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Skydeck Chicago tickets

Skydeck Chicago – tickets, prices, discounts, queues, Fast Pass

Skydeck Chicago is the highest observation platform in the USA and offers excellent views of the city and Michigan Lake.

The Skydeck Chicago is located on the 103rd floor in the Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower.

The landmark Willis Tower is the third tallest building in the United States and held the title of the tallest building in the world for 25 years after its opening in 1973.

Lured by the stunning views, exhibits, and the thrill of stepping on ‘The Ledge,’ more than 1.7 million people visit this observatory every year.

This article covers everything you must know before buying tickets for the Chicago Skydeck.

What to expect at Skydeck Chicago

Once you clear the security, you enter into an exhibit that tells the story of Chicago from the very beginning.

Moving on, you enter into an architectural exhibit that has models of some of the most famous Chicago buildings, with a short film telling you the history of Wills Tower.

Clim aboard a breathtaking model of an L-train call in the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) Exhibit, with window projections that make it seem like you are traveling through the city.

Take the high-speed elevator with fun comparative displays about the height of buildings from across the world.

Witness sweeping views of the Chicago shore and skyline, with some of Chicago’s most iconic buildings in view.

Step out on the Ledge, a series of five one-and-a-half-inch thick glass-walled boxes suspended over 400 meters (1312 feet) from the ground, and see dizzying views of the Windy City.


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Where to book tickets

Tickets for Chicago Skydeck are available online and at the Wills building.

Online ticket prices tend to be cheaper than tickets at the attraction.

When you buy online, you can avoid the long queues at the ticket counters. 

Because it is a popular attraction, the Chicago Skydeck tickets may sell out during peak days.

Booking early helps avoid last-minute disappointments.

If the tower is too crowded, you can buy the Fast Pass counters from the counters at hand in the tower for an extra fee and go through an expedited security check.

How do online tickets work

Visit the ticket booking page of Chicago Skydeck, select the preferred date, time slot, and number of tickets, and buy the tickets immediately.

Once you purchase tickets, they get delivered to your email address.

There is no need to get printouts of the ticket. 

Show the e-ticket on your smartphone at the entrance and walk in.

Please carry a valid ID with you.

Skydeck Chicago ticket prices

For the Skydeck Chicago, a general ticket for all ages above 12 costs US$43.

Children between three and 11 years old can gain access at US$32.

Infants up to two years old are not charged any fee for entry.

Skydeck Chicago tickets

This Standard Skydeck entry ticket gives you access to the observation decks, ‘the Ledge,’ and all exhibits in the observatory.

Most users buy the regular SkyDeck tickets online and buy Fast Pass for expedited entry from many of the Fast Pass counters at the attraction if they see a crowd.

You can also get Chicago CityPASS for fast-track access to The Ledge.

The tour is wheelchair accessible and is also equipped with services like WiFi.  

Adults ticket (12+ years): US$43
Child ticket (3 to 11 years): US$32

Kids under three years walk in for free.

Couples in love, guests wanting to see the glittering Chicago skyline, or those who want to avoid the crowd visit the observatory after dark. Find out everything about Skydeck Chicago at night.

Skydeck Chicago Fast Pass

The longest wait at Chicago Skydeck is for the elevators, taking more than an hour during peak times.

The Willis Tower management has lined up interactive exhibits and the ‘Reaching For The Sky’ presentation to ensure visitors don’t get bored when they wait for the elevators.

The Skydeck Fast Pass gets you VIP access with express entry to Skydeck elevators.

With a Fast Pass, you will stand in the Express Line and be within 2-4 elevator rides from the observation deck.

However, we don’t recommend Fast Pass because, at $55 per person, they cost two times more than the standard ticket.

We recommend you buy a regular Skydeck Chicago ticket now and upgrade to a Fast Pass if it is too crowded on the day of your visit.

Many Fast Pass ticket counters are available at the attraction.

Save time and money! If you are in Chicago for three days or more, buying one of the discount passes is wiser because they help you save more than 40% on the ticket costs and get you expedited entry into the attractions. Chicago CityPassChicago Explorer Pass, and Go City All-Inclusive Pass include free access to Skydeck Chicago.


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How to reach Skydeck Chicago

Skydeck Chicago is an observation deck in Willis Tower, sometimes referred to by its older name, ‘Sears Tower.’

