Tower (CBS)

willis tower Willis Tower Skydeck: Its Really High Up

Willis Tower (credit: CBS)

Willis Tower
233 S Wacker Dr
Chicago, IL

Willis Tower! It’s weird, right? The name change? As a kid, the Sears Tower’s name was something that was completely unique from the mega clothing store. It never occurred to me that the Sears Tower and Sears were connected, in the same way that I don’t associate two different people named Mike as the same person. It is for this reason that I could develop an emotional connection with the Sears Tower, but not Sears itself (despite my love for slacks as a kid).

The Sears Tower/Willis Tower situation is like my childhood friend Danny. In the 6th grade he went off to summer camp, just to come back with a new name: DJ.

chicago skyline willis tower Willis Tower Skydeck: Its Really High Up

The Chicago skyline featuring Willis Tower. (credit: TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Suddenly, I didn’t like him anymore. Who was this guy? Where was my congenial friend? What was with the hair gel he wore on his scalp and the black sunglasses over his eyes?

Screw this guy, I said. In my head, that is.

So what I’m saying is that the Willis Tower is like the Sears Tower, but with sunglasses and spikey hair. That makes sense, right?

No, I guess it doesn’t. The Willis Tower is just a building, not a person. And, most importantly, it’s still an impressive building. It’s 1,451 feet tall, has 108 stories, and, let’s face it, is amazing no matter what its name is.

Those first two facts I admittedly found on Wikipedia. That must mean they’re right. Though, I was once spurned when Wikipedia told me that I can get pregnant from a toilet seat, which makes no sense, because I’m a man, and if I wasn’t, it still wouldn’t make sense.

Still, those two Willis Tower facts sound correct. I was there quite recently, so I think I’d know if they were wrong. If you’re still reading this, congratulations, I’m about to get to the purpose of the article. Below is all the info that will help you plan your own visit to the Willis Tower Skydeck. So, you know, you’re welcome, bro.

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Steven Sherrick bein' all contemplative as he has a lay-down. (credit: Olivia Burt)

Getting’ There

Don’t drive. Seriously. Why would you do that? Parking is a pain in the butt, traffic’ll kill ya, and you will solely be to blame for global warming. And, to reiterate, parking is a pain.

Why not take the ‘L’? A simple $2.25 fare could get you as close as Quincy and Wells–within a stones throw of the tower–at the Brown/Orange/Pink/Purple Line stop. If that doesn’t work for you, there’s also the Jackson Red and Blue Lines, both only a few blocks away.

If the CTA ain’t your style, then why not take the Metra? There’s a handful of Metra stops surrounding Willis Tower, and it can be a pretty fun ride in from the suburbs. Oh yeah, and you can drink on the Metra. So, you know, there’s that. If you’ve never ridden the Metra before, feel free to check out our Guide to Using the Metra for any info you might need.

Or, just ride your fixie. Unless you’re a wuss.

Before going inside, I do make one suggestion. Across the street from the Skydeck is a nice big lawn, often with lawn chairs strewn around when the weather is nice. One of my favorite things to do when I have time to kill downtown is to have a nice lay-down on the dirt and grass of this lawn, looking up at the Willis Tower, and thinking about how small I am, how big the world really is, and all other kinds of intellectual stuff that chicks totally dig, dude. So why not try it out? In the least, it’s a nice view.

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The suburbs... gross (credit: Olivia Burt)

Elevator goooooin’ up!


Adult, 12+: $17.00
Youth, 3-11: $11.00
Fast Pass: $35.00

The fast pass allows you to skip lines and waits to get up to the Skydeck, which is great and all, but I’d suggest just going on a day that isn’t too busy and sticking with the regular admission. The middle of the week during the afternoon is a pretty good bet. They also offer city pass deals and trolley tours, so if you’re looking to make an entire day of seeing downtown Chicago, you might want to check those out on their pricing page.

Before getting to the Skydeck, there’s a movie that covers the making of the Sears Tower. It’s not as boring as it sounds, and it’s nice to get a little understanding of exactly how much work went into this behemoth of a building. Plus, if you stick around for the movie, you get to find out how many toilets were installed in the building (hint: it’s a lot).

After the movie you get to take the elevator up. Don’t rush out to the Skydeck yet though. Before you get there is a room with walls covered in Chicago history. History, while less exciting than a sweet view from the top of a skyscraper, can still be pretty cool. For example, you can learn how many Michael Jordans tall Willis Tower is. Now doesn’t that sound like the definition of interesting?

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Hancock, you are a joke. (credit: Olivia Burt)

The Mother Truckin’ Skydeck

You’re there! The Skydeck. Is it everything you wished for? Hope you’re not afraid of heights. Walk around and take it in. You don’t get to do this everyday, so don’t be afraid to put a few bucks into some of those coin-operated binoculars to get a sweet view. Personally, I like to point and laugh at the Hancock for being shorter than Willis Tower.

Then there’s the ledge, which isn’t for the faint of heart. The heart-less and feint of heart will probably be fine though. Seriously though, I nearly pooped myself the one time I stepped out on to this thing, so take it slow.

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(credit: Olivia Burt)

Once you’ve seen all the views, the ledge, and read all there is to read on the 103rd floor, it’s finally time to take the elevator back down. It’s a short ride, but I’m sure your mind will be filled with all kinds of existential analogies to the view you just witnessed and the world we live in right here and–

— Welp, that elevator ride was fast. It drops you off at the gift shop. This is not a surprise. They need more of your money. If you want a token to remember today by, why not give it to them? Go ahead. One word of warning though: the gift shop is a maze. Keep your bearings, remember what direction you’re facing, and you’ll eventually, in a year or two, find your way out.

Then, once back out on the street, take a look back up at the Willis Tower one last time.

Yeah. It ain’t all that.

Mason Johnson, CBS Chicago

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