Website: Skydeck Chicago
Hours: Open 365 days a year.
April-September 9:00 am-10:00 pm
October-March 10:00 am-8:00 pm
Last entry 30 minutes prior to close.
Admission: $18/adult (12 & up), $12/child (3-11)
FastPass $40/person (VIP access to elevators)
Tickets can be purchased online.
Parking: It’s downtown Chicago so parking is expensive. Parking information is available on the Skydeck Chicago site. The Willis Tower is also accessible by public transportation.
If you do choose to drive and park, I strongly recommend you try SpotHero.com to find parking; we parked about two blocks away for only $14.
Bathrooms: There are bathrooms with changing tables.
Nursing: There is no designated nursing area. There are benches once you get to the top of the Willis Tower.
Handicapped/stroller accessibility: The Willis Tower is handicapped and stroller accessible. We brought a sit-and-stand stroller and had no difficulties.
- Private events, meetings, weddings, and birthdays can be arranged at the Skydeck.
- There are gift shops available in five locations in the Willis Tower.
Food: There are several restaurants in the Willis Tower (see a list here).
- Breakfast on The Ledge offered Monday-Friday at 7:00 am.
- Photos are taken at the Visitor Center and on The Ledge and can be purchased.
We paid: We received complimentary passes for the Skydeck Ledge. Tickets for 2 adults and 2 children would be $60. We purchased a photo of us on the Ledge for $24.
I’m afraid of heights. Not an uncomfortable-in-high-places kind of afraid of heights, but a shaking, crying, unable to breath fear of heights. Some people get scared if they look down; I get scared standing on the ground and looking at something that’s high.
Despite my fear, I knew the kids would get a kick out of the Skydeck Ledge at Willis Tower (Sears Tower) and John has really wanted to go too. I wanted to face my fear a bit and try to be sure I’m not passing it on to my kids. My parents heard we visited the Skydeck Ledge and were shocked; they remember family road trips were I would cower on the floor of our station wagon (back before seat belts were required by law) as we drove over bridges.
I took a picture of the Skydeck Ledge while we were on the ground, but I couldn’t actually look up; I pointed my camera up and clicked.
We arrived at the Willis Tower on a Saturday afternoon and the line was halfway down the block. I expected a long wait so we came prepared – we brought our sit n’ stand stroller (even though we wouldn’t be walking much I knew the older boys would complain about standing), snacks, water bottles, crayons and coloring books, and Leapfrog video games. The first line is to get onto the elevator. We made it into the building pretty quickly and were warned by the employees that the wait would be 2 hours. The elevator takes you downstairs (not up!) where you wait in line to go through security. That line moved a little slower than the one in the lobby. We broke out some snacks and video games and read the trivia posted on the walls and on the video screens.
After security there’s the line to purchase tickets. We had tickets waiting so we were able to bypass the line for Will Call. There’s another line after you purchase tickets to get to the elevator that goes up, but we had a fast pass and got to bypass that line as well. Off to the elevators! Total time in line for us was about 1 hour.
It takes only one minute to get to the Skydeck. (And it’s a good thing because I get a bit nervous in elevators too.) I could feel my ears popping as we went up; I was a little concerned about this causing discomfort for the kids, especially the baby, but there weren’t any complaints about it.
The Skydeck is pretty incredible. The view is amazing and you can truly see the whole city.
At this point I wasn’t trying to appreciate the view, but concentrating all my effort on not grabbing my kids, screaming, and running to the nearest elevator down. Luckily, I manage to keep my composure and did my best to hide my fear from the kids. It was crowded, but after the long wait in lines it actually wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be.
There is a gift shop, trivia on the walls, telescopes (bring quarters!), and, of course, lots and lots of windows. John and the boys were happy to wander and look out the windows, but I was anxious to get to the Ledge. I was terrified, but I wanted to do it.
I was surprised to arrive at the Ledge and find… not a line. Well, not an organized line at least. Everyone sort of huddles around the Ledge to get in there and take a picture. Seeing the crowd I was pretty nervous about standing there with the kids; I was expecting some pushing and rudeness. Amazingly, everyone was very polite and considerate. No one shoved ahead or attempted to squeeze in; everyone waited their turn, took a reasonable amount of time getting their photos on the Ledge, and offered to take pictures of others.
When it was our turn someone offered to take a picture of all 5 of us. After we got our family pictures John and I took turns taking photos of each other and the kids. The boys loved looking down to see the ground below them.
I don’t look nervous at all, right?
I took photos, posed for photos, and barely held back tears. But I did it! As soon as we got off the Ledge I excused myself to go change Campbell’s diaper (& cry out of sight of the older boys).
We spent some time admiring the city from the windows and taking some fun pictures. Cooper wanted to take a picture that looked like he was holding a building in his hand.
I wasn’t sure how good the family photo came out so we decided to head out on the Ledge again for a professional photo. One of the Ledges is set up specifically for photos taken by Skydeck photographers. (You line up for these photos, but there wasn’t much of a line – only one group ahead of us.) Again, I was terrified, but I wanted to be sure we had a photo of the family on the Ledge. The photographer promised me she’d be quick and she was, but Dexter kept looking away at the last second. After the 3rd retake we decided it was fine if he was looking away.
We probably spent about an hour exploring the Skydeck before we were ready to go. The exit is similar to a mall – a gift shop, a couple places to eat, small arcade.
You can purchase photos of your group. We decided to buy our Ledge picture, and here it is:
Worth the wait. This was definitely an experience you need to have in Chicago.
Win 4 passes to Skydeck!