Willis Tower in Chicago, formerly known as Sears Tower is one of the most iconic buildings in the U.S, and one of the tallest ones as well.

Here’s a visitor’s guide with everything you need to know before you visit, including ticket info, opening hours as well as history and facts about the Willis Tower. 

How much does it cost to visit Willis Tower?

General admission is $25 for adults and minors from 12 and up. Youth between 3 and 11 is charged $17 for general admission. Children under 3 have free entrance. There are additional Willis Tower tickets that can be purchased to get early bird access and various combos.

Tour Type Adult (12+) Child (3-11)
General Admission $25 $18
Fast Pass & Early Bird $75 $75
Skydeck Combo Day/Night Ticket $45 $45
Skydeck Combo & Art Institute Ticket $49  
Chicago City Pass $108 $89

Visitors can enjoy Willis Tower, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, from the Skydeck, a popular panoramic attraction on the building’s 103rd floor.

Offering spectacular views spanning across four states, the Skydeck is the perfect way to experience Willis Tower. Head to the top and you’ll enjoy a one-stop Chicago experience including time on The Ledge, a glass balcony protruding out over the city!

The Chicago CityPass covers the entrance to a number of different attractions in Chicago so if you’re planning on visiting several, it might be worth purchasing a pass to save money.  
 
View from Skydeck Chicago

Photo: Salvador Maniquiz / Shutterstock.com

Ticket Info & Opening Hours

Skydeck is open 365 days a year at the following times (last entry is 30-minutes prior to closing):

  • March – September: 9am – 10pm
  • October – February: 10am – 8pm

Purchase your Skydeck tickets online in advance to save time, there’s a number of different ticket packages to suit every budget.

History & Info

The 110-story Willis Tower is one of the tallest buildings in the world and the third-tallest building in the United States! The original vision for this spectacular skyscraper came to life in 1969 when Sears Roebuck and Company decided it needs a central office space for its 350,000 employees.

The building was designed by Bangladeshi-American architect Fazlur Rahman Khan and construction began in 1970. Taking only three years to complete, the offices were opened in May of 1973 and the Sears employees moved in and the skyscraper was named ‘Sears Tower’. 

The building wasn’t given its current name of ‘Willis Tower’ until 2009 when the London-based Willis Group Holdings, a global insurance broker who leased the offices, renamed it. The building is contractually obligated to be called ‘Willis Towers’ until 2024.

Facade and architecture of Willis Tower

Photo: Jannis Tobias Werner / Shutterstock.com

At the heart of the skyscraper lies an innovative vertical-tube design, inspired by the uneven arrangement cigarettes make when pushed out of a pack, to allow the building to remain structurally intact during strong wind forces.

Welded steel frames were used to support one and other and limit the lateral sway caused by Chicago’s gusty weather. As for the building’s exterior, black aluminum, and bronze-tinted glass plaster the outside from top to bottom while the interior features work from renowned American sculptor Alexander Calder.

In 1974, the Willis Tower’s Skydeck opened, a spectacular observation deck and viewing platform that attracts over 1.7 million visitors a year.

In July of 2009, the Skydeck underwent a renovation that brought the Ledge; four glass boxes extending from the building and offering views straight down over the city. Today the Skydeck is home to several observation experiences and interactive displays to keep the whole family entertained.

Willis Tower view from river

Photo: Lynn Watson/Shutterstock

Points of Interest

Observation Deck

Step out onto the Ledge, an observation deck with a glass floor, and enjoy panoramic views over the city! It’s the highest observation deck in the United States!

The Ledge

The Ledge is comprised of four glass boxes, each of which protruded off the edge of the building and offer a numbing viewing experience!

The Ledge

Photo: Salvador Maniquiz / Shutterstock.com

Interactive Exhibits

There are several interactive exhibits dotted around the Skydeck (and on the way up) including an interactive digital floor that replicates Wrigley Field.

History of Willis Tower

Watch a short video on the history of Willis Tower before stepping out onto the Ledge.

Catalog

Once you’ve finished exploring the Skydeck, head back down to Catalog; an evolving five-level urban food court, shopping center, and entertainment area. Catalog is set to be fully completed in the summer of 2020.

