A true emblem of the city of Seattle as well as the entire Pacific Northwest, the Space Needle is one of the most popular and amazing sites that the city has to offer. Soaring an impressive 605 feet over the Seattle Center, the Space Needle is also an attraction with a rich and interesting history.
Money Saving Tip! The Space Needle is included on the Seattle CityPASS. If you are sightseeing in Seattle, then you can save a lot of money with a pass.
The Space Needle History
The coming of the 1962 World’s Fair, also known as the Century 21 Exposition, to the city of Seattle was long-awaited. Beginning in the late 19th century, different World’s Fairs or Expositions were held all over the country and world. Though first based on commerce, the World’s Fairs of the mid-20th century were increasingly based on themes which centered on issues of cultural significance, placing special emphasis on addressing issues important to all of humankind.
The focus on the journey to Outer Space and the role of the United States within that journey was the centerpiece of the Seattle display based, in part, on the connection between the Seattle area and the Boeing Corporation. The fact that the most prominent building from that World’s Fair was named the Space Needle should therefore come as no surprise.
The initial plans for the Space Needle as a central structure to the World’s Fair began immediately as part of the overall planning of the event. Chairman of the World’s Fair, Edward E. Carlson, is credited with having the idea of a tower which, at the time, would be the tallest east of the Mississippi. Local architect John Graham, who also designed the Northgate Mall in Seattle, was commissioned for the project. He worked along with Carlson to bring to fruition a vision that combined that of a flying balloon (Carlson) and UFO (Graham), stood prominently among the city’s skyline, and included a restaurant as well.
Time was a crucial factor with the start date of the Fair firmly set for April 1962. As a result, work on the project took place round the clock from groundbreaking in the spring of 1961 to the day before the Exposition opened on 21 April 1962.
Because of its location on the earthquake-prone Pacific coast, the design for the Space Needle was about more than looks or breaking records, though, which presented an additional challenge. The structure needed to be solid despite its slim tower and seemingly unbalanced frame. Therefore, a foundation of 5850 tons was poured to help the new building withstand even the most dangerous of natural disasters and weather phenomena. This means that the completed Space Needle sports some impressive statistics which includes the ability to withstand 200 MPH winds or an earthquake at a 9.1 magnitude. In addition, the structure supports 25 lightning rods.
Throughout the duration of the World’s Fair, the Space Needle was incredibly popular, reaching a total attendance of nearly 20,000 people each day throughout the 6 months of the fair. Today, it remains one of the city’s top attractions not only because of its role as an emblem of the city itself, but also because of the fantastic views it provides of the city along with Mt. Rainer and the Cascade Mountains which surround it.
Space Needle: The Main Attraction
The Space Needle remains one of Seattle’s top attractions, and as such is open 365 days a year, including holidays. Observation deck hours remain steady throughout the year and include a midnight closing each day in order to allow visitors the chance to view the city during the day as well as at night.
Tickets to the top of the Space Needle include an elevator ride to the observation deck, which are 520 feet up, along with access to the deck itself. They are designated for adults (13+), seniors (65+), and youth (4-12); children under 3 are admitted for free. In addition, guests can choose their tickets according to when they plan to visit the Space Needle; this includes general admission (peak hours), early admission (before 9:30am), late admission (after 6pm), and day & night admission, which allows travelers to visit the Space Needle twice inside of 24 hours.
Throughout the length of the observation deck, visitors are also treated to color photos and explanations of the sites they see from each vantage point. There are also free telescopes provided along the way which provide a self-guided tour of sorts.
In addition to the observation deck, the Space Needle is also well known for its SkyCity Restaurant which serves Brunch and Dinner on weekends and Lunch on weekdays. If you choose to dine at SkyCity, admission to the observation deck of the Space Needle is included.
Why the Space Needle is a Must-See
Although the lines to the elevators can stretch for upwards of an hour or more during the busy season, the wait and trip are well worth it. Offering unprecedented 360 degree views of the city and the majestic mountains that surround it along with an interesting history all its own, the Space Needle is the quintessential Seattle attraction and the city’s ultimate must-see.