Willis Tower (Formerly Sears Tower), Chicago

4.5 out of 5 stars 110 Reviews

233 S. Wacker Drive

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  • Willis Tower from Hancock Observatory
    Willis Tower from Hancock Observatory
    by goodfish
  • Willis Tower (Formerly Sears Tower)
    by Skibbe
  • 1450 FEET ABOVE THE STREET..DONT LOOK DOWN !!!
    1450 FEET ABOVE THE STREET..DONT LOOK...
    by DennyP
  • jlanza29's Profile Photo

    Be ready to wait, and wait and wait !!!!

    by jlanza29 Written Feb 9, 2010

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    The view from the top on a clear day

    Ok, The Sears tower or Willis Tower whatever you want to call it, is another must do Chicago expriences, but be forwarned your gonna wait and wait and wait... the lines to get here on a clear day are known to be 3 to 4 hours long !!!! The price to get to the top observation deck is $15 per person but if your limited on time you can purchase the express pass for $30 each but your still gonna wait, maybe not 3 to 4 hours but at least 1 hour to get to the elevators to take you up...once in the elevator's it's a quick 60 seconds to the top.... the views are amazing and well worth the wait on a clear day !!!!!

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  • Toughluck's Profile Photo

    Tall buildings

    by Toughluck Updated Jan 6, 2010

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    The Willis Tower, formerly named Sears Tower and the Hancock Tower are the two tallest (until the Trump Tower is built) in the city. It is a 108-story 1,450 feet (442 m) skyscraper in When it was completed in 1973 it was the tallest building in the world. Currently, it is the tallest building in the U.S. and the fifth-tallest freestanding structure in the world.

    In March 2009 the Willis Group Holdings, Ltd., (London-based insurance broker) lease a portion of the building and obtained the building's naming rights as part of the agreement. On July 16, 2009, the building was officially renamed Willis Tower.

    Skydeck Chicago opened as The Sears Tower Skydeck observation deck in 1974. It's on the 103rd floor at 1,353 feet (412 m) above the ground. From the 103rd floor, you can see weest across Illinois and east across Lake Michiga. On a clear day, you can see parts of Wisconsin, Indiana, and Michigan. The elevator takes just over a minute to reach the 103rd floor.

    In July of 2009, the Skydeck opened the glass balconies. These all glass balconies extend four feet over Wacker Drive 1,353 feet (412 m) below. The all-glass boxes allow visitors to look through the floor to the street . A second Skydeck on the 99th floor is used when the 103rd floor is closed. The tourist entrance is on Jackson Boulevard side of the building.

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    Willis Tower

    by staindesign Written Nov 28, 2009

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    Everyone knows about this beloved attraction in Chicago. I just had to visit because of the new addition of the all glass look out observation areas. It is true amazing, the first step is pretty difficult to take. Don't look down just walk out there. The glass walls, ceilings, and floors provide an intense feeling looking down 103 floors below your feet. It is wild to see all of the people in the glass boxes doing push ups, lying down, and being to freaked to walk out.

    $15 plus 1.5 hrs of waiting in line will get you to the top. It is worth it. The nice thing is that the way they have set it up you never realize that the line is so long. You'll go through a few snakings of a line, then turn a corner into another room of snaking lines, then another. I'll admit i got excited to get in the elevator around every corner. Either way, the view is amazing. You can't leave Chicago without walking out on those glass floors!

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  • Bwana_Brown's Profile Photo

    Sears Tower - the tallest of them all!

    by Bwana_Brown Updated Nov 21, 2009

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    As close as I got to the Sears Tower
    1 more image

    When it was completed in 1973, at 1457-ft the Sears Tower became the world's tallest building as it surpassed New York's World Trade Center by 85-feet. If you don't count the communications masts on top of many of the world's tallest buildings, it held that title for 31 years until completion of the 1667-ft Taipai 101 building in Taipai, Taiwan in 2004.

    Unlike its two nearest competitors in Chicago, the rectangular shaped Aon and the gently tapering John Hancock, the Sears tower is constructed out of nine individually reinforced steel tubes. All nine of these rise to the 49th floor to provide a solid base for the structure as seven of them continue upward to the 65th floor. Two more stop there and the remaining five rise to the 90th floor in the shape of a crucifix before the final two, creating a rectangle, reach the top - 110 floors up. In addition to providing great strength against wind loading, the different levels at which various tubes end provides the Sears Tower with differing appearances depending on which direction from which it is viewed. Observation decks on the 99th and 103rd floors continue to be a toursist draw in Chicago, but it was too far off my beaten path on this trip as I settled for the view from the more centrally located John Hancock Center.

    The fortunes of the Sears company began to flag shortly after it was built and by 1995 Sears had moved out completely as it was taken over by more than one hundred tenants including major law firms, insurance companies and financial services firms. It changed hands in 2009 and was re-named the Willis Tower.

