Suburbanite’s Guide to Willis Tower

Chicago, IL

Our Suburbanite’s guides help you navigate the big city with insider tips, tricks, and experiences to your favorite attractions and locations. Today Genevieve takes you to the Willis Tower.

visiting willis tower with kids

Old school “Sears” Tower fans may shudder, but a trip to the re-named Willis Tower is still a thrill.  We recently went to the 103rd floor with my out-of-town friends.  It was the first time my own 3 children had been up to the tower, and over 30 years since I had made the trip.  A lot has changed since then!

Visiting Willis Tower with Kids

Visiting Willis Tower is a pricey adventure, but the experience makes up for it.  While waiting you will get a chance to view the galleries of displays about this great city, which made the wait more exciting.  We questioned whether there was any benefit to purchasing advance tickets or the Fast Pass, but neither seemed to decrease the wait significantly and both of those options would have made the cost even higher.  So, we bought our tickets at the tower and waited…and waited… and waited.  (Be forewarned, events like the Taste of Chicago will  increase average wait times.)  Our wait time was exceptionally long because of the events in the city that day.  However, the hour and a half wait we anticipated actually seemed to go by fairly quickly–probably because my kids have been trained by roller coaster lines.

visiting willis tower with kids

There were several elevator stops on the way up, as no single elevator goes all the way to the Skydeck,  but once we reached the top, there were many sights to behold.  We were on the Sky deck on a perfectly clear day and could see all the way to Michigan and Indiana.  The city is exactly as it appears on a map, but grander.  We saw rooftop swimming pools, gardens and all the way to the shores of Michigan.  We saw boats that appeared to be toys and people the size of ants.  We were even eye level with a few helicopters!  

But I think “The Ledge” was what really astonished us all.   The Ledge is a glass box that extends 3.4 feet OUTSIDE the tower.  At 1,353 feet up I was lucky not to throw up, but my kids got a kick out of laying face down Superman-style on the glass floor as though they were flying over the city.… not for me, thanks.  But it did make for a great photo op!

visiting willis tower with kids

According to staff, summers at the Willis Tower are a busy time.  Tourists are less likely to have a long wait when visiting mid-week.  Best times for arriving are when the tower opens at 9:00 a.m. or around dusk.  Evening times mean a beautiful sunset and viewing the lights of the city.   Parking is available in parking garages across the street and train travelers can exit Union Station at the Willis Tower exit for a quick walk.  Strollers can be accommodated on elevators and in lines at the Willis, although wee little ones may not have much to keep them entertained.  Our group consisted of 6 children ranging in age from 7 – 13 and we all enjoyed an amazing bird’s eye view of Chicago.

Skydeck Chicago
233 S. Wacker Drive., Chicago, IL 60606
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Have you been out on the ledge yet?

Suburbanite\'s Guide to Willis Tower
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About Genevieve 51 Articles
Genevieve is mom to 3 future world leaders and wife to one really funny guy. A public health worker turned stay-at-home mom, she spends her days navigating life in a busy household. She loves mornings, exercise, God, America and chocolate. She hates scary movies, spiders, airplane rides and writing bios.

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