Steve reviews the Seattle Center. Visit the Space Needle, Pacific Science Center, Experience Music Project (EMP), and Monorail in Seattle, WA. Ticket prices, discounts.

Go up the Space Needle at Seattle Center
Best Seattle attractions
400 Broad Street (at John Street)
Seattle, WA 98109
Senior 65+
Active military ID
Child 4-12
Child 0-3
$18 - $24
$15 - $16
$11 - $24
Click the link above because hours vary by season.
Ticket sales end 30 minutes before closing.
#3 Seattle attraction
smile Highs
  • Panoramic views of downtown Seattle, the mountains, and Puget Sound.
  • Thrilling elevator ride.
  • Four other attractions within walking distance.

frown Lows
  • Not much to see if visibility is low.
  • Long line for the elevator sometimes.
  • Pricey ticket.
Review by Steve

“It happened at the world’s fair”

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.

The Seattle needle
Space Needle, Seattle WA

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.

Zoom skyward

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.

(continued in next column)

Space Needle, Seattle Washington
Space Needle, Seattle WA
Space Needle, Seattle WA
Space Needle (note the elevator)
Seattle Space Needle - view from observation deck
Lake Union from the Space Needle
Sky City restaurant, Space Needle, Seattle WA
Sky City restaurant at the Space Needle
International Fountain, Seattle Center
Playing in International Fountain
Seattle Monorail, Seattle Center WA
Monorail passing through Experience Music Project
Space Needle map, Seattle WA map copyright

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.

Science made fun

Kids (and parents) will have fun for hours at the Pacific Science Center. Closed Tuesdays in winter. Highlights:

  • Animated dinosaurs
  • Insect village and butterfly house
  • Water-jet nozzles in the courtyard
  • Lots of hands-on science exhibits
  • Planetarium shows
  • Laser shows with music
  • Imax giant-screen movies

The last three attractions are ticket add-ons.


Day-and-night ticket

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.

Annual pass

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.

Discount pass

Seattle CityPASS gives you half-price tickets for six Seattle attractions, including the Space Needle.

Free parking

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.

International Fountain

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.

Music and science fiction

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.

Ride the Monorail

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.

The ride is one mile long. It starts at the Westlake Center at 5th & Pine (in the top-floor food court) and ends at the Seattle Center near the Space Needle and the Armory food court.

A one-way ticket is $2.25 for an adult, or $1 for a child 5 to 12 years old or a senior.

More at Seattle Center

Many of Seattle’s best festivals are held at the Seattle Center. Visit the Seattle Center events calendar for a complete list of what’s happening.

More things to do at the Seattle Center:

Seattle CityPASS