Chicago Travel Guide

A Tourist Attraction on the 103rd Floor Broke, but Don’t Worry, ‘It’s Designed That Way’

PHOTO: Salvador Maniquiz /Shutterstock

Look down at your own risk.

Picture it now: you scale Willis Tower—which measures approximately 1,350 feet in height—to get a view of Chicago. When you reach the top floor, an attraction called The Ledge beckons you to step inside its glass viewing box for a truly breathtaking look at the city. You happen to glance down though (you’re in a glass box, after all) and you spot a crack in the floor. That’s right. Yikes. Imagine! Well, I regret to inform you that this story is true as The Ledge at Skydeck Chicago was immediately closed Monday after a protective coating on its casing incurred some minor damage.

“No one was ever in danger and The Ledge was immediately closed. We replaced the coating Monday night and The Ledge was open for business as usual yesterday,” said Terri Cornelius, a spokesperson for Willis Tower. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first occurrence of its kind. In 2014, while posing for pictures in The Ledge (which consists of four glass boxes), a man reported that he could feel the pane beneath him rapidly cracking. While he evacuated safely, the building’s officials insisted he was not at any point in danger; only the protective coating—which measures six millimeters—cracked. “Occasionally this happens, but that’s because we designed it this way,” a building spokesperson said in a 2014 interview.

Beneath the coating, the Chicago Tribune reports, is three half-inches of glass that’s designed to hold up to five tons. The coating’s “sole purpose is to protect the structural glass beneath it,” Mike Swanberg, president and CEO of MTH Industries (the company behind the installation of the coating), told the news outlet. The coating is replaced every six to nine months, Swanberg said. Additionally, Skydeck manager Randy Stancik said the attraction is intended to give “the illusion that it’s not safe,” after all.

“No one was ever in danger and the Ledge was immediately closed.”

If you’re looking for other, let’s say, “less stressful” ways to see Chicago (at $24, the view doesn’t come cheap), the iconic Bean in Millennium Park is a unique and exclusive take on the city’s skyline. The 110-ton stainless steel sculpture reflects a “fisheye” view of the Windy City and the clouds above. We also recommend taking in the view over drinks or a meal at The Signature Room at the 95th. If you come at lunch, you’ll get a clear look at Lake Michigan and there’s a $60 (per adult) brunch buffet offered on Saturdays and Sundays. Similarly, the rooftop bar at The J. Parker on top of Hotel Lincoln offers stunning views of Lincoln Park.