No visit to Chicago is complete without visiting the city’s most recognizable landmark, the Willis Tower, which is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.
Head up to Skydeck Chicago, the highest building observation deck in the world located on the 103rd floor, for an unbelievable view of Chicago (and up to four states on a clear day: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin).
It’s one of the most popular attractions in the city, providing unparalleled views of the city below.
Visitors can also step out onto “the Ledge”, a heart-pounding experience that allows you to walk out onto a balcony made entirely of thick glass that extends out from the side of the building.
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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 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 available 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.
What to Do at SkyDeck Chicago
Located in the heart of Chicago’s downtown, the Willis Tower stands at 1,450 feet tall and is made up of 110 stories. The 103rd floor is an excellent vantage point for all of your panoramic views of downtown Chicago, greater Chicagoland, and even Lake Michigan.
There are several different things to do and see at Skydeck Chicago in addition to enjoying the stunning views. Be sure to check them all out!
Reaching for the Sky
This video presentation tells the story of how Chicago came to be the architectural capital it is today, regaling you with fun facts and information about how the Willis Tower itself was constructed alongside other famous buildings.
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.
This glass box allows visitors to walk out onto a see-through ledge, perched 1, 353 up in the air – not for the faint of heart! It’s a new addition to the attraction and has been enormously popular with visitors.
Visitors can actually see glimpses of four different states from atop this national landmark. In addition, enjoy unobstructed views of iconic Chicago sights such as Wrigley Field, Cloud Gate at Millenium Park, North Avenue Beach, and more.
For the less-daring visitors, 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. Plus, you can marvel at simulated views from 1,353 feet in the air above other major Chicago attractions like Wrigley Field.
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.
- Building started in 1970 and took 3 years to complete with a staff of 2,000 workers.
- The Willis Tower is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere at 1,450 feet tall with 110 stories.
- 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.
- If you’re a fan of architecture, pay a visit to the Chicago Architecture foundation for some great walking tours, exhibits, and an awesome gift shop.
- Looking for a comprehensive bus tour of Chicago? Check out the hop-on, hop-off option available nearby.
- Millennium Park is just a few blocks away, home to various art installations, the beautiful Pritzker Pavilion, the Lurie Garden, and more!
- Art lovers should visit the number one museum in the country – the iconic Art Institute of Chicago.
- The Chicago Theatre District is also nearby, providing great views of their colorful marquees and some of the best performances in the country.
- The beautiful historic Opera House is just up the Chicago River and it’s more than worth the short walk for the photos.
- The Museum of Contemporary Photography is right by Grant Park, both of which are fun additions to a larger itinerary.
- Work some time for a musical performance into your schedule and pay a visit to the House of Blues.
Places to Eat Nearby
If you’re hungry after your ascent to the top, never fear – there are plenty of dining options both within the attraction and in the surrounding few blocks. Check out these restaurants on your trip:
- French Accent is a great lunch destination in the Willis Tower, popular among locals for its convenience and tastiness.
- Market Café is the perfect lunch destination for the health conscious, offering a delicious fresh salad bar and a global buffet.
- In the mood for Mexican? Salseria Grill & Cantina is your best bet.
- If you’re just looking for a caffeine boost, then Argo Tea, Starbucks, and Dunkin Donuts are all nearby.
- If you’re looking for some solid sandwiches, Panera Bread is mere steps away on the waterfront.
- Hot Woks Cool Sushi is a trendy place for Asian cuisine, great for lunch.
Need to Know
April–September, 9:00 am–10:00 pm, last arrival 30 minutes prior to closing
October–March, 10:00 am–8:00 pm, last arrival 30 minutes prior to closing
Address & Directions
233 S. Wacker Drive
Chicago, IL 60606
Take CTA: From the brown, purple, and orange lines exit at Quincy stop and you’re right at Willis Tower.
By Bus: Buses 1, 7, Express 28, 37,126, 129, 134, 135, 136, 151, and 156 all stop within one block of Willis Tower.
Take Metra: Union Station’s Metra and Amtrak trains are 1 1/2 blocks from Willis Tower.
For more information, visit the Skydeck website.
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 at Willis Tower, 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.