Sometimes you just have to be a tourist in your own city. It used to be that nearly every child in Chicago would have a school field trip to the Sears Tower at some point. This was true for me as a 1970s kindergartener when the iconic building was the tallest skyscraper in the world.
Perhaps the luster of a Sears Tower visit has waned for modern school children because the building no longer holds the title of “World’s Tallest” and is merely the tallest in the western hemisphere. So it was recently realized that my youngest son had never been to the top of what is now known as the Willis Tower.
Seeing that I had not been up to the top of the top of the building in a staggering amount of time, it was decided that my son and I would do the touristy thing and check it out. Plus, in the time since I had last been there, they had added the “Ledge,” an enclosure that allows you to walk onto a glass floor and look directly down to the ground, some 1000 plus feet below.
We arrived well before the Skydeck opened and found that a large throng of people had already gathered. When the doors were unlocked, we filed in and happily found ourselves near the front of the line.
Having already purchased our passes online, we bypassed the ticket windows and proceeded to the elevator that takes you up to the 103rd floor.
Along the way we found a number of museum-type exhibits, one of which was of particular interest to baseball fans like us.
It was impossible not to notice the gigantic likeness of legendary announcer Harry Caray and a nice little display of sports memor-abilia, including baseballs signed by Ernie Banks, Ozzie Guillen and Ron Santo. Make sure to stop and take in the salute to Chicago sports.
There was also a very cool display – on the floor – that showed how Wrigley Field would appear if looking down on it from the Skydeck. The quick video depicted the rapid ascent of a drone starting on the pitcher’s mound and ending with a fantastic bird’s eye view of the ballpark. Very cool.
Next, we were off to find our ride up to the Skydeck. After the non-stop elevator ride to the top, we were treated to breathtaking views of the city, Lake Michigan and, much to our delight, ballparks!
Officially called Les Miller Field at Curtis Granderson Stadium, the closest ballpark found southwest of the Willis/Sears Tower is home to the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) Flames baseball team. Granderson was a standout at UIC and was drafted from the school by the Detroit Tigers in 2002. Even though he did not return to play for his senior year, he still completed his studies and eventually graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and marketing. Based in part on Granderson’s donations, the ballpark was renovated and reopened in 2014.
Located straight south is a nice view of U.S. Cellular Field, home of the Chicago White Sox. Our view was obscured somewhat by cloud cover but the view was excellent nonetheless.
Looking straight north, Wrigley Field was a little more difficult to locate. In fact, it made for a fun game of who-could-find-it-first. (I won.) In this photo, the steel structure of the new office is visible, along with the iconic hand-operated scoreboard.
As you can see, if your travels have you in Chicago or even if you have lived here all of your life, make sure you don’t miss all the baseball sights that can be seen at and from the Skydeck. Dare to step out onto the “Ledge.” And don’t forget to grab a souvenir baseball as a memento of your trip!