I’m kind of a fan of hitting major tourist attractions. I know that’s not very trendy to say. But oftentimes, something has become popular for a reason, and when someone asks, “Hey, have you seen the Eiffel Tower? The Statue of Liberty? The insert-iconic-attraction-here?” you can say, “Yes, I have.”
So when I was last in Chicago, I decided to take a trip up the Sears Tower. Actually, it’s called the Willis Tower now, but if I said that, I’m guessing many of you wouldn’t know what I was talking about. So with apologies to Willis Group Holdings, which got the naming rights in 2009, I’m going to continue to refer to it as the Sears Tower, probably forever, but definitely in this post.
I went on a Sunday and it wasn’t particularly busy, but it still took quite a while to make my way to the front of the line. Fortunately, there was some reading material along the way to keep me occupied. A sign told me that on a clear day, you can see up to 50 miles and have views not only of Illinois, but also Wisconsin, Indiana, and Michigan. A few other fun facts:
• It’s the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, and the eighth tallest in the world.
• More than 1.3 million people visit every year.
• It’s open 365 days a year.
• It took 2,000 workers three years to build.
• It sways an average of 6 inches from true center.
After watching an informative nine-minute video, I was ferried into an elevator to start my ascent. The ride is so smooth and quick, it seems impossible that you’re hurtling upward 103 floors in a minute, but your ears might get a slight hint. Once at the top, you’re free to roam around, taking in the views from all directions. This is the hallmark of the experience, and it’s what you’d expect — great views both near and far.
Due to cloudiness, I’m pretty sure I didn’t see four states that day (although I’m not sure how I would’ve known if I did). The big attraction at the top (aside from the view) is The Ledge, four glass boxes that jut out from the building, letting you see not just out, but down. Make sure you have your picture taken while on one of the ledges — and of course have the photographer frame it so you look like you’re floating on air.
There was yet another line to wait in to go back down to the bottom, but this one was blissfully much shorter. The verdict? It’s worth visiting the Sears Tower once and checking it off your “major attractions I’ve seen in person” list, especially if it’s a clear day.
Address: 233 S. Wacker Drive
Hours: 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. April through September; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. October through March
Ticket prices: $17 for ages 12 and up; $11 for kids 3 to 11