Seattle Great Wheel

One of the most recent additions to the Seattle tourist map and a key element of the 20-year strategic plan for developing its Puget Sound piers, the Seattle Great Wheel is a unique and special attraction to experience. Offering fantastic views of the pier and parts of the city of Seattle, this is unlike most other Ferris wheels and a truly unique way to spend the day in Seattle.

Seattle Great Wheel History

Located prominently on Pier 57 on Elliott Bay off the Puget Sound, the Seattle Great Wheel is only one element of a city-wide effort to reinvigorate its waterfront. Owned by the Hal Griffith Family, who also own Pier 57 and most of the businesses on it, the Great Wheel debuted on 29 June 2012. It was the realization of a 30+ year dream that Griffith had for the area.

As a business owner and land developer in the Seattle area for his entire career, Hal Griffith had long wished to create a destination out of Pier 57 and its adjacent land, not only to ensure his own livelihood, but to enhance the tourist experience of the city of Seattle. Since the 1980s, Griffith envisioned the addition of a large Ferris wheel on the shores of Elliott Bay akin to the London Eye. However, it seemed that he met resistance at every juncture.

When the Nisqually Earthquake hit the city in 2001, the resulting damage to the Alaskan Way Viaduct, a major roadway running north-south through the city, needed the attention of city, county, and state resources. The proposed solution, which is still underway, was to remove the old viaduct and dig a tunnel which would run through the core of downtown. This effort, which is essential for the steady movement of Seattle traffic, had the unfortunate side effect of cutting off the pier and its businesses from the bulk of residents and visitors, however.

Because of this development, Griffith was endowed with a renewed energy to transform his family’s pier through the addition of his long-sought Ferris wheel. It was his hope that the addition of such as large and prominent feature would serve as a beacon to draw people to the area despite its more difficult access. Griffith received the necessary permits to install the wheel and completes the entire process in a little over three years.

Today, the Seattle Great Wheel is the largest Ferris wheel on the west coast of North America. It joins three other prominent Ferris wheels across the continent, the others being located at Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. At a towering 175 feet tall, the Seattle Great Wheel is the second largest of the lot, behind the Myrtle Beach SkyWheel, and the only one of the three to be built over water, therefore offering unmatched views of the Puget Sound throughout the ride.

Seattle Great Wheel: The Main Attraction

A trip to Pier 57 for a ride on the Great Wheel offers travelers more than just another amusement park ride. The Griffith Family and other business owners throughout the area have worked hard to make the piers on Elliott Bay a true destination for shopping, dining, harbor cruises and entertainment. The wheel is officially located at 1301 Alaskan Way on Pier 57. It is just south of the Seattle Aquarium and north of Miner’s Landing, a large entertaining and dining complex owned by the Griffith Family which includes an arcade.

The Great Wheel operates 7 days per week during peak tourist seasons, but follows reduced hours during the winter months. It can also close down due to inclement weather. Rides on the Great Wheel are aboard one of 42 temperature-controlled gondolas which can hold up to 9 people. Admission is per person and divided into adult (12-64), child (4-11), and seniors (65+). Children aged 3 and under can ride for free, but must still obtain a ticket. In addition to the traditional ride options, a VIP gondola is also available. This luxury ride includes seats of red leather and a glass floor which offers unmatched views the pier and water. Also included in the VIP package is a champagne toast in the Fisherman’s Restaurant in Miner’s Landing following the ride and a VIP t-shirt.

Each Great Wheel ride lasts about 12 minutes, or three full rotations of the wheel. The design of the apparatus allows riders to extend 40 feet over Elliott Bay. The ride is gentle, and is therefore appropriate for individuals of all ages and health conditions, including young children and pregnant women.

Why the Seattle Great Wheel is a Must-See

There are a lot of ways that visitors to Seattle can “see” the sights of the city and the Puget Sound. And, while bay cruises and the Space Needle are obvious ways to do this, yet another perspective that is both unique and captivating is offered by the Seattle Great Wheel. One of the newest additions to the Seattle waterfront, one that is at the heart of a revived area, the Great Wheel is an excellent addition to any Seattle trip.