Skydeck Chicago is on the 103rd floor of the 110-floor building.

Address: 233 S. Wacker Dr., Franklin Street, Chicago, IL 60606.Get Directions

The entrance to the Skydeck Chicago is towards the east lobby of Franklin Street.

It is best to use public transportation to get to this attraction.

By Metro

You can board Brown, Orange, Pink, or Purple Line trains on Chicago Transit Authority’s ‘L’ system to reach Skydeck, Chicago.

Get off at the Quincy Station, which is about a block away from Franklin Street, and walk the rest of the distance (see map below).

Quincy Station to Skydeck Chicago

Skydeck Chicago is also close to Ogilvie Transportation Centre and Union Station.

Both the stations are within a 10-minute walk from Skydeck Chicago Willis Tower.

By Bus

The Skydeck Chicago is also accessible by buses from all over the city.

If a bus is your preferred mode of transport,  get onto Bus No 1, 7, 22, 28, 126, or 151.

Adams & S. Wacker bus stop is a one-minute walk away from the Tower.

Franklin & Adams bus stop is a mere three-minute walk away from the Wills Tower.

By Car

Cars for rent and Taxis for hire are easily available in Chicago.

Put on Google Maps to navigate to the Wills Tower.

The nearest parking is Tower Self Park, located directly across the street from the tower on Franklin Street. 

Tower Self Park, which InterPark operates, is located at 211 W. Adams, Chicago, IL 60606. Their phone number is 312/935-2724.

The parking garage remains open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Skydeck Chicago timings

During the peak tourist months of March to September, Skydeck Chicago opens at 9 am and closes at 10 pm.

For the rest of the year, Skydeck Chicago opens at 9 am and closes at 8 pm.

The last entry is always 30 minutes before closing.

Skydeck Chicago is open throughout the year, including Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day.


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How long does Skydeck Chicago take?

Visitors usually spend an hour and a half during their visit to Skydeck Chicago’s observatory.

Some tourists are known even to wind up their visit in an hour.

Time needed to explore Skydeck Chicago

However, your complete tour of Skydeck Chicago can take anywhere from 2 hours to 4 hours, depending on the crowd and the waiting lines.

If you want to minimize the time taken at Skydeck, buy Skydeck tickets in advance and visit early in the morning or late at night.

Best time to visit

The best time to visit Skydeck Chicago is an hour before sunset because you get to see Chicago’s skyline in three different ways – during daylight, twilight, and nighttime.

Since everybody wants to see the sunset from Skydeck Chicago, it gets crowded around this time.

Sunset view from Skydeck Chicago
A Golden hue wraps Chicago all around during sunset, creating fascinating once-in-a-lifetime views. Image: Gustavo Santos / Nationalgeographic.com Traveler Photo Contest

Sunset Calendar of Chicago

The second best time to visit Skydeck Chicago is early in the morning.

You can altogether avoid the crowd if you visit this observation deck before 11 am in summer and before noon in winter.


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Skydeck Chicago lines

Visitors may have to wait in line for hours during peak hours, days, or seasons.

There are many lines at Skydeck Chicago, and visitors have to wait to get the whole experience at the observation deck.

Elevator queue to go down to the ticket counter

You have to wait in line at the elevator to get down to the ticket counter to buy your tickets.

The ticket counter line

Ticket counters at Skydeck Chicago
Image: Theskydeck.com

You will find long waiting lines at the ticket counter on weekends and peak times to buy Skydeck Chicago tickets.

However, you can skip these lines if you buy your Skydeck Chicago tickets much in advance.

Elevator lines to go up to Skydeck

The waiting time for the elevator is also high, with long lines.

During this wait, you get to see interactive exhibits and the “Reaching For The Sky” presentation.

Waiting for the elevator can last 15 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the time, day, and season.

However, with Chicago CityPASS you will get fast-track access to Skydeck Chicago, including access to The Ledge.

Chicago CityPASS also gets you 48% or more off on premium admission to five of Chicago’s top attractions.

The line to get onto the ‘Ledge’

Skydeck Chicago Ledge is a series of five retractable glass boxes extending 1.3 meters (4.3 feet) from the skyscraper’s Skydeck on the 103rd floor.

It is quite an adrenalin rush to stand on this ledge, and that’s why there is a 10 to 20-minute waiting line here as well.

