The movie by that title, starring Elvis Presley, was rated “B.” I rate the Seattle Center, where it was filmed, a solid “A.”
Built for the 1962 world’s fair, the Seattle Center is a 74-acre park four miles north of downtown that’s home to five attractions worth visiting, including the Space Needle.
The best way to get here from downtown is by Monorail. I describe it later on this page.
Symbol of Seattle, the Space Needle has been wowing visitors since 1962, when it was the tallest structure west of the Mississippi. Short by today’s standards at 605 feet, it still impresses with unobstructed views from the Cascade mountains to the Olympics.
Although it was built with nearly 10,000 tons of steel to withstand winds up to 200 miles per hour and earthquakes up to magnitude 9.1, you can’t help but notice how graceful, even fragile it looks.
Get in line
Years ago, I approached the Space Needle’s elevator and found no one there, not even an attendant. So I pushed the button and rode it alone. Those days are over. On a busy day, the line snakes from the ticket window into the pavilion waiting area.
If you don’t mind the line and the ticket price, by all means go to the top. It’s an experience that you’ll remember for a long time.
The elevator lifts you 502 feet to the observation deck in only 43 seconds. When you emerge, you have a choice of seeing the view through glass or in the open air. If weather permits, I recommend heading outside and walking all the way around.
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Note the steel cables surrounding you. Although no one died during construction, the cables were added after three people chose to end their lives here in the 1970s. Six people have actually parachuted from the top. You’ve got to be kidding!
Space Needle restaurant
The revolving Sky City restaurant below the observation deck is open for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch (menus). Meals are pricey but include the elevator ride and observation deck, and you get to skip the line. The ideal reservation time is 30 minutes before sunset (open hours).
Back on ground level, the elevator opens in the gift shop. Note the photos of fireworks that shoot from the top of the Space Needle on New Year’s Eve.
Kids (and parents) will have fun for hours at the Pacific Science Center. Closed Tuesdays in winter. Highlights:
The last three attractions are ticket add-ons.
For $7 extra, you can make two trips to the top in 24 hours—once during the day and once at night. Children are $5 extra.
Love the Space Needle? Buy a $100 annual pass to visit once a day for a year. It includes 4 free tickets for friends per quarter, and lets you buy two tickets per day for half price. A similar family pass is $150 for 2 adults and 2 children without the free tickets.
Seattle CityPASS gives you half-price tickets for six Seattle attractions, including the Space Needle.
Parking lots near the Space Needle are expensive. Street parking is free on Sundays, or any day you’re willing to walk from north of Roy St. or west of 1st Ave. W, as shown on the parking rates map. Otherwise your best bet is a parking garage.
At the heart of the Seattle Center, the International Fountain sends jets of water skyward in time to music. Sit down and watch the free show, which is as much about people as water.
Kids try to get up close without being soaked. You may get misted yourself, depending on which way the wind is blowing.
Jimmy Hendrix meets Captain Kirk at the Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum, also known as EMP.
From the outside, the building looks like a smashed electric guitar.
Inside, you’ll find rock and roll relics, the history of the guitar, the story of the Northwest music scene, and hands-on exhibits of music and space travel. Exhibits change frequently.
Seattle CityPASS includes a half-price ticket. Without a ticket, you can still see free previews in the futuristic lobby, which houses a gift shop and cafe. Harrison Ford’s car from Blade Runner hangs in the lower lobby.
The Seattle Monorail was built to take visitors from downtown to the world’s fair, and it’s still the best way to reach the Seattle Center.
A one-way ticket is $2.25 for an adult, or $1 for a child 5 to 12 years old or a senior.