How to get to Willis Tower

On Foot

From Union Station, Willis Tower is just a 6-minute walk away. Cross the river on West Monroe Street and take your second right onto Franklin Street. Continue walking over West Adams Street and you’ll find Willis Tower and the Skydeck on this block.

By Car

Parking for Willis Tower and the Skydeck is found over the street on Franklin Street. Tower Self Park can be pre-booked online or on the day and is located at 211 W. Adams and can be accessed from either Franklin or Adams. The parking garage is open 24/7.

How to get to Willis Tower

Photo: f11photo / Shutterstock.com

Nearby Attractions

Willis Tower is well situated on Wacker Drive just a short walk from Grant Park and some of Chicago’s biggest and best attractions. The below attractions are all within a 15-minute walk of the Skydeck:

  • The Art Institute of Chicago
  • Chicago Riverwalk
  • Chicago Architecture Center
  • Buckingham Fountain
  • Union Station
  • Lyric Opera of Chicago
  • Reading Cones Grant Park
  • Underground Donut Tour
  • Cloud Gate
  • Millenium Park
  • Calder’s Flamingo
  • Cadillac Palace Theater
  • Chicago Skyline
  • Goodman Theater

Best time to visit Willis Tower

The best time to visit Skydeck is just after opening (9 am or 10 am depending on the season) or after 5 pm. The least crowded time to visit really depends on the weather, but generally speaking, early morning mid-week will have shorter queues than the weekends or in the afternoon.

To enjoy watching the sunset over the city, followed by the twinkling night sky, aim to arrive a good hour before sunset to ensure you make it to the 103rd floor in time for optimum viewing.

Another great viewing time is when the Willis Tower antenna is lit. Check the Skydeck website for the lighting schedule here.

Facts about Willis Tower

  • Willis Tower stands at 1,450 feet (443 meters) high and is the 12th tallest building in the world.
  • The tower is home to the highest public viewing area in the United States.
  • The combined weight of the building is 222,500 tons, which is roughly the same weight as 20,000 city buses!
  • The cost to build Willis Tower was in excess of $150 million.
  • Willis Tower opened in 1973 after taking three years to build and over 2,000 workers.
  • On a clear day, you can see four states from the Skydeck observation center; Illinois, Indian, Wisconsin, and Michigan.
  • The average sway of the building is approximately six inches, though the tower has been designed to allow a sway of up to three feet!
  • Six roof-mounted robotic window washing machines clean all 16,1000 windows of the tower.
  • Approximately 25,000 people enter the building each day and roughly 1.7 million tourists visit the Skydeck each year.
  • The Ledge’s glass boxes are comprised of three layers of half-inch thick glass and are built to withstand five tons of pressure.  
Facts about Willis Tower

Photo: Tupungato / Shutterstock.com

FAQ’s (Things to know before you go)

How much is Skydeck in Chicago?

General admission to the Skydeck will cost you $26 for adults and $18 for those aged between 3 – 11 years.

What is the Chicago Skydeck?

The Skydeck is an observation deck and experience that transforms how visitors experience Chicago and is accessed on the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower.

The skydeck at Willis Tower

Photo: Thomas Barrat / Shutterstock.com

Is the Skydeck wheelchair accessible?

The Skydeck is completely accessible and ADA compliant. Ramps and elevators make the facility each to access with strollers, scooters, and wheelchairs (even the Ledge is accessible)!

Is there a weight limit for the Skydeck Chicago?

The Ledge is built to withstand five tons of pressure and can hold 10,000 lbs!

Does the Willis Tower Sway?

In a day with the right weather, the $95 million apartments at the top of the tower can sway from four to five feet!

Where do you park for the Skydeck in Chicago?

Parking is conveniently located directly across the street from the tower on Franklin Street.

How long will it take to start the Skydeck experience?

On busy weekends, the wait can be over an hour to get up. Once up, you can stay as long as you like. Note weekends and evenings are the Skydecks busiest waiting times.

Does the Skydeck take walk-ins?

You can purchase your ticket on the day but there may be a larger queue for this compared to those who’ve pre-booked their Wills Tower tickets in advance.

Is Willis Tower the same as Sears Tower?

Sears Tower and Willis Tower is the same building, and Sears Tower was the original name that was kept until 2009, after its new main tenant, Willis Group Holdings. 


Do you have more questions before you visit Willis Tower in Chicago? Leave a comment below!