Even if you have a Fast Pass ticket, you still have to wait in line with the standard ticket holders for the Ledge.

You can get yourself Chicago CityPASS to get fast-track access to The Ledge.

Queue at the elevator to get down

Everybody has to wait in this line regardless of their tickets.

There is no Fast Pass line at the elevator to get down.

Save time and money! The Chicago C3 CityPASS helps you save up to 30% on combined admission to your choice of three top attractions. You can select any three out of six top attractions, including Skydeck Chicago, 360 Chicago, or the Shedd Aquarium.


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What to see at Skydeck Chicago

There are six things to see and experience at Willis Tower’s Skydeck Chicago.

Skydeck Museum

The Skydeck Museum has informative exhibits about the Willis Tower and its history.

The exhibits also narrate Chicago’s rich history and culture through exciting visuals.

Video Screens

Video screens keep the visitors engaged even as they wait for their turn.

These screens give visitors a sense of what to expect at the Observatory on the 103rd-floor and The Ledge.

Multimedia elevators

Elevators at the Willis Tower observatory are among the fastest in the world.

As the elevators go up, they display information concerning the current height of the lift.

Reaching the Sky

‘Reaching the Sky’ is the theatrical presentation at the Skydeck Chicago.

It narrates how Willis Tower and Chicago’s other landmarks set the standards for architectural achievements.

The Ledge

Skydeck Ledge
The brave step onto the Skydeck’s Ledge. Image: Gabriel Costa

Skydeck Chicago Ledge is a series of five glass boxes extending 1.3 meters (4.3 feet) away from the main walls of the Willis Tower.

The Ledge is different because you look through the glass floor instead of looking through glass windows (as in other observatories).

You will look down from a dizzying height of 400 meters (1312) feet.

The observatory’s management spotted the forehead prints of thousands of visitors wanting to see the streets below and decided to build these extensions.

Through the glass floors, you will be looking at Wacker Drive and the Chicago River from a height of 412 meters (1,353 feet).

Limited time on The Ledge

Time on the Ledge is limited for visitors to ensure that everybody gets a chance to experience the thrill.

Groups with three or fewer members get a maximum of 60 seconds/group, and groups of four or more members get a maximum of 90 seconds/group.

Skydeck Observatory

Skydeck, the observatory, is the main attraction of the building.

This observatory in Chicago’s Willis Tower is the tallest observation deck in the United States.

It offers 360-degree views of the city, and on a clear day, you can see for 50 miles (80 km) in every direction.


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Skydeck Chicago reviews

Skydeck in Chicago was voted a Top 10 Worldwide Attraction by travelers on Tripadvisor.

Skydeck Chicago Tripadvisor Review

There are only two other attractions in the USA that feature in this Top 10 list – the Statue of Liberty and the French Quarter in New Orleans.

Almost every visitor to Skydeck Chicago who left a review on Tripadvisor spoke about the ‘glass box’ and ‘glass floor’ – their reference to the fantastic Ledge experience.

Many also used the phrases ‘views are amazing’ and ‘great view of the city’ while describing what they saw from the Observatory. 


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Skydeck Chicago vs 360 Chicago

Some tourists holidaying in Chicago wonder if they should visit Skydeck Chicago or 360 Chicago.

If you didn’t know, 360 CHICAGO in the John Hancock building is yet another observatory just 2.4 Km (1.5 Miles) from Skydeck.

360 CHICAGO is on the 94th floor and offers excellent views over the city and Lake Michigan.

From a location perspective and from the views they offer, both of them are pretty similar.

360 CHICAGO tickets are cheaper than Skydeck Chicago tickets, and yet Skydeck gets a massive crowd.

Recommendation

If you have time and budget for only one visit, we recommend you buy Skydeck Chicago tickets.

If you have time for two trips, you can visit the Skydeck in the morning and book 360 Chicago for a night visit (they are open till late).

Still confused? Read our Skydeck Chicago vs. 360 Chicago comparison

Sources

# Theskydeck.com
# Citypass.com
# Tripadvisor.com
# Gocity.com

The travel specialists at TheBetterVacation.com use only high-quality sources while researching & writing their articles. We make every attempt to keep our content current, reliable and trustworthy.

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This article was researched & written by

Edited by Rekha Rajan & fact checked by Jamshed V Rajan

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