No visit to Chicago is complete without visiting one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks, the Willis Tower. It’s the second tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.
Of course, one of the most famous things about Willis Tower is SkyDeck Chicago, the observation deck that sits at the 103rd floor of the skyscraper. At 1,353 feet in the air, SkyDeck Chicago is the highest observation deck in all of the United States. On a clear day, you can even see four states from the top: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
Adding a visit to SkyDeck Chicago is an absolute must for any Chicago itinerary, and here’s why…
Looking for SkyDeck Chicago Discount Tickets?
We’ve got you covered – SkyDeck Chicago admission is available with the below money saving options, so you can choose the attraction pass that’s right for you:
1. All-Inclusive Pass – All you can do. Includes admission to dozens of attractions.
2. Explorer Pass – Choose as you go. Includes admission of up to 5 attractions.
3. Build Your Own Pass – Select the attractions you want to visit prior to visiting.
What to Do at SkyDeck Chicago
Located in the heart of downtown Chicago, SkyDeck sits on the 103rd floor of a 110-story skyscraper. The twin antennas that protrude from the top make it one of the most recognizable buildings in the entire city.
Of course, the main attraction at SkyDeck Chicago is the observation area, but there’s plenty more to see and do here.
Reaching for the Sky
This video gives you a taste of what it’s like to be at the top of the Willis Tower, but you really need to experience it for yourself for the full effect.
As soon as you step off the elevator, you’re encompassed by 360-degree views of the city. The panoramic, crystal-clear windows allow for uninterrupted views of the skyscraper-lined cityscape. You’ll see Lake Michigan, Wrigley Field, 360 Chicago, Cloud Gate at Millenium Park and more.
If you’re brave enough, take a few steps out onto “The Ledge,” an all-glass balcony that extends four feet out into space from the building’s edge. It’s one of the coolest things about this observation deck.
This glass box allows visitors to walk out onto a see-through ledge, perched 1, 353 up in the air. It’s a new addition to the attraction and has been enormously popular with visitors, though it’s not for the faint of heart.
For those who simply can’t bring themselves to try it for real, the Willis Tower Skydeck Chicago has video screens set up that simulate the experience of stepping out onto The Ledge.
This area of the attraction is an exhibit that compares the height of the Willis Tower to other buildings from around the globe. Kids will love the chance to see how many people it takes to reach the height of the tower!
Play an interactive Chicago trivia game, get your photo taken with the famed “103” sculpture (signifying, of course, the number of stories), and just plain enjoy being up this high.
Touch screens, photos, and other multimedia exhibits highlight the history of the Willis Tower and Skydeck Chicago. There are fun activities for kids and informative data that adults will enjoy.
Tips for Visiting SkyDeck Chicago
- If you really want to get a feel for the full Skydeck experience, leave extra time to enjoy the other exhibits, videos, and more.
- For the most up-to-date information about Skydeck Chicago, consult their handy attraction guide.
- You can also see a preview of their onsite brochure.
- To save money on admission to Skydeck Chicago, pick up a Go Chicago® Card! Plus, you’ll get express entry!
- The best views can be found early morning or after 5 pm.
- Remember to turn off your flash when taking photos out the windows, or you’ll end up with glare from the glass.
- Looking for more information about what else there is to do in the area? Consult our guide to Chicago neighborhoods.
- If you’ll be visiting with children, check out the Skydeck Chicago kid’s page for ideas on how to keep them entertained and engaged.
- There are a number of restaurants to dine at throughout the attraction, so no need to go elsewhere for a snack or a light lunch (see below for some examples).
When to Visit
Like many Chicago attractions, Skydeck Chicago is going to be most popular between mid-morning and early afternoon. Hop in line early to get beautiful views of the morning sky, or enjoy late afternoon sun. Either way, you’ll have Express Entry privileges with Go Chicago Card.
Some Willis Tower History
- The Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower, was originally built to be a new corporate headquarters for Sears Roebuck and Company (which was the largest retailer in the world at the time) who commissioned architects Skidmore, Owings and Merrill to design the building.
- Construction started in 1970 and took 3 years to complete with a staff of 2,000 workers.
- The Willis Tower is the second tallest building in the Western Hemisphere at 1,450 feet tall with 110 stories (after only the newly constructed One World Trade Center in New York City).
- Skydeck Chicago attracts around 1.5 million tourists each year.
- The glass ledge, located on the 103rd floor, extends 4.3 feet from the edge of the building and was added to the building in 2009.
- On a clear day, visitors can see up to 50 miles out and three surrounding states.
- The tower contains 25 miles of plumbing, 1500 miles of electric wiring, 80 miles of elevator cable, 796 restroom faucets, and more than 145,000 light fixtures.
- As a finishing touch during the building’s completion, the last beam that was put in place was signed by 12,000 construction workers, Sears employees, and Chicagoans.
Because of the Willis Tower’s central location, there are several attractions within walking distance or a short bus ride from Skydeck Chicago. Here are a few of our favorites.
Hop-On Hop Off Big Bus Tour
It’s the best way to get a comprehensive tour of the city and lucky for you, there’s a stop right at Willis Tower. You can hop on and take the bus to many other famous landmarks and attractions like the Art Institute of Chicago, Millenium Park, Navy Pier, the Museum Campus, and more.
Getting in: Hop On Hop Off Big Bus Chicago: 1-Day Classic Tour tickets are included with Go Chicago Card.
It goes without saying that when you’re in Chicago, it’s basically mandatory to take a photo with The Bean. This iconic sculpture is actually named The Cloud Gate, and is one of many gorgeous works that resides within the park. Make sure stop there and explore a bit.
Getting in: entrance to Millenium Park is free.
Art Institute of Chicago
Art lovers visiting Chicago cannot miss this one. The museum is consistently rated one of the Top Museums in the World by TripAdvisor and is home to some of the world’s most famous pieces. You’ll see Chagall’s “America Windows”, Matisse’s “Bathes by the River”, and Georgia O’Keefe’s “Black Cross, New Mexico”.
Chicago Theatre District
Not too far from SkyDeck Chicago, you’ll find the iconic Theatre District. Walk the streets lined with concert venues and famous theater houses, or take a tour of the most famous of them all: the Chicago Theatre.
Getting in: Chicago Theatre Tour tickets are included with Go Chicago Card.
Places to Eat Nearby
If you’re hungry after your ascent to the top, never fear – there are plenty of dining options in the surrounding few blocks. Check out these restaurants on your trip:
- Protein Bar is a good option for the health-conscious.
- If you’re just looking for a caffeine boost, then Argo Tea, Starbucks, and Dunkin Donuts are all nearby.
- Pret a Manger is also a nice choice for quick sandwiches and salads, plus delicious coffee and tea.
- If you just want something quick, there’s also a wide selection of fast and fast casual food in the area, from McDonald’s to Potbelly’s.
- For something different, Roti Modern Mediterranean offers fresh yet fast and inexpensive fare.
Save on Tickets with a Go Chicago Card
Remember, the Go Chicago® Card is the best choice for maximum savings and flexibility, which includes Skydeck Chicago tickets, plus admission to your choice of other top attractions.
Save up to 55% on top museums, tours, and activities vs. paying at the gate. Visit multiple Chicago attractions for one low price.