Skydeck Chicago is one of the most popular attractions in all of Chicago. An observation deck found all the way up on the 103rd floor of Willis Tower (still best known to many people as Sears Tower), Skydeck Chicago is the highest public viewing area in the entire United States. Situated a whopping 1,353 feet in the air, Skydeck Chicago provides visitors with unforgettable views of Chicago’s stunning skyline—all while hosting a variety of informative exhibits and interactive displays that offer up fun facts about the city and its beloved Tower.
Skydeck Chicago History and Background
Skydeck Chicago occupies the 103rd floor of Chicago’s iconic Willis Tower. When the construction of Willis Tower (which was then known as Sears Tower) was completed in 1973, the building was the tallest building in the entire world. Willis Tower would retain this distinction for the next 25 years, becoming one of the most famous structures anywhere in the world. Willis Tower stands some 1,450 feet tall—approximately 1,730 feet tall if you include its distinctive antenna towers. This height is significant enough that even today it remains the second-tallest building in the whole Western Hemisphere.
Skydeck Chicago has itself been a part of the Willis Tower experience ever since 1974. In a typical year, nearly 1.7 million visitors flock to Skydeck Chicago. It’s said that, on a clear day, from Skydeck you can see over 50 miles in any direction, and even get a glimpse of four different states!
What’s at the Skydeck Chicago
Guests to Skydeck Chicago will enjoy a variety of features throughout this popular facility, but perhaps nothing so much as the stellar views on display. Skydeck Chicago is acclaimed for the unique perspective it provides visitors. No matter how well you think you know the city of Chicago—whether you’re brand-new to town or you’ve lived there your whole life—you’re bound to be left breathless when taking in the Windy City from this height.
The Ledge is one of the most recent exciting innovations to be found at Skydeck Chicago. The Ledge is an enclosed glass box that extends nearly five feet out from the Skydeck over the Chicago River and Wacker drive. From this incredible vantagepoint you’ll be able to experience Skydeck Chicago’s 103rd floor location like never before; it’s a can’t-miss photo opportunity for sure.
Even as you’re soaking in the remarkable range of views on display at Skydeck Chicago, you’ll want to take time to check out its additional features. In the Skydeck Theater you can catch a showing of Reaching for the Sky. This nine-minute film covers some of Chicago’s rich architectural history, and discusses the planning, constructing, and legacy of Willis Tower. A gallery of interactive displays and exhibits is also worth checking out; with fun facts and trivia about Chicago, Willis Tower, and a number of the world’s other tallest skyscrapers, you’re sure to learn something new while having a good time!
Multiple dining options are available near the exit/entrance to Skydeck Chicago at ground level. There you’ll find a coffee shop, bagel shop, and a couple different restaurants that serve up a variety of snacks and lunches. These establishments, however, are typically only open Monday through Friday, so if you’re visiting Skydeck Chicago on a weekend you’ll need to plan to make other arrangements.
Tips for Visiting the Skydeck Chicago
- Skydeck Chicago’s hours vary depending on the time of year and the day of the week. For specific details, check their website in advance of your visit—and remember that last admission to the attraction is 30 minutes before the posted closing time.
- Admission for children under the age of 3 years old is free.
- In order to snap the best possible picture of you and/or your group standing in front of one of the windows at the top of Willis Tower, the friendly staff at Skydeck Chicago recommends using the “backlight function” on your camera. It’s also a good idea to shut off your camera’s flash, and turn on a polarizer filter.
- All of Skydeck Chicago’s offerings are accessible, including The Ledge. There are also a number of wheelchairs available for complimentary use during your visit.
- Given Skydeck Chicago’s immense popularity, it is frequently quite busy and crowded. For that reason, if you want a more private visiting experience, it is recommended you either arrive at the attraction in the morning just prior to its opening time, or much later in the evening.