Sears Tower Glass Ledge/Willis SkyDeck [Visitor Info with Video]

I'm floating! Looking down was really scary.
I'm floating! Looking down was really scary.
The $16 ticket for the SkyDeck includes access to the Ledge, and is very much worth it!
The $16 ticket for the SkyDeck includes access to the Ledge, and is very much worth it!

In 2009, the Sears Tower (now Willis Tower) SkyDeck added something really fantastic to its 103rd floor observation deck for visitors: 4 reinforced glass "balconies", which allow you to walk out and feel like you're floating over South Wacker Drive in the downtown Chicago Loop. It was, by far, the most fascinating experience at the observation deck, and well worth the numerous mazes and hoops you have to navigate through to get into that fast-moving elevator that takes you (almost) to the top.

Here are some important facts:

  • While the Sears Tower has been around since 1973, and the SkyDeck opened in 1974, the Ledge has only been around since 2009.
  • There are 4 ledges, which are reinforced glass boxes that jut out from the observation floor. The left-most one is dedicated to a professional photographer who will take pictures of you for a price.
  • Each ledge can support 5 tons, so there is almost no danger that you're going to break one and plunge down
  • The SkyDeck is on the 103rd floor of the building, 1353 feet (412 meters) up.
  • The whole building stands at 1450 feet (442 meters), and is the tallest building in the western hemisphere. It's the 8th-tallest building in the world.
  • From the SkyDeck on a clear day, you can see 50 miles (80 km), and 4 states (Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Indiana).

Impressive, huh?

How does it feel out there? TERRIFYING! Seriously. You know that feeling of your guts being pulled in when you look down from the top of a very tall building? Multiply that by 10. There seems to be something instinctive about resisting the walk onto the glass platform, but once you manage to do so, it's very difficult to pull yourself away. All 3 ledges were full of hesitant people gingerly standing there, waiting for their picture to be taken; many had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, onto it. (I'm talking about adults!)

A markerSears (Willis) Tower - SkyDeck glass ledge -
Willis Tower, 233 S Wacker Dr, Chicago, IL 60606, USA
[get directions]

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Comments 31 comments

Hollie Thomas profile image

Hollie Thomas 5 years ago from United Kingdom

Wow LL,

I'm afraid despite your protestations of how toughened the glass is, looking at your picture, my immediate reaction was to grab your pullover and pull you to safety! I probably sound like your mum!

Seriously though, the view looks awesome, however, I'm pretty sure I need to work on my vertigo first! If I'm ever fortunate enough to visit the US, I'll start at ground level. =)


livelonger profile image

livelonger 5 years ago from San Francisco Author

Thanks, Hollie! Believe me, if it weren't for the fact that these have been in place for 2 years without incident, and that they can support 10,000 lbs, I'd probably be unable to walk out on top of them. But it was worth the thrill!

I will say it was gratifying to be back on ground level, especially solid for a Californian. ;) Chicago is a gorgeous city, too - the Art Institute Museum, the "Bean" and enormous Marilyn Monroe statues are worth the trip alone, but the dramatic river and bridges winding through the city is worth seeing, too.


Gordon Hamilton profile image

Gordon Hamilton 5 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom

Wow, indeed - this is impressive. I think I saw some British traveller on this platform - I have a feeling it may have been Billy Connolly (!) but not sure.

Much respect for going out on this as sadly I am living proof that phobias can be acquired and are not with us from birth. Five years ago, I could easily have done this. Now? No chance!

Thanks for the view from a safe distance :)


livelonger profile image

livelonger 5 years ago from San Francisco Author

Gordon - Yeah, I have to say that I'm more skittish at awesome heights like this than when I was younger and more foolhardy. But we went skydiving a year ago, and walked across the Harbour Bridge in Sydney, which made the Ledge a relative piece of cake. ;)


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 5 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

livelonger,

That photograph made me dizzy! I don't so much have a fear of heights as I do a fear of "edges." I have more of a problem standing near the edge of something than I have a fear of heights.

I'm bookmarking this article to show to a friend.


point2make profile image

point2make 5 years ago

I enjoyed your hub and the video very much but it freaked me out big time. I can't imagine myself doing that. As I type this my legs are still feeling weak and that's from watching your video. I can only imagine what would happen to me if I found myself in that situation for real. Great hub...voted up! thanks for the "terror" I think!


ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 5 years ago from Illinois

I live nearby Chicago and our family that came to visit last week for Thanksgiving from Dallas specifically wanted to go out on one of the glass ledges of the Sears (Willis) tower. They've seen a photo of my daughter in there and wanted to go too. Unfortunately, the weather didn't cooperate since there was zero visibility. Hopefully, it works out next time.

Love the video ~voted up and awesome~


Brooke Lorren profile image

Brooke Lorren 5 years ago from Mesa, Arizona

I went to the Sears Tower many years ago, but the SkyDeck looks like it gives the experience another whole level. Wow.


livelonger profile image

livelonger 5 years ago from San Francisco Author

Daisy: Interesting! But I can understand that, too.

point2make: Yeah, it was definitely knee wobble-inducing!

ktrapp & Brooke: I would say this would be worth a second visit, although it is time-consuming to get through the lines.

Thank you for your comments, everyone!


Robin profile image

Robin 5 years ago from San Francisco

Even watching the video made my stomach drop! I've never been to Chicago, but when we go I will definitely go to the Sears Tower.


