Imagine standing on thin air, more than 1,300 feet above the ground.
Now imagine you’re not standing on thin air, but on three layers of half-inch thick pieces of glass jutting out from the 103rd floor of what once was the tallest building in the world.
Now imagine not just standing on that glass, but sitting on it, laying on it, even doing a handstand on it.
Intrigued? You should be.
The Ledge at the Skydeck at Chicago’s Willis Tower (better known to most as the Sears Tower) gives you the unique opportunity to step out from the tower and enjoy the view straight down.
I visited the Ledge for the first time last week (and the Skydeck for only the second time), thanks to a private tour from the manager. As soon as we began, he assured me that I am not unusual among Chicago residents in that I have only been to the Willis Tower Skydeck once in 12 years. It can be easy to ignore what is sitting in your own backyard – even if it does dominate the skyline. It wasn’t long before I realized what I was missing.
Thanks to an extensive renovation of the lower level a few years ago, a visit to the Skydeck is now much more than just checking out the view. As you make your way up to the Skydeck, you can also explore Chicago through a series of interactive exhibits. Check out simulated Ledge views above some of Chicago’s most popular attractions. Challenge yourself with Chicago trivia. See how many of you it would take to measure up to the height of the Willis Tower (it would take 360 of me!) and compare the height of the tower to other major landmarks around the world. Study a map to figure out exactly what you’ll be gazing at in the four states that are visible from the Skydeck on a clear day. Finally, enjoy an optional nine-minute video about the history of the tower and the creation of the Ledge.
Overall, I was really impressed with the experience they have created for visitors to the Skydeck. The exhibits really give you an appreciation for the height of the tower and the map explaining what you can see from the tower was incredibly helpful. I loved the emphasis that they put on Chicago’s history as well, highlighting famous Chicagoans, Chicago music and Chicago sports. The best part is that you can go at your own pace – the manager estimated that close to 20% of visitors take the time to peruse all of the lower level exhibits before heading up to the Skydeck.
The elevator ride up to the Skydeck is a smooth one, taking just 60 seconds to get to the top. Around 300 people are allowed in the Skydeck at any given time, significantly lower than its maximum capacity, which means you avoid feeling too crowded. The Ledge sits on the west side of the building and is actually four balconies that protrude from the building. Why the west side? Because it’s the only side of the building where you can get a view straight down – the others have shorter towers below which impede the view.
Some other fun facts about the Willis Tower and the Skydeck:
- The shorter towers have been used in movies; Christian Bale stood on the roof of one of the towers during the filming of the Dark Knight and stuntmen parachuted off the same one in Transformers 3.
- The building has more than 44,000 miles of wiring, enough to cross the United States 15 times.
- Around 100 tenants occupy the building, with United Airlines being the largest.
- More than 550 weddings and countless marriage proposals have taken place at the Ledge.
- You can have breakfast at the Ledge for just $125 per person, which includes a fully catered meal from the Metropolitan Club before the Skydeck opens to the public.
- The Skydeck is open 365 days a year and rarely, if ever, closes for bad weather.
Want to check out the Skydeck and the Ledge?
Enter below to win 2 free passes and you and a friend can skip the lines and see it all for yourself! It’s easy to enter – just like my Facebook page, follow me on Twitter and/or share this giveaway on Twitter.
I’ll be giving 2 sets of 2 passes, so there will be 2 lucky winners! Enter before 11:59 p.m. Central time on Sunday, August 18 to be eligible.