Aug 22

Willis/Sears Tower

Most of you have heard of the Sears Tower, the tallest building in the United States, well it’s now the Willis Tower and it’s still the tallest building in the United States.  It has been enhanced in the past few years, adding glass balconies that extends past the 103rd floor over Wacker Drive.

I had purchased the Chicago Citypass which allowed for fast pass entry at the tower, but I still showed up around 9:20 in the morning, not long after opening, and there was no line for entry (there was a line at 10:30 when I left).  After entry you go into a room that allows you to explore a little bit of Chicago from 103 floors without even taking the elevator, this is an interesting spot if there are already lines, but if it’s quiet I wouldn’t waist a lot of time here.  After this room you board the elevator.  I liked the elevator, as you rose up it told you how high you were based on other landmarks around the world, like the height of a giraffe or the height of the Eiffel Tower.

Once at the top the skydeck is enclosed by windows and there are binoculars to look more closely.  There is also a small shop to buy souveniers.  Near the side where you exit the skydeck is where the balconies are.  These were relatively quiet, until the school group arrived!  I wish I had moved a little quicker.

I had been nervous about this, I’m not affraid of heights, but I do have limits too and when I’m that high I can be hit or miss.  This did not bother me at all, I was on and off it a couple times.  I found all the tourists here to be friendly and happy to take pictures of each other, and they even took a great picture of me!

The views of the city were really nice, naturally things on the ground were tiny, but it was a great way to see some of the cool architecture in the city.

One thing I’ve realized is that as much as I love to go to high locations to see cities you get a more intimate feel from a lower high point.  The Arc de Triumph gives a great view of the city because it’s shorter, you can see the long avenues.  But from the Eiffel Tower you can see more of the city.  At the Willis Tower you can see the tall buildings and points further away, but you don’t get to see the intimate feel of the city.  That doesn’t mean I didn’t like it, Chicago has a good layout for being viewed from 103 floors up, but it is a big picture view, not an intimate view.

If you like to see cities from high up, this is a great place to visit.  If you can go early in the morning then I wouldn’t bother with the Citypass unless you had already wanted to get one.  Going early will not only allow you to skip the line, but it will also be less crowded.  Visiting only took me about an hour, including visiting the gift shop on the ground floor when I exited.  If you’re not intersted in city views like this, then you might want to skip this if you have limited time in the city and concentrate on some of the other offerings of Chicago.