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.

Inspiration

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.

Admission

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?
    $19.50
  • 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

Jim was an excellent docent who brought the buildings alive.

Our experience far exceeded our expectations thanks primarily to Jim, the docent who captured our attention and provided very important information that to we as Chicagoans was unknown. He integrated the cultural, historical and social aspects of the buildings and how they evolved. It was exciting to hear the information that will be remembered until our next tour.

Chicago River Architecture Cruise Reviewed by Margot, 06/19/2017

Amazing Father's Day gift for my dad! He loved it, it was BEAUTIFUL!

Nick was an amazing tour guide, need more like him!!!!! I definitely will purchase again in the future.

Chicago River Architecture Cruise Reviewed by Craig, 06/19/2017

Had a fun time and learned alot about Chicago.

Guide was very knowledgeable and funny. All the employees were very friendly and professional. We were able to get some great pictures of the city.

Chicago River Architecture Cruise Reviewed by Frank, 06/14/2017

Amazing, informative, and entertaining! Don't miss this cruise.

If you want to know what you don't know, see what you don't see, and feel Chicago like it was meant to be felt, take this river cruise and be amazed and entertained.

Chicago River Architecture Cruise Reviewed by John, 06/13/2017

Educational, entertaining, and overall delightful!

Chicago's architecture is fascinating whether from a technical, historical, or cultural perspective, and our guide had a delightful, witty way of bringing all that to life! Don't miss the opportunity!

Chicago River Architecture Cruise Reviewed by Paul, 06/12/2017

Things To Do Near Willis Tower