Sears Tower to open glass bottom box at 1300 feet

In July, the Sears Tower Skydeck will open “the ledge”, its newest attraction.

The “ledge” is a glass box extending 4.3 feet out over the edge of the 103rd floor, offering an unobstructed view of the city. Up to 5 guests at a time will be able to stand on the inch and a half thick glass.

I have a lot of faith in structural engineers, but I’m just not sure I’d feel entirely comfortable stepping out on this thing? Would you?


Sears Tower to be renamed “Willis Tower”

Times have changed since Chicago’s Sears Tower was first built. Upon its completion in 1973, this 110-story Chicago monolith was proclaimed a modern marvel – a building that planted a massive stake in the ground for Chicago’s, and arguably America’s, architectural and economic dominance. Though the Sears Tower remains an important symbol in 2009, its preeminence in the “World’s Tallest Building” category has changed significantly.

Still, the news earlier this week that the building would soon be renamed as the Willis Tower comes as a surprise. Willis Holdings, a London-based insurance group that occupies more than 150,000 square feet of office space, will take over naming rights to the building in late 2009. This is in contrast to Chicago-based retailer Sears, which no longer leases space in the building and frankly, is struggling merely to stay relevant.

How is everyone reacting to the news? Chicago’s own Mayor Daley has feigned indifference. But coming from this Chicagoan by birth, I find the name change surprisingly affects me on a personal level, as if it was an affront to the pride of my hometown. Perhaps though the name is less important than what the building represents. To quote the great William Shakespeare, “What’s in a name?” Is anyone, tourist or local, likely to start calling the building the Willis Tower? I doubt it. Believe it or not, the Sears Tower is not the first Chicago landmark to be taken over by out-of-towners, and Chicagoans have learned to continue on with their lives.

Maybe it’s just a sign of the times – in an increasingly global world, it’s harder and harder for something truly “local” to remain that way. Whether it’s the authentic Japanese sushi you’re eating in New York or the London souvenir hoodie that was made in China. Travel is often more about your expectations of what a destination or landmark should be like, rather than taking it for what it truly is. For me at least, whether it’s called the Willis or Sears Tower, the next time I gaze up at that magnificent building I’ll see what I want: a landmark that continues to be truly one-of-a-kind.

[Via Buzzfeed]

The top 10 U.S. city summer destinations: Chicago

When I read in Steve Stephens’ column “Ticket to Write,” that Chicago made it to the the list of top 10 cities for U.S. summer travel in 2008, I thought, “I second that.” Of the several cities I visited on a cross-country tour, mostly by bus, Chicago was my favorite–except for San Francisco. And, of course, New York, which has been and will remain my number one forever.

If you do head to Chicago, here are my suggestions of what to do. These are not in any particular order. Each is from personal experience. If you have your own suggestions, do tell.

The museums we hit:

The Art Institute of Chicago–I absolutely love this art museum. Although the movie, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off “is not one of my favorites, the scenes shot in this museum were wonderful. Don’t miss Marc Chagall’s stained glass piece, “America Windows.”

The Field Museum-In what must seem like uncanny timing given the latest in natural disasters, the exhibit, “Nature Unleashed: Inside Natural Disasters” opens May 23. The museum also has Sue, the largest, intact T-rex dinosaur skeleton. Whatever your natural wonder pleasure, you’ll find it here.

Museum of Science and Industry–Here you can tour a coal mine and the U-505, a German submarine that was used during WWII, You can also can learn about the history of glass and the various ways it’s used, as well as, get a refresher on that genetics unit in high school biology through the baby chicken hatchery exhibit.

The attractions:

Head to the Sears Tower Skydeck. At 1,353 feet, this is the best bird’s-eye view around.

For the best view of Chicago’s shoreline, hop on a tour boat that goes out on Lake Michigan. The best part of the tour was traveling through the locks to get to the lake from the Chicago River. The Wendella tour company’s lake and river tour is one you might want to try. There is one you can take at night, but we did ours during the day.

Walkabout note worthiness:

The architecture and the public art make Chicago one of the most visually stunning cities in the United States. In case you don’t want to miss anything that is a must see–like Alexander Calder’s “Flamingo” located outside the Federal Building, consider taking an architecture and art tour. We were staying with a relative who took us around, but going with an expert, would be well worth the time if you don’t have a person who is from Chicago to show you the highlights.


Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio. This is where Wright lived and worked from 1889 to 1909. From this place in Oak Park, 20 minutes from downtown, Wright designed 125 structures, including Unity Temple and the Robie House, also not far from downtown Chicago. Both are being considered for World Heritage status as part of a group of ten Frank Lloyd Wright buildings.

What we ate: Pizza at Pizzeria Uno (now called Uno Chicago Grill) This may not seem like the most creative, adventurous food choice, but we made it here before this became the mega national restaurant chain that it is today.

What’s new in Chicago that I wish was there when I visited: Millennium Park. This 24.5 acre downtown mecca for arts and entertainment, encompasses historic Grant Park and more. Here’s a place for bike riding, listening to music, wandering among sculptures, and enjoying flower gardens.

At the park’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion, an outdoor amphitheater designed by architect Frank Gehry, the free Grant Park Music Festival takes place from June 11 to August 16.

What I wish we had: Chicago City Pass. With the city pass, you can visit five attractions for $59 which will save you 50%.