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  • Skibbe's Profile Photo

    Sears Willis Tower

    by Skibbe Written Sep 19, 2009

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    The Ledge on the Sky Deck is what makes this trip the most fun. You find yourself wondering just how secure you are as you hang over all the shorter skyscrapers. Children are the most fun to watch at it as they sense something just isn't right here.

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  • Dabs's Profile Photo

    Top 10-Sears (Willis) Tower

    by Dabs Updated Jul 25, 2009

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    Sears (Willis) Tower
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    **2009 update-the Sears Tower officially changed it's name to the Willis Tower on July 16, 2009, now named after the UK based insurance company that is leasing a large portion of the building and was granted naming rights as part of the deal. As with many Chicago landmarks that have changed names over the years, I suspect the locals will continue to call it the Sears Tower. Or maybe we'll just start calling it "the Big Willy"...**

    If I was going to choose one of Chicago's buildings to go up in for the view, I would pick the Hancock which I think has the better view since it is right on the lakefront and is more convenient to where most people stay when visiting. Plus you can skip the observatory at the Hancock and go to the lounge for a drink for roughly the same price. But many people want to visit one of the world's tallest buildings on a visit to Chicago so this often tops the list of where people want to go.

    Until the Petronas Towers in Malaysia were built, the then named Sears Tower laid claim to being the world's tallest building at 1,450 feet. There has been much debate over whether the 111 foot decorative spires on the Petronas Towers should be counted. And then there are those that claim that the CN Tower in Toronto is the tallest but others say that it's not technically a building. And if you count the radio masts on the top of the Sears (Willis) Tower......

    Well, I'll leave that for other people to bicker about.....

    The building stands 1,450 feet tall, has 110 stories. It was designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, took 3 years and over $150 million to build. It was completed in 1973. The building was named for Sears Roebuck & Co but they no longer maintained their corporate offices in this building at the time of the name change to Willis Tower.

    Visitors can go up to the Skydeck on the 103rd Floor. On a clear day you are supposed to be able to see four states-Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan-but it's not like there's any kind of distinct border. On July 2, 2009, The Ledge, a series of glass bays that extend from the building’s 103rd floor, opened to the public for a different viewing experience.

    The website suggests going after 4 pm when it is less busy. On my last visit in July 2006, we went shortly after it opened and there wasn't much of a line at all. My 13 year old niece, who really wanted to go, seemed bored after about 2 sides, I thought it was kind of fun picking out the landmarks.

    Of course, you don't want to go on a cloudy day!

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  • riorich55's Profile Photo

    Chicago's Tallest Building On A Beatiful Day

    by riorich55 Updated Jul 23, 2009

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    The Sears Tower
    1 more image

    If you are visiting Chicago on a clear day you should go to the top of the Sears Tower to get a fantastic view of the city and Lake Michigan. And even if you don't get to the top you can get some great photo views of the Sears Tower and other Chicago High Rises.

    UPDATE: THURSDAY JUNE 16, 2009 - THE NEW NAME OF THIS BUILDING IS THE WILLIS TOWER. Although if you are in town and ask most people from the area just ask for the Sears Tower.

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  • white_smallstar's Profile Photo

    SEARS TOWER or WILLIS TOWER?

    by white_smallstar Updated Jul 18, 2009

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    Sears Tower's new name makes few inroads with the locals.

    Click here to read more news items.... News July 17, 2009 (Chicago Tribune)

    'Willis Tower' name will live in shadow of 'Sears Tower'

    With name change, Sears Tower -- and Chicago -- losing sense of identity

    ... and here to watch the video

    Where is Willis Tower?

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  • hunterV's Profile Photo

    Visiting the Observation Platform

    by hunterV Updated Jul 16, 2009

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    Our group at Sears Tower, Chicago
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    Visit the observation platform at Sears Tower/ now Willis Tower (starting with July 16, 2009).
    The building is 110 storeys above ground.
    There is a wonderful view of the city and neighborhood from the observation platform here.
    We were surprized by the quick and effective elevator and the wonderful views from the observation platform.
    We only had to stand a big line before riding up the platform.
    I am sorry my only picture of the city that I made at the obsevation platform did not come out well...
    The former Sears Tower is 442 meters high, with the spire - 527 meters.
    It used to be the woprld's highest building (from 1973 till 1998) until the famous Petronas was built in Malaysia.

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  • BeatChick's Profile Photo

    Glimpses of Sears Tower Everywhere You Go!

    by BeatChick Updated Jun 28, 2009

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    Looking SE to Sears Tower from John Hancock Bldg
    4 more images

    Since the demise of the World Trade Center in NYC, Sears Tower in Chicago again tops the list as the tallest building not just in the US but in North America, which makes it the 3rd tallest building in the world! Wonder how tall it actually is? It's 110 stories standing tall at 1,450 feet.

    No doubt, you'll be greeted with this wonder as I was when arriving into Chicago from the east. You'll also capture glimpses of it as you're walking around the city. An amazing sight, it is!

