It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no, it’s you on the 103rd floor of the Sears Tower in Chicago, Illinois. Actually, as of July 16th of 2009 the world famous Sears Tower became Willis Tower when insurance broker Willis Group holdings leased out three floors and obtained the naming rights until 2024. Names aside, if you want spectacular views of Illinois, not to mention Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin (wow – that’s a tall building) this is the one and only place in Chicago to be.
Built over three years from 1970 to 1973, Willis Tower is the tallest building in the United States; although at the time of completion it was the tallest in the world. And outside of the Shanghai World Financial Center, it also boasts the highest restrooms in the world. The building itself is a wonder of architectural achievement, but what you came to see is the view, or rather The Skydeck.
The Willis Tower Skydeck is located on the 103rd floor 1,353 feet above ground level. There is also a secondary Skydeck located on the 99th floor which plays host to parties, wedding receptions, and galas galore. Imagine seeing 50 miles away on a clear day the beauty of the Midwest plains, the grandeur of the Chicago skyline, or the majesty of Lake Michigan. It is truly a site to behold. You can get to the Skydeck on one of two special elevators; or if you want to see a little more of the building you can take a series of elevators and escalators up (stacked oddly because of the unique 9 tower – 3 by 3 cube arrangement of the complex). Two weeks before Sears Tower officially seceded its naming rights, two glass observation balconies were opened to the public known as The Skydeck Ledge. Extending out about four feet from the edge of the building, you can now not only look out at the beauty of Chicago but if you dare, you can look down! They can support up to five tons of weight extended out, but are also fully retractable to allow for easy maintenance.
If heights are not your thing, not to worry, the Skydeck offers museum quality exhibits affording you the chance to learn all about Chicago, its past, its landmarks, and its people. They even have interactive kiosks that speak six different languages to make the tour more accessible to all who visit. Although the Skydeck is open from around 9 or 10 in the morning until at least 8 at night, the best time to visit is right around sunset. The crowds have dwindled and you can see not only awe inspiring colors as the sun slowly sets over the city, but you can also see the fantastic sparkling lights that make Chicago truly one of the most beautiful cities in America.
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