Layover Ideas: Skydeck Chicago

Recently while I was on my way out of the country for a work trip, I had an 8-hour layover in Chicago. I figured this would be a great opportunity to visit with my cousin (and her awesome family) who live in Chicago, but I also was itching to see something cool in the city since I haven’t experienced much of Chicago before.

After some research, I landed on visiting Skydeck Chicago. Located on the 103rd floor of Willis Tower (the old Sears Tower building), this skydeck boasts views of 4 different states (on a clear day). But most of all, the Skydeck is infamous for its glass balcony viewing boxes in which those with vertigo can attempt to overcome their fears while standing on thin glass and staring directly down the 1,353 foot drop.

I liked this experience, and it was easy to pull off on a stopover. If you’d like to do it, it was a 50 minute subway ride (Take the Blue Line, only $3 one-way) from Chicago O’Hare Airport into the city, plus a 10 minute walk to the Willis Tower building. To save time waiting in a ticket box line, I recommendbuying your ticket online, which is what I did (tickets cost about $25 at the time of my online purchase).

It takes about 30 minutes to go through the lines and up the elevators to the top, and they have different things to look at, watch, and read to learn about the building’s history on your way up.

The views were amazing and there were telescopes to take in the sights. You really do get a 360-degree view of the city and also Lake Michigan. A bummer was getting to the top only to find another long line specifically to enter one of the glass viewing boxes (I waited another 30 minutes in line for this, but it was well worth it. I went on a Sunday, and I hear if you go on a weekday the lines will be shorter. It wasn’t too bad though, if you’re expecting lines).

It was so incredible (and terrifying!) to stand on glass 103 stories up and looks straight down through your feet to the city below! This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and in my opinion it was worth the hype. As a photographer especially it offered incredible views to photograph and I loved watching people freak out and take selfies in the glass balconies. However, this experience is not for the faint of heart or fearful of heights…fair warning has been given.