Walk The High Ledge – The Skydeck, Chicago

Walk The High Ledge – The Skydeck, Chicago

Have you always wanted to be on top of the world? ; Look at all there is to look at, like you were the one true creator of all? ; Or just love the thrill of heights? , if so the case, then The Windy City is where you should be heading , in your next break.

Chicago, the third most populated city of US of A, also called ‘The second City’ is the place for ice skating in Millennium Park, wandering through Lincoln Park Zoo, playing at Navy Pier, shopping along the Magnificent Mile; but one activity which knows no bounds of weather or seasons and gives the adrenaline rush like no other, is The Skydeck of The Willis Tower (previously Sears Tower).

The Skydeck is as close to being Spiderman as one can get (without being bitten by a radioactive spider); on a windy day people on the deck, peering down at the world of toy cars and miniature humans, can actually feel the building sway.


The Skydeck is the pride of the Willis Tower, which itself is the pride of United States being the tallest building and an architectural wonder of the Western Hemisphere. The deck, one of the most famous tourist attractions of Chicago is located on the 103rd floor, putting people at a height of 1350 feet or 410m up in the air. It was first opened as early as 1974. The bigger, original deck has a twin on the 99th floor which is used in case the larger deck is not open or under maintenance.

The Skydeck itself attracts an enormous number of 1.5 million tourists every year. Though not for the weak hearted or people who can relate to James Stewart’s character in Vertigo; on a clear day people have a visibility of 50 miles in all directions, which allows them to see four states at once, not on a map or Google Earth but in reality, with their own eyes, for many this is a lifetime experience and cherish able memory. People can see far over Lake Michigan to Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin on clear days, which are not very rare.

The building is equipped with state-of-the art infrastructure and the elevators installed compete with the best in the world. The elevators take passengers up to the destination in 60 seconds which inevitably also enables them to feel the quick change in pressure due to the sudden rise in altitude. The speed of 1,600 feet per minute makes the elevators amongst the fastest in the world.


Standing at the Skydeck one can observe that the Wills Tower is the king of the skyline with Skydeck being its crown jewel, the only competition coming from the observation floor of The John Hancock Centre about a one and a half miles away, which  is only the second best as it is a whole 100 m lower than the Skydeck. The tourist entrance is located on the Jackson Boulevard on the south side of the building.

The Skydeck has a website of its own where you can not only know interesting facts about the building and the ledge but can also plan your trip in advance. The builders quote the inspiration behind The Ledge, which is literally a ledge with transparent flooring, to be “from hundreds of forehead prints visitors left behind on Skydeck windows every week.”

The management of the Skydeck goes to lengths to make it tourist friendly as they provide one with multiple options to save money by collaborating with different tourist attractions around the city.

For instance the Chicago Citypass lets one visit the city’s top 5 attractions in 9 days and still save 44 %.

One can pay for the trip via any of the multiple categories of payment packages, all of which have different terms and amounts defined according to varying needs of people. Tickets under Basic-Admission cost around $ 19.00 for adults and $ 12.00 for children below 11 years. Then there is the Fastpass admission which is provided for people in a hurry, those who want to give the interactive exhibits a miss and go straight to the main attraction. There are also other tourist friendly,  group packages available for visiting.

For the ones, who want a little more than just a view form 103rd floor, there is the option of having breakfast in the morning, at the height of 1,300 hundred feet or pizza on the ledge in the evening.

The Skydeck is completely user friendly and very accessible; providing space for scooters and wheel-chairs, of which some wheel-chairs are complimentary. What makes it really stand out is the fact The Ledge itself is accessible by a wheel-chair. Licensed guide dogs are also permitted to accompany their masters.

The Skydeck celebrates the city’s rich history via amazing electronic visuals and presentations which is made even better by the theatre presentation called Reaching for the Sky which narrates the story of this building and city’s others’.

As a constant endeavour to better what they already have, the Skydeck added another unique feather to their cap in 2009 in the form of retractable balconies which let people walk in air, as they are made of completely transparent fibre glass and extend over 4 feet from the building. The small compartments can bear weights up to 4 metric tons give people a never-felt-before rush as they hang in air, 1300 feet over the Wacker Drive.

Calling The Skydeck just an exhilarating experience would be an understatement; it is not just about feeling the thrill and loving the beauty but it also makes one think about the true scale of things around us, a perspective which is not possible in our day to day life.

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