Long called the Sear’s Tower, the renamed Willis Tower is still the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. What was that? Isn’t the One World Trade Center taller? Well, yes… and no. The One World Trade Center is 1,776 feet tall (soon the be surpassed by newer New York Skycrapers) and the Willis Tower is 1,450 feet tall. Why would I say the Willis tower is taller? Because I’m different and I like to compare skyscrapers this way:
- Height without any antenna towers – While impressive, the antenna isn’t actually part of the building. There are no desks or apartments in an antenna.
- What is the total number of floors in the building?
- What floor is the observation deck located?
The Skydeck at the Willis Tower is located 1,353 feet in the air on the 103rd floor.
The One World Observatory is located on the 100th through the 102nd floors at 1,368 feet (the height of the original World Trade Center w/ antenna).
Okay, so maybe I have a lame argument. But, for some reason, I really love the Willis Tower. Maybe it’s because of the four “ledges” at the extend out over that edge. You look down between your feet at a 1,353-foot drop.
Or maybe, it has something to do with this story.
We consider ourselves budget travelers. This trip to Chicago had a more-strict budget than other trips we’ve enjoyed. We weren’t poor, but we had other bills and travel expenses to pay. We were walking past the Willis tower sad that we didn’t have the $128 budgeted to take all six of us up to the Skydeck.
Just as we passed the main entrance another couple walked up to us and said, “We have to catch a plane and don’t have the time to use these two adult tickets to go to the Skydeck. Would your family use them?” We were floored. Wow! We thanked them profusely. That would save us about $50 for the adult tickets but we’d still have to pay another $80 to go up. We would still have to pay 2 adult-priced tickets for our two oldest children and 2 child-priced tickets for our youngest children. We decided to go to the ticket booth anyway. It happened to be a slow day and the lady at the ticket booth said, “that’ll be 4 child tickets… so that comes to a total of $64.” WHAT?!?! Again, WOW! We didn’t know what to say. We took it as a sign that the universe really wanted us to go experience this adventure.
I share this because when it comes to travel, awesome things like this happen to people all over the world. People fall in love with the excitement and romance of the idea of travel. People do nice things for people every day all over the world. We were/are grateful to have been a part of some travel magic that day. This experience (and others) have taught our children the importance of giving back and following your gut/heart. This is why we love traveling and this might be why the Willis tower holds a special place in my heart; because of the kindness of three strangers.
When you visit, take the time to enjoy the view. If there isn’t a large crowd, I’d encourage you to step to the Skydeck edge twice. Go when you first get there. Then walk around the Skydeck, look at souvenirs, take some selfies, then go back and enjoy it a second time. The first time we did it two of our kids were absolutely terrified. Maybe I’m a bad parent but I made them step to the edge. I knew they would like it once they began to feel comfortable with the situation. The second time we went back they ran to the edge and complained to me about taking so long. So, no permanent brain damage during this adventure. The day we were visiting there wasn’t a crowd and I can only assume that most days there will be a huge crowd. I wish I could tell you the best day or time of day to visit. Again, I can only assume that early morning when they first open would be best.
While on the Skydeck we enjoyed seeing the clouds roll in and pass through the tall buildings below. While riding the elevator the kids laughed as their ears popped.
This adventure can be quite pricey. That’s why we didn’t want to include it in our initial itinerary. If you get a CityPass or a Go Chicago Card they will often include the Willis Tower as an attraction or they’ll provide a discount of some sort.
I still think the Willis Tower is the tallest 😉 http://theskydeck.com
Here is our video exploring the Willis Tower.