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--The Skydeck at (Sears Tower) Willis Tower, Chicago -- The Skydeck is the observation deck of Willis Tower, the building formerly known as the Sears Tower. Since 2009, a tenant, the London based Willis Group has the naming rights as part of their lease agreement. Throughout North America and internationally the building is well know and for some it will always be the Sears Tower despite the name change. The Willis Tower, built in 1973, is the tallest building in North America and ranked as the worlds tallest from 1974 to 1996. On clear days the visibility from the Skydeck is up to 50 miles and four states may be seen. Even though it's annoyingly touristy, if you are visiting Chicago for the first time, the Skydeck at Willis Tower (Sears Tower) is a must see, especially so for families traveling with children. If your traveling without the children or have arranged a babysitter, the Skydeck can be an exceptional place for a date night. There is a restaurant on the 67th floor and seeing the city from above at night with innumerable glimmering lights can be particularly romantic. From May to September it stays open until 10 pm, from October to April closes at 8 pm and is open 365 days a year. If at all possible schedule the visit for your first or second day in Chicago. You'll come away with a good idea of the city layout and most probably see some of the sites you plan to visit. Be sure to check the weather the night before and again early morning of your visit since visibility can be significantly reduced if not obscured on rainy, overcast or very cloudy days. This is a very popular site both with tourists and Chicagoans so be advised there is apt to be a line and perhaps a long wait. The wait is sometimes one hour and from the time of ticket purchase up to the actual Skydeck can take up to 3 hours. Wait time from entrance to the observation deck is entirely dependent on time of day, day of the week, season and month. Previously the best time to avoid long lines has been first thing in the morning at opening and after 5 pm. Check the 'Visitor Inside Tips' on the Skydeck website where there may be be an advisory on the lines and tips on best viewing. The Go Chicago Card allows you to skip the cashier line which accounts for a good part of the wait time. In addition, Go Chicago Card offers an upgrade called the 'FastPass' that allows you to by-pass both the cashier and elevator lines. Should you plan to view the sunset or see the city illuminated at night, be aware that admission with the Go Card is valid until 5:30 pm so gain admittance just before the cut off time. When planning your visit, check the Skydeck website for current admission times, prices and other important details since changes are likely to occur. The Skydeck website also gives excellent background information on the building, what to expect, special offers, etc. Note that the Willis Tower and the Skydeck have separate and distinct websites. TheSkyDeck(dot)com http://www.theskydeck.com/. No matter the wait time, a Skydeck visit is sure to be a pleasant memory of your Chicago vacation.

Chicago, the Windy City, is the largest city in the state of Illinois, most populous city in the Midwest and the third largest in the U.S. If you are planning a family vacation in the Midwest and want a city experience, Chicago is a great choice. There are literally hundreds of attractions, sites and activities to fascinate children and teenagers. With a bit of advance planning, research, use of coupons and promotions, Chicago is an affordable family vacation spot. The city is served by two airports and excellent interstates and highways. Chicago is served by two airports: O'Hare International Airport (ORD) and Midway International Airport (MDW) . There are a variety of accommodations to meet any travel budget: luxury, low cost, family friendly, bed and breakfast, boutique hotels and others. Chicago is a great restaurant city with choices that are unique: Chicago-style hot dogs, haute cuisine, steak houses, pierogi, international cusisine, etc. Chicago is home to world-championship sports teams, a well known symphony orchestra, famous architecture, award- winning theater, Opera, the Blues, comedy troupes. The city has a reputation for excellent shopping venues: Magnificent Mile, Oak Street, State Street, Division Street, Southport Corridor. The many Farmer and ethnic markets in Chicago are a worthwhile visit. A uniquely Chicago experience is the water taxi system that operates on a loop along the Chicago River, stopping at: Chinatown, Madison Street, La Salle/Clark, Michigan Avenue. You will find attractions at each and every port.There many museums and cultural/historical sites to choose from: Museum of Science and Industry, The Loop, Willis Tower (Sears Tower),Chicago Botanic Garden,Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum,Art Institute of Chicago, Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum,Swedish American Museum,Polish Museum of America, Chicago Cultural Center, Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio,Navy Pier,Ogilvie Transportation Center,The Art Institute of Chicago, The Hancock Observatory, Millennium Park, etc. Uniquely Chicago are the country specific and ethnic/culture museums: National Hellenic Museum, Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art, National Museum of Mexican Art, Mitchell Museum of the American Indian and others. There are an incredible number attractions for families with children in and around Chicago including: Legoland Discovery Center, Six Flags Great America and Hurricane Harbor, Chicago Children's Museum at Navy Pier, Pirate's Cove (Elk Grove Village), Safari Land (Villa Park),DuPage Children's Museum (Naperville), Kohl Children's Museum (Wilmette), Wonder Works Children’s Museum (Oak Park),Shedd Aquariium, Lincoln Park Zoo, Brookfield Zoo, Rainbow Falls Water Park (Elk Grove Village) Seafari Springs Aquatic Center (Hanover Park) Seascape Aquatic Center (Hoffman Estates), Splash County Water Park (Aurora), The WaterWorks (Schaumburg), Dolphin Cove Family Aquatic Center (Carpentersville), KeyLime Cove (Gurnee), Mayan Adventure Indoor Waterpark (Elmhurst).
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