Visiting Chicago’s Sears Tower

A recent posting the in “Family Travel” forum asked for advice regarding an upcoming vacation to Chicago. The “Family Member” had listed a few attractions her family was planning to visit (Navy Pier, Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, etc.), but she wanted to know if there were additional spots that others could recommend. I responded with my list of favorite Chicago attractions, which included Sears Tower.

At 1450 feet and 110 stories high, Sears Tower is the tallest building in North America and the third tallest building in the world. I have been to the top of the Sears Tower many times. Some may question “why,” since it stands to reason that if you have been up once, and the city’s landscape hasn’t changed much, then why keep returning. My answer: Mother Nature. The day you visit may not be one of those ideal crystal clear days that afford you breath-taking panoramic views of the Windy City. On a clear day you can see 40-50 miles, including parts of Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin.

Sears Tower attracts close to 2 million visitors each year so expect a lot of company when you visit. (If you don’t like crowds the best time to go is after 4 p.m.) Pack your patience and be ready to use it because the wait for the elevators that take you to the Skydeck can be long. And a word of caution: while you are waiting don’t let your guard down. Keep track of the items you are traveling with. The last time I visited the Sears Tower was during the holiday season. I traveled to Chicago to meet up with my cousin who is a student at Northwestern University. After a full day of shopping on Michigan Avenue we decided to pop up to the Skydeck to watch the sunset. While waiting for the elevator my cousin rested his shopping bag on a planter. He ended up getting on the elevator without the bag… and it was gone by the time we came back down.

The Skydeck is filled with interactive kiosks that provide “virtual” tours of some of Chicago’s most popular landmarks. (The computer-animated tour is provided in six languages, including Japanese and Polish.) In addition, the Skydeck’s walls are covered with pictures chronically Chicago’s storied past and gives glimpses of some of the city’s historic characters. But, my favorite exhibit is the photo-op site. It is a row of backdrops that you can stand, kneel or poke your head through that give the illusion that you are a window-washer or construction worker balancing 1450 feet in the air. But, make no mistake; the magnificent views are what draw people in. Looking out at Lake Michigan and the expansive architecture that stretches for miles always makes me feel so insignificant. From the vantage point Sears Tower offers, I often find myself re-evaluating my perception on life.

For more information on directions, admission and hours of operation visit:

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Michele Cheplic

About Michele Cheplic

Michele Cheplic was born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii, but now lives in Wisconsin. Michele graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Journalism. She spent the next ten years as a television anchor and reporter at various stations throughout the country (from the CBS affiliate in Honolulu to the NBC affiliate in Green Bay). She has won numerous honors including an Emmy Award and multiple Edward R. Murrow awards honoring outstanding achievements in broadcast journalism. In addition, she has received awards from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association for her reports on air travel and the Wisconsin Education Association Council for her stories on education. Michele has since left television to concentrate on being a mom and freelance writer.