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From journal Three Days in the Windy City
South Jersey, New Jersey
April 4, 2008
by Wildcat Dianne
November 24, 2006
The Sears Tower was once the tallest building in the world. Plans for the building started in 1969 when two Chicago architects were having lunch, and one of them pulled out a pack of cigarettes and put five of them in his fist in varying heights above his thumb. That was the design for the Sears Tower, 5 towers of varying heights and floor levels. Construction of the Sears Tower officially began in 1970 and took three long years to complete. The doors finally opened in 1973, and the Sears Tower was a place for many businesses to have their main offices and for tourists to see the sights of Chicago from the top of the building.
All of this information was included in a short History Channel video that was shown to us before ascending the tower. Watching the scenes of the construction was enough to give me a case of acrophobia (fear of heights), and these are the dreams we fear in our sleep!
After the video, we went up to the 103rd floor, which was crowded with families and groups of students. My ears started to pop going up, and I pulled gum out of my purse to stop the pain. We had to plow through them to the windows to see some spectacular views of Chicago and its environs. It was nice to see, but I wasn't that impressed and agreed with some of the tourist books about the Sears Tower being overrated. My friend Leslie and I agreed that "it was just a building."
The Sears Tower is open from 10am to 10pm during the summer and from 10am to 8pm in the off season and costs $12 to go up to the top, but there are deals for seniors and children.
From journal The Big Onion - Chicago
July 8, 2004
Both the Sears Tower and the Hancock Center observation decks underwent revamps in the past few years. The new Sears exhibits are at times a bit cheesy, although informative. But you don't really come to the Sears Tower for exhibits - you come for the view. And what a view - at least on a clear day - taking in Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana.
To visit the Skydeck, you enter the building through a seperate entrance on West Jackson street, between S. Wacker and S. Franklin, which is located in the southwest area of the downtown Loop. (If you get lost, just look up!). I have found that unlike the Hancock, there is always a queue to wait in at the Sears Tower, which can average anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, although apparently if you go late in the day, after 4pm, there is less of a wait. Due to post-9/11 security measures, expect to spend some time going through a security checkpoint. The Skydeck opens at 10am and is open until 10pm during the summer, 8pm the rest of the year. Plus, in the evening you can see some really great sunset views of the city and surroundings.
I personally like the Hancock's views of the lake better, but from the Sears Tower you can really see a lot of Chicago's major landmarks, such as Grant Park, the Museum Campus, the newly remodelled Soldiers Field, and more. On a clear day it really is quite impressive and worth a visit. On overcast days, your time is better spent elsewhere, as the extreme height of the building means that the top is in clouds when much else of the city is not.
As mentioned, the new exhibits can at times be a little cheesy, but they're very kid-friendly and give interesting insight into the building of what was formerly the world's tallest tower, as well as city history.
Adult admission $9.95, children $6.95. Look for discount coupons in tourism magazines or visit the Visitor's Center at the Water Tower for a Chicago coupon book.
From journal Playing Tourist at Home in Chicago
by Cincinnati Traveler
June 20, 2010
New Delhi, India
March 5, 2007
We paid up $11.95 each, and were ushered into a small movie hall, where we (along with some thirty or forty other visitors), were shown a brief video on the history of Sears, Roebuck and Co.; the design and building of the Sears Tower; statistics; and more. What I found particularly quirky was the unusual way in which the design of the tower was finalised. Architect Bruce Graham and structural engineer Fazlur Khan were dining out and Khan was trying to describe his concept of a 'stepped’ tower, when Graham took out a pack of cigarettes. He pulled out the cigarettes, then pushed some back in, and some even further in. And hey presto, there, in Graham’s hand, was a miniature replica of what Khan had in mind!
The Sears Tower was built 1970-74, and two decades later, in 1995, Sears ended up vacating the building. It is now occupied by various offices, but the Skydeck, which offers panoramic views of the Chicago cityscape, continues to be a big draw.
The Skydeck sprawls around a central block, which is decorated all over with interesting photographs, illustrations, and bits of information about Chicago - from the fact that its name is derived from the Potawatomi word, checagou, which translates as 'wild onion’, to detailed (and tragic descriptions) of the Chicago Fire, supposedly begun by the ill-judged actions of a cow! Equally absorbing were the anecdotes of famous denizens of Chicago - down to the bartender Mickey Finn, whose potent brews were capable of knocking out even hardened tipplers. What I liked was the fact that there’s a child-high stretch of information too, winding its way all around the central section. Here, kids can look at old life-size photographs to see what children wore to the beach in 1910; how their mothers would have dressed them in the 1880s; what their lunches would have consisted of in 1940. Cool!
Most people, of course, come to the Skydeck to see the view- and it’s pretty spectacular. We had the misfortune of visiting the Sears Tower on a cloudy day, so our experience wasn’t as fantastic as it could have been. But yes, we did see quite a few amazing buildings all around - and Lake Michigan, glittering silvery and cold under a thin blanket of snow, looked enchanting. Had it been a clear day, we would probably have been able to see 50 miles round.
The Sears Tower Skydeck is open 10 to 10 in summer (May to September) and 10 to 8 the rest of the year. Over a million visitors arrive here every year, so be prepared for long queues, especially on clear, sunny days.
From journal Work- and Weekends- in the Windy City
San Francisco, California
December 20, 2002
From journal Chicago, my home town!