Chicago’s Willis Tower, A Modern Desi Innovation!

Visting the Willis Tower in Chicago. (Photo Courtesy of Lina Shah)

Like everyone else, our kids really wanted to go out to the city and have some fun. Keeping with extra precautions for Covid19, our family ventured on last Sunday to Chicago down-town.

We enjoyed visiting Willis tower and Millennium park. In Chicagoland, Willis tower is one of the must-see attractions for any guest to the city. Due to Covid care, Willis tower are operating very cautiously with limited hours only on weekends and holidays, and a limited number of people in a group. Check for tickets and select your time slot here in advance. For the best spectacular views, visiting Skydeck is either just after opening or after 5 pm, and we were lucky enough to get the spot at 8 am morning. We parked using parking reservation app, it was only $10 for whole day.

Fazlur Khan tribute sculpture in the lobby of the Willis Tower. (Photo Courtesy of Ilayas Quraishi)

Exploring the city of Chicago from the second tallest building of the western hemisphere is a huge experience. Located on 233 South Wacker Drive, it was originally named as the Sears Tower. Now its the Willis and it’s the tallest building in North America. A corporate office building hosting more than 100 companies, the Willis Tower attracts more than 1.7 million visitors every year. Opened in 1973, it took 2,000 workers to build the structure taking about three years to complete.


A short biography of Fazlur Khan in the Willis Tower lobby.(Photo Courtesy of Ilayas Quraishi)

It’s a lot different than before, not just the name, but inside too. We were surprised with the new look and feel at the top. Stand on The Ledge and feel the city from 103 floors over Wacker Drive and the Chicago River. Opened in 2009, the Ledge glass box extends out 4.3 feet from the skyscraper’s Skydeck. Stepping out onto The Ledge of Skydeck is really exciting and unbelievable experience. We found out that the Ledge is the highest observation deck in the United States.

A plaque commemorating Fazular Khan.(Photo Courtesy of Ilayas Quraishi)

There’s a very unique photo opportunity, if you dare to get out on the Ledge. You feel like you are floating in the air. It’s a inch thick glass floor and glass box observation deck on the Ledge. You are at 1353 feet high, feeling awesome. We took many pictures of the city skylines and river from the top. There are incredible views of four states from atop and great educational opportunities from 103rd floor and 99th floor. The visibility from the Skydeck is approximately 40-50 miles. My husband took pictures with the backlight function and without using a flash to capture the best view. Ledge visit time was limited to couple minutes only. We, in fact, purchased a professional family picture on Ledge from the Skydeck team, it’s worth the money.

Another view of the Fazlur Khan sculpture showing a commemorative street sign.(Photo Courtesy of Ilayas Quraishi)

It was nice to learn that the Willis Tower was the first skyscraper in the world built using tubular design system, developed by Fazlur Rahman Khan, a Bangladeshi-American, considered as the “father of tubular designs” for high-rises. Khan was a partner with the original Sears Tower architecture firm, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM). Khan was named the “Einstein of structural engineering” and the “Greatest Structural Engineer of the 20th Century” for his innovative use of structural systems that remain fundamental to modern skyscraper design and construction. The bundled tube system consists of a bundle or of stand-alone skyscraper-sized cylinders, that are assembled to form a thicker column, which reduces the need for excessive amounts of steel in the building and removing the need for internal wind bracing. SOM also designed the Ledge by extending the design one step further, creating glass enclosures with a nearly invisible support system.

My family and I love the Skydeck and we recommend it for all. Its kid-friendly with family bathrooms and equipped with ramps that make it easier to navigate with strollers, scooters and wheelchairs. Children under the age 3 are free. A complimentary wheelchair is available for the disabled. There is a Skydeck Kids club featuring interactive games, puzzles, etc., to get kids interested. This Chicago icon is filled with interesting Chicago facts and today, it remains the eighth-tallest building in the world. Afterwards, we then biked to Millennium Park and enjoyed wonderful city views.

For accessibility and other questions regarding the Willis Tower, please reach out to 312-875-9696 or

A freelance writer, editor, teacher, social worker and financial professional, Lina Shah is inspired by her father. A multi-talented suburban Chicagoland wife and a mother of two, she also enjoys cooking, social gathering and event planning.



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