Willis Tower
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Willis Tower: Tours & Tickets

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5 Architecture Facts About the Willis Tower

For almost 25 years the Willis Tower, more commonly known as Sears Tower, held the title for the tallest building in the U.S. Second place isn’t bad, right? And as the 12th tallest in the world at a height of 1,451 feet, it is Chicago’s most beloved skyscraper.

Commissioning The Building

In order to house their rapidly growing company, Sears commissioned architects Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in 1969. Architect Bruce Graham and engineer Fazlur Rahman Kahn led.

Advancements in Architecture

The Willis Tower was the first to ever use a bundled tube structure. Kahn’s design was so revolutionary that it was later used for the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa.


Graham’s design was inspired by a cigarette ad. He demonstrated the concept to a colleague by pulling cigarettes out of a pack to illustrate the 9 tubes at different heights.

How was it Built

Construction began in April of 1971 and was finished by May 1973. Economically efficient for a building its size, the cost to build was $150 million, about $800 million today.

The Skydeck

Willis Tower’s observation deck is what makes it celebrated. At 1,353 feet, visitors can feel the building sway on a windy day and see over the plains of Illinois on a clear day.

Willis Tower: Our Tips

Where is it

The address of Willis Tower is 233 South Wacker Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60606. Public transportation is easy because it's in such a central location -- off Blue, Brown, Orange, Pink, Purple and Red Lines on the ‘L.

Where to Park

Parking is available at 221 W. Adams, and purchasing a parking card in advance online will get you a discount.

When to Go

Skydeck Chicago is open 365 days a year from 9AM to 10PM April through September and 10AM to 8PM October through March. View at night for the romantic glittering cityscape, by day for the sweeping view of Lake Michigan.


The basic price for adult admission is $19.50. A variety of ticketing bundles with other Chicago attractions, like a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago, are available.

Good to Know

  • When to visit
    April - Sept: 9:00AM - 10:00PM | Oct - March: 10:00AM - 8:00PM
  • What is the price?
  • Will I need a guide?
    Nope, but they are available if you want special insights into the building and its surroundings.
  • How to get there
    Take the L, walk, or drive.
  • Additional tips
    As with other spectacular views, the best times to visit the SkyDeck are in the early morning and around sunset.

What People Are Saying About Willis Tower

Wonderful, entertaining and educational!

The architecture cruise is a trip down the 3 branches of the Chicago River while your guide points out relevant buildings and elements of architecture that are historically and otherwise significant. Our guide, Kevin, is a true Renaissance man. He was able to relate the architectural elements with the history of the period, the politics of the period, and the science and engineering necessary to make the architecture happen. At the end of the cruise, he produced a harmonica and began playing an authentic Chicago blues riff while singing an architecture song that I'm sure he wrote. Not only did he teach, he made the architecture come alive! It would be impossible for anyone to see Chicago in the same way after taking his guided cruise. Very highly recommended! Enjoy! I hope you have a similar experience.

Chicago River Architecture Cruise Reviewed by Brian, 08/22/2017

The scenery of the Chicago skyline at night is outstanding.

The ride was smooth and the pilot did an outstanding job explaining the historical sites in Chicago from the above.

Chicago: Helicopter Night Flight Experience Reviewed by Sohrab, 08/21/2017

i brought a group of 13 Italian friends, they were very happy as me!

I was bringing 12 friend from Italy to Chicago, they were really impressed of Chicago tour thus positive impressed of the overall organization. I would only provide some tour translator for those who do not understand the english explanation.

Chicago River Architecture Cruise Reviewed by Rosetta, 08/21/2017

It was a breathtaking awesome experience.

The skydeck experience gives you the chance to truly see all of Chicago and the surrounding communities. I highly recommend it

Chicago Skydeck Experience Ticket Reviewed by Paul, 08/18/2017

Excellent value to enjoy all the major attractions in Chicago

Very good value, and good customer service. Was caught out though, by the restriction of one boat tour per day.

Go Chicago Card: All-Inclusive Attraction Pass Reviewed by Shane, 08/04/2017

Things To Do Near Willis Tower