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