Hey, all. We, Jacqueline and Shannon, periodically run out of things we realize we should hate, so we sometimes employ the helpful hate of others. Here's Cole—a real person, a real Chicagoan, and a real good writer. After talking to him, we're never visiting the Chicago Skydeck. Ever. (Unless we get paid in beer and burritos, obviously.) Here's his story.
Hello, Strangers (Newbies?). Cole Rush here, of ColeTries.com. Jacqueline and Shannon have welcomed me to their Hate It section — for better or worse — for a tale of my experience with a cherished Chicago landmark. Trust me, there will be plenty of hate. It’s not an anger-driven hate — it’s a hate that stems from exhaustion and exasperation, a hate that embeds itself in what would otherwise be a pleasant memory. Should you ever visit Chicago, well, remember my story and heed my advice.
(One thing to get right out of the way — I avoid anything with Trump’s name on it like the plague. I can bear to glance at the tower as I take in the skyline as a whole, but on principle I will not set foot in the monstrosity.)
I’ve lived in Chicago long enough to call myself a local, but, as any native might, I find myself at a tourist hotspot once in a while. During such a circumstance a few months ago, some friends and I ended up at the Willis (formerly Sears) tower mid-winter. My first gripe with the tower is mostly personal; call me traditional, but I grew up knowing and loving the Sears tower, and I was fed up with the “Willis” crap pretty much the second the name change became official in 2009. Fine. Sure.
Wait, Cole. Hold up. Why the name change?
The internet will tell you that Willis Group Holdings leased a significant portion of the building, and that that lease included naming rights. I think the real reason is that they're in the business of crushing dreams.
A longtime admirer of the way the Willis tower adorns the Chicago skyline (especially from the North—easily the best view of the city), I jumped at the chance to ascend the tower and view the city from its flagship building. My friends and I hopped in line for the Skydeck, which started outside the building (red flag number one) and chatted our way through the wait.
Once in the lobby, we received an unpleasant surprise: The wait from there would be another two and a half hours. After a few half-hearted utterances about leaving, we silently agreed to stay and, a half-hour later, boarded an elevator. Sweet relief!
It. Went. Down.
I don’t mean that there was a dance party waiting for us. An hour of waiting led us to a tightly packed elevator. It took us down one floor to yet another line. We hadn’t even purchased tickets yet. So we waited.
...Wait, back up. Why is it so popular?
It's the second tallest building in the United States and, truly, it's a stunning work of architecture. The tower anchors the Chicago skyline and is recognizable from miles away. I find it remarkable to this day, even as a Chicago suburbs native and longtime city-dweller who sees it all the time, so it makes sense that people flock to it.
ANOTHER HOUR LATER, we passed through an airport-style metal detector and snapped a mandatory photo that the employees offered to sell us for an exorbitant price. Another half hour, and we finally arrived at the ticket window.
We advanced to the next level of the hellish dungeon, where interactive screens pushed random Willis Tower facts upon us. Yet again, we waited until an employee ushered us into a theater, where we enjoyed (seriously, I actually enjoyed this part) a video about the building’s history.
The exit doors swung open and we waited one...last...time. We boarded the elevator and shot upward for 60 seconds to the Skydeck. I wish I could tell you how amazing the city looked. I wish I could tell you the Skydeck windows with glass floors completely justified the wait. But I can’t tell you that. Night fell while we trudged through the Willis Tower basement, and the highest point in the city gave us nothing a relatively tall rooftop couldn’t: a pretty array of lights and slightly foggy view of the Hancock. We meandered around the top floor and waited for an opportunity to snag a particularly crappy photo overlooking the jumbled grid of lights.
You know we have to see that crappy photo, right?
Oh, absolutely! As it turns out, I nabbed a BUNCH of crappy photos. Not just one!
After all the hullabaloo, we stood in line for one last time to catch the elevator back to the ground.
At the end of the day, I adore the Willis Tower as a Chicago skyline staple, but four hours in line for a packed Skydeck and lackluster views make it an entirely skippable outing. Instead, head to the Hancock building’s Signature Lounge for over-priced drinks and appetizers, understanding that you’re paying for shorter waits and better views. Do this, and you’ll love The Windy City after one breathtaking look.