Monday, June 21, 2010

Chicago- Willis Tower

17-5-2010(Monday) Chicago

Immediately after check-in into the hotel,the first thing in my mind is to get into Willis Tower, which is nearby. The hotel is located at West Adam Street, 3 blocks away to Willis Tower. After South La Salle Street, South Wells St, and South Franklin St, Willis Tower is right at the corner of South Wacker Drive. The arrival at Willis Tower in time will enable us to watch both the day view and night view of Chicago city from the tower.
There are two places to enjoy the birds-eye view of Chicago City, one is from the 103rd floor of Skydeck Chicago in the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) and the other is from the 94th floor of Hancock Observatory. Hancock building is at 875, N. Michigan Ave., 94th Floor, Chicago. We selected Willis Tower instead of Hancock Observatory, mainly because Willis Tower is the global icon, and it is significant in our family history. My mother-in-law had visited the building, and she had talk so much about the building. Both buildings are fee based, you need to pay for the entrance. The admission for Willis Tower is US$15-95 per adult. If you cannot wait for the long queuing, the fast pass is US$30 per adult. To beat the tourist crowd during the day time, the best time to visit is after 5 p.m., you can enjoy the view better without the crowd at non-peak hours.

Willis Tower
Willis Tower, formerly named Sears Tower, is a 108-story, 1451-foot (442 m) skyscraper in Chicago, Illinois. At the time of its completion in 1974(some said 1973), it was the tallest building in the world, surpassing the World Trade Center towers in New York, from its construction in 1974 until 1998 (when the Petronas Towers was built). Currently, Willis Tower is the tallest building in the United States and the fifth-tallest freestanding structure in the world as well as the fifth tallest building in the world to the roof.

Standing at 1,450 feet and 110 stories high, Willis Tower is the tallest building in the western hemisphere. Offering more than 3.8 million square feet of office and retail space, Willis Tower is the ideal business location in Chicago.

The change in name
Although Sears' naming rights expired in 2003, the building continued to be called Sears Tower for several years. In March 2009 London-based insurance broker Willis Group Holdings, Ltd., agreed to lease a portion of the building and obtained the building's naming rights as part of the agreement. On July 16, 2009, at 10:00 am Central Time, the building was officially renamed Willis Tower. Some people however are not in favor of the name change.

The location
The building's official address is 233 South Wacker Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60606. The location is bounded by Wacker Drive, Adams Street, Franklin Street and Jackson Boulevard. The Property’s location at Adams Street and Wacker Drive is ideal for both corporate users and financial services firms. Wacker Drive is recognized as the West Loop’s primary artery and is home to many major corporate users including UBS and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. The Property is also located two blocks west of LaSalle Street, which is recognized as the center of Chicago’s financial district. Willis Tower offers superior access to transportation as well as proximity to Chicago’s office demand generators(City Hall, Mercantile Exchange, Chicago Board of Trade, etc.).

The Property is situated on a square-shaped site bounded by South Wacker Drive to the west, Adams Street to the north, Franklin Street to the east, and Jackson Boulevard to the south. The site size is approximately 2.96 acres of land. The Property consists of three lower levels and a 110-story high-rise tower. The lower levels occupy nearly the entire site footprint and include a private 160-stall parking garage, retail spaces, a loading dock, storage, elevator, plumbing and electrical rooms. Secure access to the executive parking garage is via Franklin Street while secure access to the loading dock is via lower Wacker Drive. The building tower rises 110 stories (including the penthouse roof) above the three lower levels, and occupies a footprint of approximately 50,625 square feet. The main lobby of Willis Tower contains one entrance on the east side of the building and one entrance on the west side of the building. The west entrance is accessed directly from South Wacker Drive, leading directly into the large, three-story lobby. The east entrance is accessed directly from Franklin Street.

The Skydeck

Skydeck Chicago at Willis Tower opened as The Sears Tower Skydeck observation deck on June 22, 1974. It is located on the 103rd floor of the tower. It is 1,353 feet (412 m) above ground and is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Chicago. Tourists can experience how the building sways on a windy day. They can see far over the plains of Illinois and across Lake Michigan to Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin on a clear day. It takes about 60 seconds to soar to the top in either of two special, Schindler Group elevators. The Skydeck competes with the John Hancock Center's observation floor a mile and a half away, which is 323 feet (98 m) lower. 1.3 million tourists visit the Skydeck annually. You’ll see the best view and best overview of Chicago. At 1,353 feet (412 meters), the Skydeck is the highest observatory in Chicago.

