I think if you ask most people what they know of the city of Seattle, they’ll respond with its most recognizable landmark-the Space Needle. This 1962 structure is what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris, what the Empire State Building is to New York. So needless to say the one tourist activity I could safely say I would be doing without hesitation while in Seattle was visiting the Space Needle.
If you want a more in-depth history on the Space Needle, click here but in short, it was built in 1962 for the Century 21 Exposition, otherwise known as the World’s Fair (back when they were a “thing”). During the fair, which ran from the spring until the fall of 1962, 20,000 people a day rode the Space Needle’s elevators to the top.
The design of the Space Needle is very much a la “Jetsons” (a popular animated television show from the 1960s in which the characters live in a Utopian future). I can only imagine how utterly futuristic the tower looked in the 1960s when it was first unveiled (themes of space, science, and the future were what ended up taking hold at the Exposition, a clear connection to the Space Race in the ongoing cold war between the United States and the former Soviet Union). The 1960s saw enormous change to American society in regards to music, fashion, and even architecture.
When it comes to observation towers like the Space Needle, I do feel if you’ve been to more than one, the general concept is always the same; queue up to ride to the top. However, it’s the views that are unequivocally the piece de resistance since those will always be 100% different.
While most of the weekend’s weather had been mediocre (that’s putting it nicely) thankfully on our final day there, the sun emerged and we saw what Seattle is like on a beautiful late spring day. The Puget Sound was glistening finely off in the distance, the buildings appeared majestic under the bright blue sky, and we had even views of the famous and indomitable Mt. Rainier which was not visible when we flew in a few days prior. Good weather does truly make all the difference sometimes.
I think one of the reasons why I preferred the Space Needle to a landmark like the Eiffel Tower is that you actually had space. The Space Needle offers both indoor and outdoor observation deck viewing but even when you go outside, there is not only room to stop at the railing and gaze out but also room to pass by. I remember on my last visit to the Eiffel Tower, it almost felt suffocating with the sheer number of people crowded at the top (and I’m not someone who is claustrophobic).
Although I read that the views offered at the Columbia Tower are superior to those of the Space Needle’s (the former is the tallest building in the city), I don’t think you can or should go to Seattle and not visit its most legendary landmark. The two simply go together.
The Red Headed Traveler’s tips for visiting
-The Space Needle definitely has some mild price gouging as tickets in the midday time group (10AM-6:30PM for summer hours) are $10 more per ticket than early (8AM-9:30AM) or late (7PM-11:30PM) times. Depending on the number of people in your group, that extra $10 per person can add up quite fast, so if you can, I would recommend doing either the early morning or evening times.
-Our tickets were for the 9:30AM admittance time. I’m glad we went in the morning since queue lines were minimal but by the time we came back down roughly an hour later, they were quite long and I can only imagine them getting worse as the day went on.
-If you’re staying in the downtown area, ride the monorail to it (it literally drops you off right there). It’s a short ride, quite cheap ($2.25) and is like going back in a different time (it was constructed to transport guests to the World’s Fair). Just remember they only take cash.