    Although there is a deck at the top which affords gorgeous views of the city, I took Dabs excellent advice and instead viewed Sears Tower from the bar of the John Hancock which is the 3rd tallest building in Chicago.

    Photos: June 2009; March & May 2008

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  • John195123's Profile Photo

    Sears Tower, Tallest No More

    by John195123 Updated Jan 21, 2009

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    Sears Tower from the Shedd Aquarium
    1 more image

    While the Sears Tower isn't the tallest building in the world any more, like the Chevrolet Suburban and the Boeing 747, it was still the first biggest of its kind. I've never been up to the observation level, nor do I particularly care to- just doesn't interest me. But, as far as I know, you can visit it. In my mind, the tower is better viewed from a distance where you can get a sense of its size in relation to surrounding buildings.

    Two images.

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  • Sears Tower, Still the Tallest Building!

    by opalzebra3 Written Dec 6, 2008
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    We drove from northern Ohio to Chicago last November 2008 and the Sears Tower was the first sight that greeted us as we approached the city from I-90. Designed by Bruce Graham of Skidmore Owings and Merrill, the Sears Tower at 1,450 feet still stands as the tallest building in the world. There is much debate of how to measure the tallest buildings but if measured in terms of habitable space i.e. from sidewalk to the roof, the Sears Tower is still the tallest in the world since the 1,670-foot Taipeh 101 ranks as the tallest only if the spires are counted. Incidentally, Bruce Graham also designed the John Hancock at the north side of the Chicago Magnificent Mile. Entrance fee to the Sears Skydeck is $12.95. A great view of the Sears Tower can also be had from Lake Michigan while on the Wendella boat tour. You can view Chicago from all sides at the Skydeck. There are also photos of famous Chicago personalities like Harrison Ford, the Blues Brothers and Michael Jordan. I guess they will add President Obama soon.

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  • Jefie's Profile Photo

    The tallest building in North America

    by Jefie Written Oct 26, 2008

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    Sears Tower in downtown Chicago
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    When it was completed in 1973, Sears Tower was the world's tallest building, standing at 442 m tall. It held that title for 25 years, until the Petronas Twin Towers were completed in 1998 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Sears Tower still remains the tallest building in North America, and the world's tallest building from the base to the tip of the antenna (527 m), but who knows how long that will last?

    In any case, Sears Tower was born thanks to the imagination and skills of two men: chief architect Bruce Graham and structural engineer Fazlur Khan. In 1969, Sears, Roebuck & Co. was the largest retailer in the world. At the time, its 350,000 employees were scattered in different offices throughout the Chicago area, and with optimistic predictions for the future of the company, Sears decided to reunite all the employees into what was to become the world's tallest office building. The story goes that Graham and Khan came up with the design one night as they were smoking and having a drink. They realized that although it was easy to break one cigarette, putting 7-8 cigarettes together in a bunch made it much more difficult to break them. Sears Tower was therefore designed as nine towers of different heights all bunched together, making it possible to reach an unprecedented height. While the construction of the building was a successful enterprise, Sears' optimistic predictions never fully materialized and for years the building was left half-empty. In 1992, the company began moving out and although the name "Sears Tower" will remain, the company left the building entirely in 1995.

    The Sears Tower Skydeck, located on the 103rd floor of the building, opened in 1974 and remains one of the major attractions in Chicago with 1.3 million visitors every year. It is 98 m taller than the John Hancock Observatory located just a mile away on North Michigan Avenue. Because I'd already been to the John Hancock Observatory I decided to skip on the Sears Tower Skydeck this time around, saving it for my next trip to Chicago :o)

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  • bladedragon's Profile Photo

    Sears Tower

    by bladedragon Updated Aug 25, 2008
    Sears Tower
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    If you buy a city pass, you will have to choose between Sears Tower or John Hancock Tower.
    We chose to use it on Sears Tower and have a dinner on John Hancock.
    From this tower you can get a 360 degree view of Chicago which is pretty impressive from above.
    You can also see John Hancock Tower further north.

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  • Mairo21's Profile Photo

    What a view!

    by Mairo21 Written Dec 25, 2007

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    I love tall buildings. I could spend hours upon hours on an observation deck staring down upon the scenery below. The taller the building the better... and so a visit to this building was definitely a must! A triumph of ingenuity and innovation, the Sears Tower stands tallest among the Chicago skyline. Standing at a height of 1,450 feet high, Sears Tower is the tallest building in North America and the third tallest building in the world behind the second tallest building in Malaysia, and the first tallest building located in Taipei. Access the SKYDECK to appreciate the view. A quick ride to the top, with rewards of some of the most breathtaking views. To view admission prices and hours of operation view the website below.

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Comments (1)

  • Jan 15, 2013 at 1:05 AM

    I’ve on the Sears Tower on Saint Patrick’s Day. I was kind of surprised to see a green Chicago River. I didn’t know that this is a long tradition for Chicago. Crazy folks! :D

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