Chicago River Architecture Cruise: Skip-the-Ticket-Office
- Skip the ticket line
- Duration: 75 minutes
For almost 25 years the Willis Tower, more commonly known as Sears Tower, held the title for the tallest building in the U.S. Second place isn’t bad, right? And as the 12th tallest in the world at a height of 1,451 feet, it is Chicago’s most beloved skyscraper.
In order to house their rapidly growing company, Sears commissioned architects Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in 1969. Architect Bruce Graham and engineer Fazlur Rahman Kahn led.
The Willis Tower was the first to ever use a bundled tube structure. Kahn’s design was so revolutionary that it was later used for the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa.
Graham’s design was inspired by a cigarette ad. He demonstrated the concept to a colleague by pulling cigarettes out of a pack to illustrate the 9 tubes at different heights.
Construction began in April of 1971 and was finished by May 1973. Economically efficient for a building its size, the cost to build was $150 million, about $800 million today.
Willis Tower’s observation deck is what makes it celebrated. At 1,353 feet, visitors can feel the building sway on a windy day and see over the plains of Illinois on a clear day.
The address of Willis Tower is 233 South Wacker Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60606. Public transportation is easy because it's in such a central location -- off Blue, Brown, Orange, Pink, Purple and Red Lines on the ‘L.
Parking is available at 221 W. Adams, and purchasing a parking card in advance online will get you a discount.
Skydeck Chicago is open 365 days a year from 9AM to 10PM April through September and 10AM to 8PM October through March. View at night for the romantic glittering cityscape, by day for the sweeping view of Lake Michigan.
The basic price for adult admission is $19.50. A variety of ticketing bundles with other Chicago attractions, like a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago, are available.
Truly enjoyable architecture tour! Beyond the spectacular views that you can only get from being on the river itself, the tour guide was knowledgeable, personable, and very entertaining. I was inspired to look up and learn about Jeanne Gang after the tour (a notable Chicago architect adding to the skyline). Highly recommend this activity for every visitor to this great city. Take an hour off your feet. Relaxing and fascinating at the same time.
The boat was nice. The instructor was knowledgeable and funny. He did an excellent job giving us the history of the landmarks. The boat was clean and social distancing was enforced. I would highly recommend this tour. I would definitely do it again.
This was a great trip on the Wende. Beautiful sights & great tour guide Joe. It was difficult to find the location and the email confirmation did not mention what company my tour was scheduled with, so that was frustrating.
Absolutely loved this tour. Jack, our tour guide was very knowledgeable and added just the right amount of humor to make this one the most interesting and fun tours we’ve ever experienced.
Wonderful tour. Our guide, Wallach, was very informative and easy to talk with. I’d recommend this experience to anyone interested in Chicago’s history & architecture.