Chicago from 103rd floor - Skydeck Chicago
Chicago from 103rd floor

Skydeck Chicago – Awesome Chicago From 103 Floor 

Though I was in Chicago attending KubeCon, the explorer in me was constantly planning to utilise the breaks in between to explore the windy city. And because I had the Chicago metro’s unlimited pass, I wasn’t worried at all as to how far I had to go. 

In this post, I’ll share my experience of going to the top of the tallest building in Chicago – Willis Tower – at Skydeck Chicago. Yes, I did get a glimpse of the Willis Tower during my Chicago river cruise tour, which by the way is one of the best to-do activities in Chicago. 

BTW, this was the tallest building I was going to until I went to the top of Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Before this, the tallest building I had been to was about 20 floors somewhere during my 3-week-long stay in Mumbai.

Anyways, let’s get into my Skydeck Chicago experience. 

From Sears Tower to Willis Tower – History of Skydeck

By now you already know how interested I am in history, so even before I walked to Skydeck, I had read quite a bit about it and let me tell you, the story is very interesting.

The story dates back to the 1970s, Sears was one of the largest departmental stores in the US and they had multiple offices in the US. It was rapidly expanding and they were looking for a new space. They were provided a few sites and out of them, this one in Chicago downtown was chosen.

Wrigley's building & St. Regis hotel near Chicago River
Wrigley’s building, Sears Tower & St. Regis Hotel near the River

The construction of the Sears Tower started in the 1970s and the Skydeck Chicago observation deck was opened to the public in 1974 – Yes 1974! And for 25 years, the Sears Tower was the tallest building in the world. Over the next few years, the tower changed hands quite a few times and Sears lost the naming rights to the tower. Finally, the Willis group got the naming right and since then this was called Willis Tower. Even though a lot of people still called it Sears Tower for a few years. 

Skydeck Chicago – The Experience

Willis Tower can be spotted from almost anywhere in Chicago and I preferred walking to the building. I enjoyed walking through the bylanes of downtown before reaching Skydeck. I bought an online ticket from Tiqets for $36 while you can get it for $43 from the Skydeck website. You can also get the Chicago City Pass to get a better deal. 

Note: There are general tickets and expedited entry tickets available. I took the general one as they were cheaper and also I had time at hand.  And the tickets are almost double the price. Further, I’d recommend taking the general one, you’ll find out why in the following section.

I chose 9:00 AM to visit the tower, luckily there wasn’t much crowd at that time. I was among the first few who reached the tower early and I had to wait for the gates to open. Since I had the general ticket, I followed the queue. First, they’ll take a photo of you with a green screen which you can purchase once you’re back. I didn’t get them and walked past it.

Chicago Experience

One of the reasons why you should take the general ticket is for the Chicago experience that you get. You walk past the history and evolution of the city showcasing the culture of the city. You’re first taken through the Chicago Riverwalk where they’ve shown all the buildings and their stories. If you’ve done the river cruise, this won’t be new, but the way they’ve shown was pretty good.

Later, there’s a section on the sounds of Chicago. This is one of the one-of-a-kind experiences that I experienced for the first time. They have made 4 sections each with different places in Chicago. Grant park, Pritzker pavilion, House of blues and Andy’s Jazz club. As you stand in front of any section, the music of that place plays. So if you’re in front of Andy’s Jazz Club, you’ll suddenly listen to Jazz music. 

Arriving at Skydeck Chicago
Arriving at Skydeck Chicago

There are a few more sections that talk about the food of Chicago, the Chicago hot dog, the Chicago deep dish pizza and even the stand-up comedy scene. There’s also the Chicago metro experience which is pretty nice. Since I was already using the metro for so many days, I can vouch this was a pretty good experience. 

Soon I reached the elevator of Skydeck Chicago. It took me about 15-20 minutes to reach the elevator from the start point.  The elevator was almost empty when I got it and within about a minute I was from G-2 floor to 103rd – and after having popped ears, I was super excited for the view. 

At The Top – Bird’s Eye View Of Chicago

As soon as I exited the elevator all I could see was a bright blue sky, with extreme brightness as the sun was shining bright. The first view I get to the city from the top and I spot McCormick Place – the place where KubeCon took place. I walked around from pane to pane looking at the buildings and finding places that I had visited earlier. From Wrigley’s Park and the Bean to Navy Pier and the mighty Michigan Lake

The view from the top is just brilliant, especially the downtown area where you can spot buildings from the yesteryears as well as the modern ones. As soon as you move towards the left, the towering skyscrapers make way for the flat grounds with the O’Hare airport, Glenview and other places. One thing that you’ll also notice is a lot of flights in the sky – Chicago surely has one of the busiest skies that I’ve ever seen. 

Chicago from 103rd floor - Skydeck Chicago
Chicago from 103rd floor

Move further left and you reach the famous edge. These are 4 rectangular glass sections that stick out of the building giving one of the best views from the top. These glass cabins are retractable and can go in and out of the building. There’s some waiting time here, but it’s relatively very quick.

You’re given a minute in the glass cubicle to experience the city beneath your legs from the 103rd floor. Trust me, I was super scared to take the first few steps just looking at the tiny cars and roads at the bottom. I eventually took a deep breath and took a few steps. The feeling of walking over the city on the 103rd floor was surreal. It was scary but super fun. There’s even a camera if you want your photo to be clicked by them, it’s charged. I simply gave them my phone to click a few pictures and I’d say they did a decent job.

Edge Skydeck Chicago
Edge Skydeck Chicago

Post that there’s a store where you can buy souvenirs and head down. Though they say it’s a timed entry and visit, it didn’t feel like one. I saw a few folks take another round of the Skydeck as well. Anyways, you can take the elevator back to the ground and this time you’ll exit from another souvenir store. I purchased a few fridge magnets and a Chicago Bean keychain from here.

Experience Chicago From 103rd Floor

For someone who’s never been to the top of such a tall building, this is a pretty good experience. Everything from the Chicago experience that leads to the elevator to the in-elevator experience is pretty good. The views from the top are pretty amazing. I’m sure you’d get a different view in the evening, but since I had my flight to New York in the event, I chose the first slot.

If you’re visiting Chicago either on a vacation or a business trip, do try to spend about an hour at Skydeck Chicago and experience the rich architecture of the city. From modern skyscrapers to the ones from the yesteryears, you’ll be left in awe. That’s about it for this blog post.

About Atulmaharaj

A seasoned blogger and a content marketer for close to a decade now. I write about Food, Technology, Lifestyle, Travel, and Finance related posts. Blogging brings me joy and the best part is I get to read and e-meet so many amazing bloggers! PS: I'm also the founder for Socialmaharaj.com :) Favorite Quote: "Traveling is like reading a book, one who hasn't traveled, hasn't turned a page.

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One comment

  1. I will definitely visit this place if i ever visit Chicago.

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