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco

Oh my GOSH! This is incredible! The video is great. I've heard of this type of balcony over the Grand Canyon but didn't know it had been used in urban areas. I LOVE that crazy feeling you describe... now I really want to go to Chicago!


livelonger profile image

livelonger 5 years ago from San Francisco Author

Robin & Simone: It's a definite highlight that's worth it, but Chicago is a gorgeous city (in a completely different way from west coast cities) and it's relatively inexpensive to travel there, since O'Hare is a major hub. We got RT tickets from Virgin America for $200!


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco

Holy crap! What a steal! I guess I should keep my eyes peeled for cheep tickets!


Robin profile image

Robin 5 years ago from San Francisco

$200 is so cheap from SFO! I think Paul and I need a weekend getaway in Chicago!


Greensleeves Hubs profile image

Greensleeves Hubs 5 years ago from Essex, UK

Hmmm - very nice idea for a tourist attraction and a photo opportunity, but it must take some faith in the architects and builders to take that step into space. Maybe I could do it, but livelonger at one point you say:

'Each ledge can support 5 tons, so there is almost no danger that you're going to break one and plunge down'

Now if only you hadn't used that word 'almost' .... :-)

Good idea for a page!


livelonger profile image

livelonger 5 years ago from San Francisco Author

Greensleeves: Yeah, I don't know...if I had walked out onto that glass platform *after* Thanksgiving instead of before, I might have put the entire structure in jeopardy! ;)


Beata Stasak profile image

Beata Stasak 5 years ago from Western Australia

Thanks for sharing, 'livelonger'...I don't if you will live longer, if you will continue with those types of pastime, ha,ha

I am just joking I have been on the similar 'skydeck' in Melbourne and just loved it...but skydiving with my daughter on my 40's birthday was better...we all need a little bit of adrenaline to feel more alive:)


livelonger profile image

livelonger 5 years ago from San Francisco Author

Beata: You're right - skydiving is an even more intense thrill. So is the Harbour Bridge walk in Sydney. This one was just a lot easier and without nearly as much fuss. ;)


fastfreta profile image

fastfreta 5 years ago from Southern California

In the beginning of the hub, I was about to say the next time I go through Chicago I would go up there, but after reading the last part of the hub, I guess not. LOL! Very interesting hub. Voted up, useful, interesting.


livelonger profile image

livelonger 5 years ago from San Francisco Author

fastfreta: It's still worth it! Most of the observation desk feels very safely behind big windows. You might be surprised about walking out onto the ledge; it took some coaxing for me, but I eventually went out there. :)


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

My husband and I visited the Sears Tower but years ago and this glass ledge did not exist back then. Must be a crazy feeling walking out on it! You are right about Chicago being a great city! We spent quite a bit of time there back in the 1970's the 4 years we lived in Wisconsin Rapids. Was a nice urban get-away. Thanks for showing us this video. Will share it with some others I know who love Chicago. Up, interesting and useful votes.


livelonger profile image

livelonger 4 years ago from San Francisco Author

I lived in Cincinnati for a couple years, about 15 years ago, and Chicago was my "home away from home", about a 3 1/2 hour drive from Cincy and a great place to spend weekends. Fortunately, I had a good friend in Evanston that I could stay with. I would say the Ledge alone makes a return trip worth it, but there's so much more about the city that's worth seeing. The Bean and the Art Institute Museum were clear highlights...


K9keystrokes profile image

K9keystrokes 4 years ago from Northern, California

Wow! What an amazing treat! Loved the video and the image of you sitting sky high...what a strange feeling that must have been. Thanks for sharing your adventure, the Sears Tower Glass Ledge looks like one breath-taking place. Did you get a little bit of vertigo when looking through the video viewfinder?

HubHugs and Shalom my friend~

K9


leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York

Oh, wow - what a cool thing to do! I think I would completely freak out with the heights, though - when we go to Chicago, we're definitely checking it out. And airfare on Virgin for $200 RT - that is incredible! We're only 8 hours by car, so Chicago is definitely on our "must see" list. Excellent hub and video!


livelonger profile image

livelonger 4 years ago from San Francisco Author

K9: ABSOLUTELY! Notice the baby steps I use to walk around the ledge...it was completely terrifying and vertigo-inducing! Thank you for your comment, HubHugs and shalom!

Leah: I would definitely put it on your list the next time you visit the Windy City! Thank you for your comment.


wordscribe43 profile image

wordscribe43 4 years ago from Pacific Northwest, USA

I had adrenaline just watching the video... in fact, my hands and feet are still hurting. There's NO way I could do that. I've been in that building and could barely even get near a window. Yikes! Anyway, thanks for sharing (I think).


livelonger profile image

livelonger 4 years ago from San Francisco Author

It *was* terrifying! Lots of people were either dragged onto the platform, or refused to step on it. Thank you for your comment!


RedElf profile image

RedElf 4 years ago from Canada

OMG! That is totally freaky - you do look like you are almost floating! I can barely manage a glass elevator, let alone actually stepping out there and walking around! Great viseo!


livelonger profile image

livelonger 4 years ago from San Francisco Author

Thanks, RedElf! Floating is a good way to put the sensation. It is definitely otherworldly.


Marina Lazarevic profile image

Marina Lazarevic 4 years ago from San Francisco, CA

Love the picture of you "floating." OMG, though, I think I would lose all sense of balance in that room, my legs would become super wobbly, and then I would die.


livelonger profile image

livelonger 4 years ago from San Francisco Author

LOL! Your stomach *does* feel like it's floating away from you, but, really, it's totally worth it. And, besides, even if your legs do give way, each glass ledge can hold 5 tons, so you'd be fine.

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