Visiting the Space Needle – Everything You Need to Know

The Space Needle is the most recognizable and iconic part of the Seattle Skyline. Made for the world’s fair in 1962, no one imagined it would become the architectural wonder that it is today. Even my kids, who had never heard much about Seattle, knew of the Space Needle, and wanted to go to the top. So, one of the first reservations we made when planning our Seattle long weekend was timed entry to the top of the Space Needle. We rode those glass elevators to the top and saw Seattle in a whole new light.

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The Space Needle
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History

As you wait to enter the Space Needle, the halls are lined with interactive exhibits and plaques that teach young and old about the history of the Space Needle. Built in less than a year for the 1962 World’s Fair, the Space Needle is unique in so many ways. It was built at the height of the jet and space era, when we all thought, we were going to live on the moon in a few years. Today it is an iconic part of the Seattle skyline. It was built to withstand hurricane force winds, and in an earthquake the Space Needle is where you want to be. It is built to withstand a 9.1 earthquake! It was never intended to be a permanent structure, but after the World’s Fair, a radio broadcast studio was built in the observation level. Its value became apparent, especially as cell phones become more important, and cell phone companies needed a high place for their antennas. Today, over a million tourists a year ride to the top of the Space Needle to see Seattle from a different point of view.

Various pictures of the history exhibits while waiting to go up to the top of the Space Needle

Observation Platform

Once you go through the line to the elevators, you ride up for less than a minute in glass elevators until you get to the top observation platform. Once you get out of the elevator’s doors, there is a small indoor area, but you want to go through the doors to the outdoor observation platform. Here, instead of metal safety bars, there is glass barriers that allow you to see Seattle unobstructed. What is cool about the glass is it makes for some spectacular photos of Seattle.

View of Seattle from the observation deck of the Space Needle
Skyline from the top*

My brave daughter liked to go right up to the glass and look down. Fearless as always, she was fascinated with the clear, unobstructed view of all around her. My son and I were a little more cautious, testing the glass to see if it would hold us. (Of course, it did. But we were not taking chances). We gingerly lay against the glass, always ready to pounce away at the sign of any movement. My husband would not even try it.

Various photos of a family looking through the glass panels of the observation deck in the Space Needle
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A leisurely walk around the deck lets you see Seattle from all 360 degrees. We saw spiders painted on roofs, the hills of the Queen Anne Neighborhood, and the beautiful waterfront that Seattle is famous for.

A realistic painting of a spider on the roof of a building
This guys was painted on the roof
Fountain in Olympic Park
The fountain from Olympic Park visible from the Top deck of the Space Needle*

Rotating Deck

After you have had your fill of the observation platform (or the cold is getting to you), you go down one flight of stairs to the Rotating Deck. The dome which was placed at the top is perfectly balanced, such that the rotating deck actually rotates on a small 1.5hp motor. Here, away from the elements, you can sit, and watch Seattle go around you as you get your views.

A family of four in front of the window view in the Space Needle
On the Rotating Deck

One of the fun parts is the glass floor. Sure, we were a little nervous to actually step on it. Even though 100s around us were standing on the glass floor, I gingerly added weight little by little, just to be sure. My daughter walked on with zero concern. I held my husband’s hand as he also gingerly put on weight. Unsurprisingly it held us both. Once we were sure it would hold, it was fun to look and even lay down to see Seattle below.

Various photos of people on the glass floor on the rotating deck in the Space Needle

The Rotating Deck also has a lounge restaurant on this level. The lounge at the time of publication was reservation only and only open in the evenings.

Tips

A few things to consider if you are visiting the Space Needle:

  • Timed entry tickets are required to enter the Space Needle. We bought a City Pass, but we still needed to make a timed reservation. Make sure to check to see if the day and time you want is available before you purchase the City Pass and make the exchange right away if you schedule is tight.
  • Your tickets come with free photos. You get a green screen photo at the front, and there are some photographers taking pictures for you on the observation deck. Make sure not to lose your ticket, because you use it go later go online and download the photos
  • You are allowed both selfie sticks and tripods if you are take photos. Just be sure to be courteous to your fellow visitors and don’t block other’s views. (I use this selfie stick/tripod when traveling, to take some of the family pictures you see in this post)
  • There is currently not a full service restaurant at the Space Needle. You can make reservations for drinks and appetizers at the Loupe Lounge, but it is not kid friendly. I’d suggest grabbing some food at The Amory nearby before or after your visit.
  • Those who have a fear of heights may have some trouble with this trip. The elevator goes up and down quickly, the glass is a bit disarming on the observation deck, and the rotating deck has a glass floor showing how high you really are. My husband was able to push through, but something to think about for someone who has a more acute fear
  • There is a very nice gift shop at the bottom level, before you exit. This gift shop is worth browsing. They have some unique shirts, some great STEM toys, and lovely mugs and beautiful mugs and tumblers.
A view of the Space Needle Gift Shop

Conclusion

The ability to view a city from one of its highest points is always a unique experience. It gives you new perspective of the city you are visiting and the world and how small it truly can be. But what is unique about the Space Needle is you get to see what we imagined the world would be like in the future. In the sixties people watched the Jetsons and thought the world would live in houses like the Space Needle. We all imagined a world up in the sky. The Space Needle lets you live that fantasy and see the future as we thought it would look. It lets you see Seattle in a new and interesting light. And it lets you live out your dreams of feeling like you are floating. What location can give you all of that? In Seattle, do not skimp, ride the elevator all the way to the top.

Want to know more about what to do in Seattle? Check out my post, the Ultimate Long Weekend in Seattle to plan your next trip.

Visiting the Space Needle - Everything  You Need to Know

* Photos taken by Atma Photography

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