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.

Our insider 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 should I visit?
    April - Sept: 9:00AM - 10:00PM |
    Oct - March: 10:00AM - 8:00PM
  • Is it expensive?
  • 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 information
    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

Great way to discover Chicago Architecture

Great way to discover Chicago Architecture. Unfortunately only one language available - English, but guide was excellent.

Chicago River Architecture Cruise Reviewed by Martine, 08/02/2018

Had a fabulous time! Highly recommend it.

Docent, Jim, on the Evening Star was excellent, knowledgable and funny and the attendants very helpful, especially Tara and Cory. Answered our questions with a smile and very personable.

Chicago River Architecture Cruise Reviewed by PAULA, 07/28/2018

Absolutely perfect, would recommend it to anyone.

Our tour was with a Spanish guide, and he was an Architect so he explained all the sights and buildings with much detail and technical knowledge, but at the same time making it entertaining and pleasing.

Chicago River Architecture Cruise Reviewed by Daniel, 07/21/2018

Really enjoyed the whole experience, especially Steve!

I would encourage anyone to go on this tour. It was wonderful, informative, educational, and lots of fun. The entire staff on our boat was very helpful and just so enjoyable!

Wonderful river tour of a beautiful city

Everything went perfectly. Comfortable seats. Boarding was easy. Tour guide was good. Staff was attentive. Easy to find the boarding location. Bathrooms on boat were large and clean. We went at dusk just as the buildings were being lit up and that was a great time to go. Just a wonderful experience.

Chicago River Architecture Cruise Reviewed by Jeffrey, 07/09/2018

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