Updated: May 21, 2015
Sears Tower / Willis Tower - Chicago's Famous Landmark SkyscraperEven when the World Trade Center twin towers were still standing, they would have been dwarfed by Chicago's Sears Tower, now the second tallest (since the Freedom Tower replaced the WTC) building in the USA. The company Sears has lost some of its luster over the years - young folk might even wonder what the "sears" in Sears Tower stands for. But when the skyscraper was built in the early 1970's, Sears was much like the WalMart of today, the largest retailer in the land with hundreds of thousands of employees. They built the tower to house all their Chicago-area employees. Today, the tower stands in downtown Chicago and welcomes over 1 million tourists per year to see the sites from the observation deck. Naming rights were sold in 2009 to the insurance company named Willis Group - and it has been the Willis Tower ever since.. In this guide, we will find out more about the Sears tower - tours, ticket prices, restaurants, maps, facts and figures, etc.
Sears/Willis Tower FactsThe Willis Tower was completed in 1973, and stands 108 stories tall (management claims 110 stories). It offers nearly 4 million square feet of office. How tall is the Sears Tower? How does 1450 feet sound? With the antenna on top, it stretches to 1725 feet. With no major mountain ranges in Illinois, you will be standing on the highest point in the state when on top! It was the tallest building in the world for some time (taller than the WTC), but it was overtaken by the ambitious building projects of the Far East, namely the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lampur, but several more have since passed it up as well. It cost around $175 million dollars to build at the time -- Sears has since sold the building and moved out, and the Tower sold as recently as 1997 for over $800M. The observation deck is called the SkyDeck, located on the 103rd floor (over 1300 feet up!). It is an exclosed observation space, with windows all around. Unlike the single column design of the of World Trade Center, the Sears Tower design is built around 9 square tubes of varying heights, allowing the building to be narrower at the top and not loom so heavily over the street. The street address of the tower is 233 South Wacker Drive.
The huge twin antennae on top are the broadcasting home of more than a dozen TV and radio stations that blanked the Chicago metro area. How much does the Sears Tower weigh? Get ready.... 222,000 tons! What about window washing? Six robotic window washers are responsible for cleaning over 16,000 windows - whew!
Visiting the Sears Tower - Tickets, Observation Deck, HoursThe official Sears Tower website is here: www.thesearstower.com. The observation deck is called the Skydeck, and their website is The-Skydeck.com. The Skydeck features exhibits about Chicago and the Sears Tower, interactive computer kiosks that inform about other popular Chicago tourist sites, along with breathtaking views from the walls of glass all around the perimeter. What are the Skydeck hours? The Skydeck is open from 10AM daily until 10PM (you must arrive at least 30 minutes prior to closing time). Late afternoon hours are the best time to visit with the fewest crowds and the chance to watch some nice sunsets and see the lights come up around the city. Ticket prices.. Adult tickets (age 12-64) are $12.95, Youths (3-11) are $9.50, and children under 3 are free. You can buy tickets in advance from their website -- but note that tickets must be used on the date you choose (you can't use them any day during your vacation -- if you aren't sure what day you will go, wait to buy tickets on site). Directions for getting to the Sears Tower are pretty easy -- it is right on Wacker St, at the intersection of Jackson. Entrance is on Jackson, between Wacker and Franklin (on the west side of the downtown loop). Parking is available on Franklin, just past Jackson. There are a number of restaurants inside the Sears Tower, from the simple to the elegant, including Tierra del Sol, Dos Hermanos, Mia Torre, Stacks, Tastebuds, and Corner Bakery.
Obviously, the best days to visit are days with good visibility when you can see for 50 miles or more. However, the real view is of the city around you and the other skyscrapers, so even with limited visibility of just a mile or so, it is still pretty spectacular. With the World Trade Center gone, how can you pass by the chance to stand on the tallest building in the US? It may not always be here.. We have so many fond memories of visits taken to the WTC before 9/11 - see the Tower today if you visit Chicago.