Chicago – Day Three – Willis Tower

Willis Tower

Kids, let me tell you something about me: I’m afraid of heights. Some of you may have picked up on that before from previous posts, but it’s true…I’m deathly afraid of heights. I turn into some kind of vertigo-machine where looking up or looking down just curdles my stomach and makes me want to keel over.

CN TowerI do attempt to overcome that fear, though, by tackling it head-on. I’ve been to the top of the CN Tower in Toronto and the Willis Tower in Chicago on a previous trip, but for some reason I still can’t quite handle heights. However, on this particular day, both Sunshine and our amazing host, Random Esquire, wanted to make sure I did whatever I could to fully appreciate the attraction.

Willis TowerWillis Tower used to be called (and is still commonly referred to as) Sears Tower. It’s a 108-storey, 1,451-foot skyscraper of epic proportions and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Chicago, with over a million people visiting its observation deck each year. Named the Sears Tower throughout its history, in 2009 the Willis Group obtained the right to rename the building and it’s been called Willis Tower ever since.

We arrived just after the Skydeck opened on Sunday morning. We thought that we’d be getting there at a good time, but we ended up standing in a line that would result in a 60-minute wait (for the record, when we left around 1pm there was no line-up anymore). The hour passed by rather quickly as you go through different areas before finally stepping on board the elevator that takes you up to the 103rd floor.

Once the video ended and the doors opened up, we stepped out and saw an absolutely incredible sight.

Chicago from Willis Tower

You truly cannot appreciate the size and scale and scope until you’re standing on the 103rd floor of one of the largest buildings in the entire world. Random Esquire had been to the Skydeck many years ago, but had forgotten just how incredible the views are.

Chicago from Willis Tower

It certainly didn’t hurt that this was truly one of the most beautiful fall days I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing in a VERY long time. On a day like today, you can see four different states: Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan. The visibility from the Skydeck is approximately 40-50 miles (65 – 80 kilometers). The shimmering waters of Lake Michigan looked spectacular…as if you could see for miles and miles.

Downtown Chicago

Random reminded me that the Chicago Bears were playing at home to the Detroit Lions on this day, so we looked over at Soldier Field and noticed that the parking lot was full and, if you looked closely enough, you could see a large screen showing footage for those in attendance.

Soldier Field from Willis Tower

At this point, both Random and Sunshine pulled me over to the Skydeck Ledge area. The “Ledge” is a number of glass boxes that extend 4.3 feet out over Wacker Drive and the Chicago River. They couldn’t wait to stand on it…sit on it…jump on it.  I was nervous as hell just to even get close to it. I mean, I had tried to stand on it previously but only could manage my foot before snapping a quick picture and chickening out:

Skydeck 2010

Yeah…that was me trying to put on a brave face in a moment of total fear and terror. How would this time be different? Well, for one, both Random and Sunshine would mock me mercilessly if I chickened out. I didn’t want that to happen and, as you’d expect, I really wanted to tackle my fear head on.

So it was our turn to stand on the ledge. I inched out just enough to put my phone out over the glass floor and take a blind photo of the street below:

The view from above

I couldn’t hold off any longer…it was my turn to actually stand on that floor. Random held the camera, Sunshine held me, and I held the wall (for all of the good it would have done):

You can tell just how much glee Sunshine is having from watching me squirm. I, on the other hand, am not having fun at all.
You can tell just how much glee Sunshine is having from watching me squirm. I, on the other hand, am not having fun at all.

Oh but the fun wasn’t over yet for Sunshine…

Really...could this get ANY more uncomfortable for me?
Really…could this get ANY more uncomfortable for me?

Finally, after numerous attempts, Random was able to capture my best attempt at a smile just so we could get off of that damn ledge…

All smiles at Willis Tower

I can’t begin to tell you about the feelings I was going through while standing on that glass floor.  Even looking at the picture now, I see my shoes and cannot believe that I can see clearly underneath them. It was nice to stand on, but I was glad for it to be over.

103 snacksAfter picking up a bottle of water (and checking out the chocolate bars, pictured at left), the three of us made our way back to the elevator to make our way down to the bottom floor again (at an elevator speed of 18mph). We had to go through two different souvenir shops in order to actually find the exit to the outside. Of course, going through that many shopping opportunities, one couldn’t simply stand idly by and NOT at least LOOK at something…

Thirsty?

The Skydeck of Willis Tower is absolutely one of the most incredible tourist attractions is all of North America, without question. With a price tag of less than $20 per person, it’s also well worth the money.

Chicago from Willis Tower

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