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

Fantastic cruise with a passionate and knowledgeable guide

Our tour guide was so passionate and knowledgeable about the architecture of key buildings in the city and even had images of proposed and approved new buildings on key sites. So interesting. I'd highly recommend the architecture cruise.

Chicago River Architecture Cruise Reviewed by Linds, 11/26/2017

Very informative guide Jim....entertaining and learned a lot.

Jim was the best. What a great tour. Learned so much about the history and people of beautiful Chicago.

Chicago River Architecture Cruise Reviewed by Terrance, 11/10/2017

Don’t miss it! This tour put everything into perspective for me.

Blake gave an excellent presentation. He was interesting and certainly well informed. And his delivery was smooth. Thank you for making a worthwhile tour even more terrific!

Chicago River Architecture Cruise Reviewed by Helen, 10/19/2017

Great trip that everyone should take whether a resident or tourist.

Our tour guide was very entertaining and knowledgeable. The trip was great, wonderful weather and the architecture amazing. We enjoyed our boat ride exploring the city.

Chicago River Architecture Cruise Reviewed by Ann, 10/16/2017

Wonderful Tour--Rachael was the best guide ever!!!

I highly recommend the evening tour when it is is starting to get dark. Seeing the buildings in the daylight and then light by night was great. It is all about the guide--Rachael (think she spelled it differently) was absolutely amazing. She really new her history and had an appreciation of the architects/architecture. You can tell she just really loves what she does.

Chicago River Architecture Cruise Reviewed by Scott, 10/14/2017

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