Willis Tower. Skyscraper in Chicago, Illinois

Willis Tower

Skyscraper in Chicago, Illinois

Sears Willis Tower Photo © Don Burkett

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Willis Tower

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	Willis Tower
Willis Tower.
The Willis Tower is a famous skyscraper and popular landmark that is the tallest building in Chicago and the second-tallest building in the United States. It is best known as the Sears Tower, and was built in the early 1970s as an office building for Sears, Roebuck & Co., which was at that time the largest retailer in the world. In 2009, the impressive 1,451-foot building was renamed the Willis Tower after the Willis Group, an insurance broker that leased a significant portion of the building after Sears’ naming rights had expired.


In 1969, executives at Sears, Roebuck & Co. (Wikipedia Article), the world’s largest retailer at the time, decided to commission the construction of a skyscraper to be used as an office building for the thousands of employees they had working in various locations throughout the city of Chicago. Between 1970 and 1973, the immense 108-story building was constructed, surpassing the height of the twin World Trade Center (Wikipedia Article) towers to become the tallest building in the United States. It also held the title of tallest building in the world for almost 25 years. In 2014, it became the second-tallest building in the United States upon completion of One World Trade Center, though this is due to the building’s large spire. The observation deck and roof of the Willis Tower remain the highest in the country, and are visited by over a million people each year.

Cotton Swab Skies - Willis
Cotton Swab Skies - Willis Tower. Photo by Derek Schnake

Skydeck Chicago

Central and
	North Chicago from Skydeck Chicago - Willis Tower
Central and North Chicago from Skydeck Chicago - Willis Tower. Photo by Jamie McCaffrey
The highlight of any visit to the Willis Tower is Skydeck Chicago, the highest observation deck in the United States, which is 412 meter above the ground. It provides visitors with spectacular views of the city of Chicago and beautiful Lake Michigan, and on an especially clear day, you may even be able to see four different states: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

Upon arriving at Skydeck Chicago, visitors can explore fascinating exhibits related to the history of the tower as they wait in line to ascend to the observation deck in some of the world’s fastest elevators. Visits also include a 9-minute film called “Reaching for the Sky”, which talks about the skyscraper’s history and architectural importance.

South View from Skydeck
	Chicago - Willis Tower
South View from Skydeck Chicago - Willis Tower. Photo by niXerKG

"The Ledge* - Willis Tower
"The Ledge* - Willis Tower. Photo by Oizilla

The Ledge

The newest attraction at Skydeck Chicago is The Ledge, a number of glass boxes that extend 1.3 meter out from the Skydeck, allowing visitors to have a clear, thrilling view straight down to the ground. If you’re afraid of heights, you might want to skip past that area, though the views certainly are worth the brief moment of terror. The Ledge is included in the admission price for Skydeck Chicago.


If you want a truly memorable visit to the Willis Tower, you can take advantage of one of Skydeck Chicago’s Dining on the Ledge experiences, which allow you to enjoy breakfast, a Chicago-style pizza, or fine cuisine on The Ledge outside of normal operating hours.


While most of the tower is used as office spaces, there are several restaurants and cafés within the iconic building where you can grab a bite to eat before or after your tour.


The Willis Tower weighs 222,500 tons, which is about the same weight as 20,000 city buses.

Practical Information

Willis Tower - Willis
Willis Tower - Willis Tower. Photo by Ben Grey
Due to its location in the heart of downtown Chicago, the Willis Tower is easily accessible using all forms of public transportation. The nearest ‘L’ train stop is Quincy/Wells, which is accessible via Brown, Orange, Pink, and Purple Line trains. Numerous CTA buses stop near the Willis Tower, and it is also a short walk from Union Station, which provides Amtrak services. Another transportation option is Divvy, Chicago’s bike-sharing service, which has hundreds of stations throughout the city.

Address: 233 S. Wacker Dr., Chicago, IL 60606 (Skydeck entrance on Jackson Blvd.)


The nearest parking area is called InterPark at 211 W. Adams, Chicago, IL 60606, which is open 24/7. You can save money by pre-purchasing parking online before your visit.


Skydeck Chicago is open daily from 9:00 until 22:00 between April and September, and from 10:00 until 20:00 from October through March.


General admission prices are approximately $ 20 USD for adults (ages 12 and over), $ 13 USD for children (ages 3 to 11), and free for children under three. If you’re planning to visit several popular Chicago tourist attractions, the Chicago CityPASS and the Go Chicago Card both provide significant discounts.


If you want to avoid waiting in long lines, try to arrive just before the Skydeck opens in the morning. In order to take advantage of some of the best views, plan to arrive an hour before sunset, which will allow you to enjoy a great mix of daytime, sunset, and nighttime views.

Similar Landmarks

There are many other record-breaking skyscrapers in the United States, including the John Hancock Center and Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago and the Chrysler Building, Empire State Building, and One World Trade Center in New York City.

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Author: ehuttner. Last updated: May 11, 2015

Pictures of Willis Tower

West View - Willis Tower
West View - Willis Tower. Photo by niXerKG

Willis Tower (Sears Tower) - Willis Tower
Willis Tower (Sears Tower) - Photo by salis-


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