Randy Stancik, General Manager of Skydeck Chicago, is in charge of the eighth tallest building in the world – all 1,450 feet and 110 floors of (formally) the Willis Tower, the 25,000 people who come through, the 9 restaurants, the infamous glass box Ledge and more – yet, from his point of view (which he’s held proudly for 7 years, 2 months and several days) he’s “in the business of memory and experience.”
The Willis Tower is located on 233 South Whacker Drive in Chicago, Illinois. Built in 1973, it’s open 7 days a week and is known as home to the highest observation deck in the United States. A tourist (and local) destination for all ages – especially since the reveal of the Ledge in 2009, most Chicagoans will point you to the Willis Tower (and all the entertainment inside) as a “must-see” part of Chicago. The Ledge is comprised of three glass boxes, each standing 1,353 above the ground and reach 4.3 feet out from the building to allow visitors a most unobstructed (and unparalleled) view of Chicago.
As you can tell from the Skydeck Chicago website, there’s a lot going on at the Willis Tower. With 103 floors and decades of growth, history and nation-wide prominence, getting the most out of your trip is as important to you as it is the entire staff at the Skydeck; therefore, we sat down with Chicago native, the man who knows the Tower like the back of his hand – Mr. Stancik, to get an inside recommendation of the best way to visit the Skydeck, what you can’t miss when you’re there and his favorite aspects about working (and touring) the Tower.
What would you like people to know about the Chicago Skydeck?
There are five reasons people make a point to visit the Skydeck. Due to the height, at the top you can experience Chicago in a way like no other. As far as you can see (as long as it’s not on a cloudy day) you can see the furthest stretches of the city from a vantage point that you can’t get anywhere else. Secondly and thirdly, it truly makes the world a smaller place. When you can get some perspective on the city, you can see that it’s not as overwhelming or vast as one might think visiting for the first time (or even once you live there for a while). Forth, we have a host of multimedia experiences so you can literally learn all about the city from just one visit to the Tower. And lastly – the Ledge – when’s the last time you had the opportunity to stand on a 1-inch panel of glass 103 floors above the ground?
Visiting the Skydeck for the first time – what are your tips?
Most often, visitors enter the Skydeck looking up, around and in front of them in awe. Many are there because the Skydeck is an extremely well-known (and recommended) stop for those visiting Chicago – however, we also get many locals who simply have yet to stop by or, like some – are frequent fans (note: the Skydeck offers day tickets as well as VIP admission, day/night admission or group/tour bundled passes). Whenever you decide to go, whatever you do, make your way to the Ledge. For some, the ledge is exhilarating and a moment they’ll never forget. For some, it’s a test of conquering their fear of heights. Either way, even if you don’t step out on to the Ledge, at least go check it out. Also, if you can stomach the height and eating, come hungry and enjoy a meal at one of our 9 restaurants. If you’re really gutsy, reserve breakfast or dinner on the ledge with your family or significant other – dining on the Ledge is a cool way to take in the city without being outside. For other entertainment, make sure to pause and watch the 9-minute theatre presentation on the making of the Tower. As random as it sounds, we also make our own fudge and hot dogs – so, whether you work up an appetite on the Ledge or simply run hungry, save room and try our house-made fudge and Chicago-style hot dogs. Visit the Chicago room. And whatever you do – take pictures!
What are some of the coolest/weirdest things we can expect to experience at the Skydeck?
While you can’t bungee jump or take a walk around the rim, we have witnessed 632 marriage proposals everywhere from in an elevator to out on the Ledge. I’ve also seen naval inductions – but really, the most fascinating/bizarre thing is to stand on the Ledge and watch the reactions that people have when they step out on the ledge for the first time. How they look, act, walk – it’s amazing, and never gets old. Also, for all you creative daters out there, the Skydeck hosts special seating breakfast and dinner out on the Ledge. You can get your entire meal served to you table-top while sitting on the glass ledge. It’s amazing to most, and horrifying to some. Give it a try.
Funniest recent celebrity visit?
Naturally, celebrities are people too – so, when they’re in town, many will make a special visit to the Skydeck. Their behavior, of course – that’s often not so natural. Recently, we had Russel Brandt come and do a shoulder stand on the ledge while wearing tiny track shorts. That got a fair number of Instagram and Twitter posts.
Cool “in-the know” tips for a personalized Skydeck experience?
There are several ways you can customize your Skydeck experience. One of the most popular is to have your name (or that of your special someone) messaged on the Welcome Wall for all to see in big letters at the entrance. For special events, receptions, birthdays, etc – you can rent out the skydeck (consider VIP access to the Ledge) for an amazing and unforgettable destination venue. Also, you can get married on the Skydeck – it’s extremely popular, and we have an entire website dedicated to just planning that special day. Want to experience Chicago deep dish pizza on the Ledge? We do that, too. Additionally, if you love local events that range from philanthropy (blood drives) to live music – we have a yearly calendar of those happenings, as well.
For more information on visiting the Skydeck, visit theskydeck.com