My family and I are increasingly steering towards presents that are experiences, rather than things these days. It seems like we’re not the only ones; lots of people I speak to are decluttering, have just decluttered or keep saying they’re going to start so the last thing I want to do is buy them more junk that they’ll feel honour bound to keep for an arbitrary amount of time and then declutter along with the rest of it.
That’s a rather roundabout way of saying that S and I both turned 30 this year, and when our families asked us what we’d like, our minds went to experiences. My mind went to food, specifically. Previously, whilst researching activities for our Big Trip, I’d seen mentioned that you could get great views of the city from Skydeck Chicago, otherwise known as the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower (aka the Sears Tower). Whilst having a poke around their website, I came across their Pie in the Sky offer. Turns out, you can eat a meal of your choosing right in front of the Ledge, a series of glass boxes which extend out 4.3 feet from the Skydeck. 103 floors up.
Now if that’s not an experience to mark a new decade, I don’t know what is.
So we booked ourselves in.
What we didn’t realise at the time of booking (eg I didn’t read the fairly large print) was that reservations during the summer are for 11pm. Yes, on our second day in the city we had to stay up for dinner until the equivalent of 5am UK time. Needless to say, we were quite tired by the time we rolled up to the side entrance of the Willis Tower, at 10.50pm exactly.
We were amused by the strict security procedures upon arrival – we showed our passports, we went through scanners, had our bags checked, and we were definitely not allowed to take photos. We watched in amusement as one of our fellow diners had the single cupcake he’d brought passed through the x-ray scanner…
Having checked in, and feeling like we’d arrived for an international flight and not just dinner, a staff member arrived to escort us and the other four couples also eating pie in the sky up to our dining venue. Our names were checked again, as we walked a sneaky back route through the building, circumventing the spaces reserved for the queues of people who make their way up to the Skydeck during the day. Up in the lift we went, and shortly appeared at the 103rd floor.
This is the view that greeted us.
We were told we were free to wander around as much as we wanted, could take as many photos as we wanted, and generally take our time to enjoy the space. Given there were only four other couples with us, you could easily pretend you had the whole place to yourself.
We walked around the Skydeck, taking in the views, trying to spot the landmarks we’d seen earlier in the day. We saw the Chicago skyline from above.
We saw Ferris Bueller. We saw our hotel. Then we saw the Ledge.
Walking out onto a glass ledge 103 floors up is a little harder than I thought it would be. I’m not normally worried by heights but there’s just something so unnatural about stepping off the side of a building.
Still, I found that by looking straight ahead I could manage it. S wasn’t quite so sure about the whole thing so he just took photos of me, instead.
I have to say, looking down at the pavement 1,353 feet below me is something that will stay with me for quite some time.
We’d seen the ledges poking out of the side of the Willis Tower on our architecture cruise earlier in the day, and they looked impossibly high up. Standing in one looking back down at the city was quite incredible.
I was so entranced by all the shiny strings of lights laid out below us that I completely forgot we were actually there to eat.
So when our food arrived, I reluctantly dragged myself away from the view. The gluten free options were limited, so I had a plain salad to start, followed by the gluten free version of Giordano’s Pizza. Both diners share a pizza so S was subject to my gluten free choice – he didn’t mind, but I felt a bit sad because the gluten free pizza crust is thin crust, and we’d been keen to try a famous Chicago deep dish pizza if we could.
Sadly it wasn’t to be, but we tucked in to our thin crust pizza with gusto anyway. I was delighted when the couple two tables down from us got engaged – S won the wager on which couple it would be.
After finishing our meals, we were allowed to stay up on the Skydeck for as long as we wanted. However, I felt bad that the staff had to wait for us and it was nearly 1am, so after one last quick lap and a final 1,353 ft shoefie, we called it a night.
Back down we went through the sneaky back way in reverse, past the serious guards at the entrance, and home to our hotel. The whole way, we were shaking our heads.
What beautiful views.
What a city.
> Gluten free options are available! If limited. You can have the salad as an appetiser, there is a gluten free pizza option, but sadly there is no pudding that’s gluten free. You select your options, including the gluten free base, at the time of booking, and you can pick exactly what toppings you’d like on your pizza as well. I recommend the meatballs.
> Overall I’d say the food was ok, but not great. Pictured above is our salad…. Don’t do this for the food; do it for the experience.
> There are four glass ledges and there can be up to 9 tables per evening, but the other 4 couples in our booking were great at letting everyone have a turn in a ledge, taking photos of each other, etc.
> The drinks are free refill and you can have something different to what you originally ordered
> There weren’t too many cabs around at 12.30am so we waited a while to hail one. I’d recommend arranging one in advance if you can.
> Overall, I’d highly recommend this experience. It is $100 each (!) but seeing the city spread beneath us and being able to enjoy it at our own pace, with food, was a pretty special experience for us.
Have you ever dined at height? What did you think?
Thank you to my lovely family for contributing towards our dinner, we had an absolutely marvellous time and it’s an experience we’ll genuinely treasure.