The view is amazing! You can see 40 – 50 miles (65 - 80 kilometers) on a clear day. Imagine seeing Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin, just by walking around the Skydeck. And there is finer view of Chicago architecture from the tower.

If you want to know what time the sun will set on the day of your visit, you can get the best of both views and plan on arriving to the Skydeck 30-45 minutes prior to your sunset time! Go to for the Chicago sunset calendar. We are able to see the sunset view as well as night view of Chicago city.

The Ledge - glass box balconies
In January 2009, the Skydeck began a major renovation including the installation of glass balconies extending approximately four feet over Wacker Drive from the 103rd floor. The all-glass boxes allow visitors to look through the floor to the street 1,353 feet (412 m) below. The boxes, which can bear five short tons of weight (about 4.5 metric tons), opened to the public on July 2, 2009. The glass box balconies is called The Ledge. The Ledge brings an exhilarating new experience to the Skydeck. At 1,353 feet up, The Ledge’s glass boxes extend out 4.3 feet from the skyscraper’s Skydeck on the 103rd floor, providing never-before-seen views of the city. There are 4 boxes of glass balconies, one of them will be occupied by the official photographer of the operator of the Ledge.

Skydeck was the most exciting attraction in the building, other than the night view of Chicago. For person with height phobia or fear of height, it is even a bold step to put the foot on the floor of glass balconies, called the Ledge. To look down from the glass balconies is another courageous move, once you are standing on the glass floor. There are moment of yelling, shouting and excitement; as tourists trying to move into the glass balconies. Finally even to take a photo is another excitement moment ...... . forgetting that you are actually standing 1,353 ft above the street below.

The consolation of the night will be the photo taken with the night view of Chicago city as background, a proof that you are man and woman with guts and courage, that you have overcome the fear of height. Willis Tower, despite the name change from Sear Tower, is still the global icon...

Note: A second Skydeck on the 99th floor is used when the 103rd floor is closed. The tourist entrance can be found on the south side of the building along Jackson Boulevard.

This is video about lightning strike Sear Tower. Some said it is fake, but whatever it is, the effect is cool....

You will not be regret that you are here. Even Willis Tower is not the highest building in the world, it is the icon of Chicago city, the historical building that is famous as Sear Tower. Personally it was also the building that the late mother in law frequently mentioned, it is the object of her story of USA tour. It added meaning to the family members and grandchildren, that grandma had been here in early 80s, not long after the building was completed.

There will be more story of Willis Tower, and grandmother's Sear Tower when we returned to Malaysia. It is the journey of three generations.... Mother, daughter, and grandchildren....The Willis Tower. What a significant building to the family, and the story will continue........

Union Station, Chicago
After the visit of Willis Tower, we went to Union Station and have a look and personal experience of the Chicago's public transport. Chicago is one of the transportation hub of USA, the city is also one of the largest hubs of passenger rail service in the nation. Many Amtrak long distance services originate from Union Station. Such services terminate in New York, Seattle, Portland, New Orleans, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Antonio, and Washington, D.C.The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) coordinates the operation of the three service boards: CTA, Metra, and Pace. The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) handles public transportation in the city of Chicago and a few adjacent suburbs outside of the Chicago city limits. The CTA operates an extensive network of buses and a rapid transit elevated and subway system known as the Chicago 'L' (for "elevated"), with lines designated by colors. These rapid transit lines also serve both Midway and O'Hare Airports. The CTA's rail lines consist of the Red, Blue, Green, Orange, Brown, Purple, Pink, and Yellow lines. Both the Red and Blue lines offer 24 hour service which makes Chicago one of the few cities in the world (and one of only three cities in the United States of America) to offer rail service every day of the year for 24 hours around the clock. A new subway/elevated line, the Circle Line, is also in the planning stages by the CTA. Metra, the nation's second-most used passenger regional rail network, operates an 11-line commuter rail service in Chicago and its suburbs. The Metra Electric Line shares its trackage with Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District's South Shore Line, which provides commuter service between South Bend and Chicago. Pace provides bus and paratransit service in over 200 surrounding suburbs with some extensions into the city as well. A 2005 study found that one quarter of commuters used public transit.(source: wikipedia)

Now you know Chicago is more than Blues and Jazz.....

Tip on picture taking at Willis Tower
When shooting towards the windows, use the “backlight” function on your camera (if available). Turn off your flash and use a polarizer filter, if you want to see what’s out the window behind your subject.

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