Imagine looking down on some of Chicago's tallest skyscrapers, four surrounding states and a transparent floor some 1,353 feet in the air. These are the views on offer at The Ledge at Skydeck Chicago, an attraction at the Willis Tower that dares travelers to step out onto the sky.
Formally known to most Chicagoans and visitors as the Sears Tower, this popular sightseeing destination should not be missed. Here are five tips for making the most of a visit to the 103rd floor:
1. Go during "off-peak" everything: December, January and February mean fewer vacationers visiting the city and, in turn, less people touring the Skydeck. When it would normally be a 45-minute wait to finally reach the 103rd floor in peak season, visitors can typically skate through the line in about 10 minutes during the winter months. Also, the morning and the evening hours draw the least amount of crowds each day, so plan accordingly for the most efficient use of sightseeing time.
2. Bring binoculars: On a clear day, take in spectacular views of up to 50 miles away. Use binoculars to catch a close-up glimpse of Chicago landmarks including Wrigley Field, Lincoln Park Zoo, the Chicago River and the Museum Campus.
3. See the sun set: One of the best sights from 1,353 feet in the air is watching the sunset and the lights slowly start to glow throughout the city. Aim to be at the top by 5 p.m. or so, depending on the time of year, for this experience. Click here for a Chicago sunset calendar.
4. Learn something: The walkway over to the elevators is filled with interactive tidbits of information about the tower and the city, as well as visuals that will attract the eyes of the whole family. Be sure to save time for exploring this exhibit. For the history buffs, don't miss the nine-minute video presentation, "Reaching for the Sky," featuring the history of the Willis Tower as well as other major landmarks in the Windy City post Chicago Fire.
5. Breakfast at the top: Make a reservation for breakfast on The Ledge -- literally -- before it opens to the public each Monday-Friday. Tables are set on the glass balconies that extend four feet outside of the 103rd floor.
The Ledge at Skydeck Chicago at the Willis Tower is open 365 days a year from 9 a.m. - 10 p.m., April-September and 10 a.m.-8 p.m., October-March. Basic admission for adults (ages 12 and older) is $17.50 per person.
-- Gia Teolis