Standing on top of the world is a great feeling, whether you are 4 or 40. The Skydeck at Willis Tower (known until recently as the Sears Tower) offers not only spectacular views, but the chance to step out into the air on one of its "ledges," glass encasements that jut out into the sky.
After entering the building on Jackson Boulevard, you begin your journey by descending to the ticket center. Be warned that lines get long, even on weekdays, and security is tight with metal detectors and bag checks. Buy your tickets online to save time waiting. Though it costs more, a Fast Pass bypasses many lines and gets your family to the elevators more quickly.
Once you make it into the elevators, you travel 1,353 feet straight up in 61 seconds in a small crowded space. As soon as the doors open, you enter another world, perched over everything you know. Kids rush immediately for the windows to point at familiar landmarks. We printed a scavenger hunt from the Skydeck's Web site, so my 7- and 8-year-olds already knew what they were looking for. Their hunt was helped by several illustrated "I Spy" boards showing how to find spots such as Buckingham Fountain, Millennium Park and even the faintly visible Wrigley Field.
I would have liked more time to study the interior walls of the space, which are covered in displays about Chicago's history, but my kids were too busy running from window to window in search of the new ledges.
These magnificent windows do not disappoint. Although the first step onto what appears to be a thin sheet of glass is nerve-wracking, the feeling of standing on thin air is more than worth it. Bring your camera for amazing pictures or wait your turn for the ledge with a Tower staff member ready to capture your image and sell it to you when you leave.