On my first trip to Chicago, I had one absolute must-do attraction I needed to visit: Skydeck Chicago. Located on the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower), it might be the most iconic observation deck in the world.
For those unfamiliar, when the Sears Tower was constructed, it was known as the largest skyscraper in the world for many years. The Skydeck opened in June 1974 and has been one of the most famous Chicago attractions for decades.
Two elevators carrying roughly 25 passengers at a time each rocket up 103 floors in 60 seconds to the observation deck. Because the 103rd floor only has a limited capacity of 600 people at a time, lines can get extremely long.
On the day of my visit, the line was two hours long. If you’re visiting the Chicago area and plan on doing multiple attractions, I highly recommend the Chicago CityPass. This not only gives you access to several attractions (including Skydeck Chicago), but also allows you to skip the lines and go through their Fastpass lane.
I got a chance to chat with Skydeck Chicago’s General Manager Randy Stancik about what it is like operating this kind of attraction. “We operate 365 days a year here and offer various types of events all year long to keep things interesting,” said Stancik.
For example, there is a completely private observation deck on the 99th floor of the Willis Tower that’s available for parties and private groups. “We have hosted group sizes from 20 up to 300 people,” he explained. “We cater events of all different types, from corporate events to wedding receptions.”
In addition, Skydeck Chicago also caters to all kinds of special requests. Apparently you can arrange to have your birthday celebrated, have dinner or even propose marriage on the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower and they will help you arrange all of it. “We encourage people to give us their ideas on how to customize their experience to make it unique and special for them,” he remarked.
In addition, they host events like a stair climb which has raised over $1 million for charity. During certain times of the year, you can even enjoy “pie in the sky,” which is a three course meal from Chicago’s famous deep dish pizza eatery Giordanno’s, while overlooking the Chicago skyline.
You can’t talk about floor 103 without mentioning the Skydeck Ledge. Opened in 2009, these retractable all glass boxes actually slide out and over the building allowing you to nearly “float” off the side of the building.
I don’t exactly know how to describe the sensation of stepping from a carpet that is clearly solid to a glass enclosure which allows you to look straight down 103 stories below.
For some, the absolute thought of this is horrifying. For me, it was downright magical. Stepping on to the ledge was almost like being able to hover right above the building.
You can totally understand why proposals happen here. The photos alone are a keepsake of a lifetime.
We had a great time and will definitely be back to experience what this must be like after the sun goes down. Thanks to Skydeck Chicago for having us! For more information visit Skydeck Chicago’s website!
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