Willis Tower

Chicago's Willis Tower (the former Sears Tower) is located on Wacker Drive in the heart of the West Loop. It is home to the city largest corporations as well as the London, England Willis Group Holdings, for which the building was renamed in 2009. There are also commuter rail stations located here. Upon its completion in early 1973, what was then the Sears Tower became famous for its attractive and contemporary 110-story trophy office tower consisting of steel columns and beams. The Sears Tower also has 16,100 bronze-tinted windows.

Sears Tower Skydeck
Sears Tower Skydeck

The Willis Tower Chicago stands at 1,450 feet. It is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the Chicago skyline. Until the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia were built in 1998, the Sears Tower  held the record for the world's tallest building. The Chicago Skydeck at Willis Tower is on the 103rd floor stands at 1,353 feet above ground. It is one of the most famous Chicago tourist attractions. From the top of the Chicago Skydeck, visitors can experience how the building sways on a windy day in this "Windy City." On a clear day, you will be able to see the Great Plains of Illinois as well as the area across from Lake Michigan. You can also see Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan. The ride to the top of the Skydeck takes only 45 seconds. If you are taking a family vacation, your kids will love knee-high kids window. High-powered telescopes allow you to see every detail. A bit of Chicago trivia: The Willis Tower Chicago Skydeck was featured in the movie, Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

In addition to the great views from the Skydeck at Willis Tower, you can enjoy a variety of interactive, museum-quality exhibits. Every turn gives you a chance to explore Chicago's history and historic characters. In fact, the history of the Willis Tower is quite interesting in itself.

Willis Tower History

Willis Tower
Willis Tower

In 1969 Sears, Roebuck & Co. was the largest retailer in the world. Sears executives decided to consolidate the thousands of Chicago employees into one building on the Chicago Loop. They knew that initially, they would require about three million square feet of space. However, the company had ambitious plans for expansion. Thus, they realized that they would eventually need even more space. As a solution, they decided to lease office space to smaller companies, while planning to retake these offices once the company expanded. Unfortunately, the dreams of extensive expansion turned out to be pipe dreams. Other retailing giants offered formidable competition. Eventually, Sears moved their offices to Hoffman Estates, Illinois. In 2003, Sears naming rights expired. In 2009, the Willis Group Holding leased a portion of the building and purchased the naming rights at the same time.

The Chicago Architecture Foundation conducts tours of the Willis Tower Lobby. After the tour, you can visit the Sky Tower at a reduced rate, as well as a reduced waiting time.

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