Whilst visiting the fab city that is Chicago (more on that here), we couldn’t resist heading up to the Skydeck of the Willis Tower and seeing Chicago from above. Our last morning in the city was pretty clear so we hotfooted it downtown and up the 103 floors to the top before the clouds moved in.
The Willis Tower is 1,450 feet high (that’s 443 meters to you Europeans) which stretches to 1,730 feet (520 meters) including the twin antenna towers. It’s the eight tallest building in the world and the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, standing at 110 stories tall. That’s also the equivalent of 283 Barack Obamas, 313 Oprah Winfreys and 262 Michael Jordans – don’t say I never give you any fun facts!
After reading some more fun facts and comparing the size of the tower to some of the world’s other tall buildings and great wonders such as the Pyramids of Giza, the Empire State and the Taj Mahal, we jumped in the lift and headed up to the Skydeck on the 103rd floor.
Now, the Skydeck is the highest observation deck in the United States, forget the Rockefella Center and the Empire State in New York – this one beats them all at 1,353 feet (412 meters) above the ground. And the coolest thing about this observation deck – there are three glass ledges (or boxes) that you can walk out onto (or into). This I was dying to do but first we checked out some of the views as we made our way to the glass boxes. On a clear day, you can see four states from this observation deck – Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan. I’d love to tell you it was so clear I could see all four but I really don’t have a clue! I guess I spotted Illinois and Michigan but I’m not too sure on the others! What I will tell you though, is that the views are pretty spectacular:
On a clear day, you can see four states – Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan, but, the greatest part of the trip up the tower is the Skydeck Ledge. The Ledge is a glass box that extends out 4.3 feet from the Skydeck and weighs 7,500 lbs. It’s made up of three layers of half-inch thick glass that’s laminated into one seamless unit. It has a thin top layer of glass that assures a clear view 1,353 feet down – a little scary, right? However, these things can withstand four tons of pressure and can hold 10,000 lbs so not much chance of them breaking and crashing to the floor! The coating on one of the boxes once cracked as a group of tourists stepped out onto it but, apparently, it wasn’t anything structural and just the thin layer of glass which prevents scratches. Still, I reckon it was pretty scary for that group of tourists!
Taking those first steps onto the glass Ledge is a little daunting, your head says that it’s impossible and you’re going to fall straight to the ground. I hovered for a few seconds before taking the plunge and stepping out, and, once you’ve done it, it’s amazing! You can look straight down to the ground, take some fab pictures where you look like you’re floating over a thousand feet in the air and of course, see some breathtaking views and take some great pictures!
Definitely an experience not to be missed and something I would love to do again if I make it back to Chicago – I’m sure the views are different depending on the time of year!
Have you been to the top of the Willis Tower and taken those scary first steps onto the Ledge? What did you think?