The media buzz surrounding the opening of Skydeck Chicago at Sears Tower has focused on how scary it is to stand out on a ledge 103 floors above Wacker Drive in Chicago.
Admittedly, I got queasy thinking about stepping onto the glass enclosure, despite assurances that it could hold almost five tons more than the combined weight of me and my 11-year-old. We remained nervous watching a gaggle of reporters expressing their own fears to their cameramen. In fact, one reporter had to crawl Army-style just to barely peer onto the glass enclosure that juts out four feet from the building.
However, after we watched other, bolder visitors stand firm without plummeting, we slowly inched our way onto the ledge. And it was amazing. Surreal to look down between my ballet flats and see the street beneath my feet.
The Skydeck Ledge
Although built in the 1970s, the Sears Tower (soon to be renamed Willis Tower) is home to Chicago’s newest family attraction, the ledge at Skydeck Chicago. Sticking out of the black skyscraper, the ledge is actually a set of four retractable glass bays that extend out just over four feet from the tower’s west side. Visitors bold enough to defy their natural instinct to run away are treated to an unparalleled view—up to 50 miles across the horizon on a clear day—and the street 1,353 feet below.
Perhaps it’s the sheer numbers that are so intimidating. But once we felt confident in how stable the box was, I became enamored with the view. My son loved watching the clouds roll around the glass, enticing him to reach out and touch them as if there were no walls.
Inside the Skedeck
A visit to one of top floors the Sears Tower Skydeck is no longer just a field trip up to North America’s tallest building, it’s like visiting the world’s tallest museum. Skydeck Chicago has completely transformed the visitor experience. It starts with the informative displays on the ground level (it would take 262 Michael Jordans and more than 280 President Obamas to equal the height of the Sears Tower) and continues with a multimedia presentation on the ride up. Once at the 103rd floor Skydeck, visitors who can tear themselves away from (or who are too fearful to approach) the windows can learn about Chicago history.
The “Knee High” exhibit lining the inner walls of the Skydeck is great for young ones. This kid-friendly history lesson shows examples of clothes, hair styles and toys from Chicago’s early days. Mom and Dad can follow along higher up on the wall for a more adult glimpse at Chicago’s history.
The new, improved Skydeck Chicago experience is a must-see for adventurous families, those with a thirst for local history or an appreciation for architectural and engineering wonders.
The new glass ledges offer a unique experience that’s not available elsewhere in the United Sates. And if you go soon, you’ll no doubt be the first one on your block to Stand Out.
Tickets to the Skydeck, which include the ledge, are $14.95 for ages 12 and up, $10.50 for ages 3-11. For $30 each, you can get a Fast Pass that lets you bypass what is sure to be a long wait for the elevator as visitors line up to step out on the ledge.