The highlight of the Seattle Center is the symbol of Seattle itself, the Space Needle, built for the 1962 world fair, as was the Seattle Center itself. Back then it was the tallest building in Seattle, but now it’s not even close.
Recently renovated, the observation deck now has slanted glass windows all around the outer walkway of the upper level and at the time we were there a stairway down to a revolving glass floor on a level that used to be a restaurant. The walls around the floor don’t move, nor does anything beyond a small section of carpeted area next to the glass floor. Sometimes the moving part goes all the way to the inner wall, but other areas have alcoves or other features like the stairway to the upper level or elevator back to the ground that stay in one place. It can be disorienting trying to find your way back when the things you saw when you entered that area are no longer near to the stairway.
Any level of the space needle offers 360 degree views of the city, the waterfront, and other things at the Seattle Center like the Pacific Science Center, Chihuly Glass and Gardens, and the former EMP (Experience Music Project) now called the Museum of Pop Culture. In the slow season you can go right up the Space Needle after getting your ticket, but during busy times there can be a long line. Walking around and looking out from different areas of any level provides a variety of different views. In the summer when there are cruise ships at the dock you can see them from the space needle.
When I was a kid and lived in the Ballard area of Seattle we could see our house from the space needle if we used the telescope things on the observation deck. Later as an adult for a few years I had a side job dealing poker for a place that provided casino entertainment for parties. Sometimes those parties were at the space needle. Usually at the 100 foot level, but occasionally at the top. One very foggy night when dealing at the top level one of the party guests asked me when they were going to open the curtains. The space needle has no curtains. In other odd space needle questions, many years ago my cousin once worked at an information booth that sat in the shadow of the space needle. She said the most common question she got asked was “Where’s the Space Needle?” To which her reply was “Look up!”
Besides taking your own photos you can get a group photo on the way in, and there’s a place up top to pose for official photos too. The camera there is automatic rather than manned by a person. There’s nothing stopping anyone from taking as many poses as they want, but unless they have changed it since we were there only the last one will be available for purchase because each time you take a new one it cancels the previous one on your ticket, even if each shot was of a different person in the same group.
Like most attractions you exit through the gift shop. When we were there they had a virtual reality ride which was free to people who had their ticket from going up the Space Needle. The virtual ride was a bungee jump off the space needle, all visual and no actual motion so not an issue for people who might get motion sickness from a real bungee jump. What you see depends on where you look. If you look down you see the ground fast approaching. Look up to see the sky, and all around for different scenery including Mount Rainier if you look in the right direction. Added effects like birds flying around and a float plane headed in your direction bring more depth to the ride. In our party of 10, 9 people enjoyed it including all 5 kids ranging in age from 5-9, most of which would have liked to go again. The tenth person stopped the virtual ride pretty much before it even started, not liking the sitting on the edge of the space needle view at the beginning before the virtual jump. She also did not like being anywhere near the glass while up on the real space needle while the rest of us leaned against it for photos.
Anyone staying in Seattle long enough to have time to see several things can get a Seattle CityPass that provides entry to 5 attractions for about the price of 2. These are available online or at some of the venues. The CityPass includes both day and night visits to the space needle so long as they are both on the same day, but if you go up late afternoon and stay until dark you can get day and night photos in one trip. Other attractions on the CityPass at the Seattle Center are MoPop, and a choice of the Science Center or Chihuly Gardens and Glass. It also includes tickets for the Seattle Aquarium and an Argosy harbor cruise on the waterfront. Woodland Park Zoo is an option instead of MoPop, but it is in a different area of the city, not close to the rest of the attractions. The zoo is however currently open while MoPop is not. Some CityPass attractions are currently closed because of Covid-19. The CityPass website has info on what is or is not open.
The Science Center is geared mainly to kids with numerous interactive displays. We went with 3 kids aged 7, 8, and 9. Two of them were bored at the planetarium show, but they all enjoyed everything else. They might have liked it better had we been there at the right time for the kid’s version of the planetarium rather than the adult one.
There are all sorts of different things for kids to do at the Science Center. The fanciest display is the dinosaurs, but that one is more to look at so the kids had more fun with all the things to do.
The first room we entered had all sorts of things from funhouse type mirrors to a giant fulcrum and much more. The kids probably would have been happy in that one room for hours, but there’s so much more to see and do so we moved on.
Upstairs from the first room we found another room with a variety of things to do. Some were about things like balance or fitness, others about music. It’s a big place with a lot of different rooms of things to do as well as some spilling over into hallways or stairway landings, and a whole other building of stuff across a courtyard.
The kids also enjoyed the butterfly garden. Even though it is mainly a walk-through and look exhibit they were all in hopes a butterfly would land on them and for Hannah one did. There are double sets of doors going in and out of the butterfly garden. On the way out everyone has to make sure there are no butterflies hitchhiking a ride out on them.
Daniel was in the lead for high score of the day on a virtual reality video game and since we were in that area near the end of the day at almost closing time it’s likely his score held up.
Both my daughter Sheri and I remembered how much fun everybody had at the EMP when it was new and she and her brother were kids, but now that it has changed to the MoPOP nearly all of the interactive musical exhibits are gone. EMP stood for Experience Music Project, MoPOP stands for Museum of Pop Culture. The entry fee used to cover everything, but now they want more money for a couple exhibits so we skipped those.
Once you go inside it’s obvious why they changed the name from experience to museum because most of their current exhibits are for looking at rather than experiencing. The old sound lab was still there where people can try out a variety of musical instruments. Other than that the kids had the most fun with photo booths, one of which resembled the bridge of a spaceship and the other made fantasy character cards. It’s not all about music anymore either with some displays about TV or movies. We skipped the horror section. No need to give small children nightmares.
Meanwhile some of the glass sculptures in the Chihuly Garden & Glass exhibit look amazing in photos so that probably would have been the better choice, although no matter how interesting objects are the kids would still rather do things than look at things. Which is why they had so much fun at the Science Center. They also had a lot more fun at the playground just outside of the MoPOP than they had in the museum – and the playground is free whether you have the Seattle CityPass or not.
There’s a monorail stop next to the Space Needle. Besides providing transportation on a mile of elevated track to Westlake Center downtown, the monorail itself is a piece of history. Like the Space Needle and the Seattle Center itself, the monorail was built for the 1962 World’s Fair. Trains run about every 10 minutes.
The original monorails are still running, and were designated a historic landmark in 2003. The downtown station was moved a block north from its original location in 1988 when the Westlake Center was built. Passengers can connect with light rail or busses there.
Copyright My Cruise Stories 2020
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