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Space Needle

We visited Seattle as the last stop on our month-long Amtrak USA Rail Pass adventure and could not have been happier to be able to visit the iconic Space Needle; not once, but twice!


Where is the Space Needle?

The Space Needle is located inside the Seattle Center, a compound north of downtown Seattle that also includes the Pacific Science Center, Chihuly Garden and Glass, the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP), and a bunch more.

The physical address for the Space Needle is: 400 Broad St, Seattle, WA 98109

How to Get to the Space Needle

The Seattle Center Monorail is the easiest way to get to the Space Needle. The 0.9-mile-long monorail runs along/above 5th Avenue between Seattle Center and Westlake Center in downtown Seattle, making no intermediate stops, so it only takes about 3 minutes. Although the monorail itself could be considered a tourist attraction (and was named a Historic Landmark in 2003), it also operates as a regular public transit service with trains every ten minutes, running for up to 16 hours per day.

Adult fares for the monorail are $3.25 for one-way service with discounts for youth and senior citizens, and advance tickets are not available. There are machines at the stations where you will purchase your ticket(s) as you board the monorail.

The Westlake Center (which is at the other end of the monorail from the Space Needle) is a major transportation hub in downtown Seattle, so you can take just about any bus or rail line and end up there, but honestly, we stayed in Chinatown and walked everywhere while we were in Seattle, apart from taking the monorail.

If you insist on driving to the Space Needle, there are paid parking structures in the Seattle Center, and the parking fees go towards maintaining free programs at the Seattle Center as well as their public gardens. Cost is $15 for 2-12 hours but will be more if there’s a big event happening, such as a concert or sports game at the Climate Pledge Arena. Parking downtown and taking the monorail up is generally more expensive though, so if you must drive, plan to park at the Seattle Center and you’ll have to skip the monorail altogether.

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History of the Space Needle

The Space Needle was commissioned to be built for the 1962 World’s Fair (called the Century 21 Exposition) taking place in Seattle; a six-month long exhibition about the advances of technology and how advanced the United States was in the space race with the USSR.

They broke ground on the Space Needle on April 17, 1961. 370 days later, on April 21, 1962, the Space Needle opened to the public. During the six months of the World’s Fair, over 2.8 million people visited the Space Needle (out of the 10 million people that visited the World’s Fair), with a million people visiting in the first 2.5 months. It was a modern wonder and people loved it.

Some fun facts about the Space Needle:

  • It stands 605 feet tall with an observation deck at 520 feet.

  • The elevator that takes you up to the Observation Deck has a glass front and only takes 41 seconds.

  • It’s designed to withstand 200 mph winds and a 9.0 magnitude earthquake, which may seem a bit excessive, but Seattle was actually hit with a 9.2 magnitude earthquake in the year 1700.

  • When it was built, the Space Needle was the tallest structure west of the Mississippi.

  • The original cost to go to the top of the Space Needle was $1.

  • For six months in 1965, a DJ lived in an apartment next to the radio studio INSIDE the Space Needle.

The Space Needle has undergone two major renovations since opening; the last being finished in 2018, making the floor to ceiling glass walls in the Observation Deck more in line with the original vision of the 1962 plans.

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Our Experience

We were super stoked to visit the Space Needle while in Seattle, as we love unobstructed views from really high up. What we didn’t realize is how much we were going to enjoy the entire experience, including the proud history of the iconic tower.

Upon arriving in Seattle in the mid-morning on the Amtrak Empire Builder, we grabbed a cup of coffee and decided we were going to buy the CityPass. It was our first time using them, but it’s just too great a deal to pass up, allowing us to visit 5 attractions in Seattle within the 2 days we’d be there for one price (more on this in the tickets section below). We stopped at the Seattle Aquarium, which is included in the CityPass, had lunch at a haunted pub by Pike Place Market, then went on an hour-long harbor cruise through Argosy Cruises (which was an optional choice for the CityPass). More in-depth reviews are coming about our other experiences so stay tuned!

We knew we’d be able to pack in a ton of fun stuff the following day after a good night’s sleep, heading up to the Seattle Center to visit the Space Needle, Chihuly Garden and Glass, and the Museum of Pop Culture. In the morning, we walked from our hostel in Chinatown up to the Alweg Monorail in downtown Seattle at the Westlake Center (stopping again for some local coffee along the way). The monorail was built specifically for the Space Needle in the 1962 World’s Fair, and the ride was short but wonderful, being whisked above 5th Ave with nice views of the Space Needle as we approached. Fun fact: the only other still-operating Alweg Monorail system is used at Disneyland.

Videos and the pictures of the Space Needle do not do the structure justice. It’s so imposing, standing over the northern part of Seattle. We were eager to get into the elevator and ride up into the sky.

But before you can ride the elevator, there is a long walkway that gives a thorough background of the construction of the Space Needle and relevant events happening at the time. It was wonderfully put together, from the first bolt to the initial opening at the World’s Fair. It showed pictures of incredibly brave construction workers sitting on beams at the top as they worked and it described what life was like in 1962, with there being only 4 television channels and The Jetsons being a popular show (that actually had elements inspired by the Space Needle).

Getting into the elevator, we were told that due to COVID restrictions, no one could speak while riding the elevator. They packed us in and we happened to be the last ones to get on, giving us an up-close view from the glass doors as the elevator rose through the Space Needle. It was a mind-blowing experience seeing the city expand around us in silence over the 41 seconds it took to get to the Observation Deck.

Pro Tip: Try to get in the elevator at the Space Needle LAST so you can be right up against the glass for an unobstructed view as you ascend.

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The Observation Deck has an incredible open-air 360 degree view of Seattle. The walls are thick, tilted windows you can lean against (if you’re brave enough to feel like you’re going to fall at any second). It turns out these windows were part of the 2018 renovation, which made the Space Needle look more like the original schematics when it opened in 1962. These renovations cost as much as the original build in 1962.

Sporadically along the windows are glass benches that slope gently towards the windows. If you sit on them without leaning forward, you will fall back right against the windows. This can be highly disorienting when you first sit down, like you’re about to fall 500 feet to the ground. You won’t, as the Space Needle is one of the safest places to be in Seattle, but having your body’s survival instincts kick in so abruptly even though you know in your mind that you are safe is a crazy experience.

In a few places around the Observation Deck were automated cameras that allowed you to take pictures with the incredible view in the back, which would really come in handy if you have more than 2 people in your group (your selfies won’t be able to get the view in along with everyone, but these cameras will). The best part is that the Space Needle lets you download your pictures for free! You’re also encouraged to take your own photos & videos and tag the Space Needle; there’s even a social media wall that appears to automatically update with tagged photos. It was fun to see how many photos people had taken.

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Below the Observation Deck, there is an enclosed deck with floor-to-ceiling windows, but it has the added bonus of slowly rotating on its own, powered by a 1 horsepower motor. One full rotation takes about 45 minutes to an hour, but if you stand still, you can watch the city slowly spin around you. The best part: there are also glass panels on the floor, allowing you to look straight down into the Seattle Center! Just like the tilted glass windows you can lean against on the upper Observation Deck, stepping onto these glass floors can be rather disorienting and often tested our bodies’ survival instincts. As we would start to step onto the glass panels, our bodies would jolt back, scared of falling. The natural reaction is fascinating, especially considering that in our brains, we knew we would be fine, but our bodies reacted as if we would not be.

Pro Tip: If you’re struggling to step onto the glass panels, look up and out the windows at the incredible view there (and not at the floor) as you step forward, then you can look down.

After getting some great panoramic views of the downtown Seattle skyline - on a clear day, you can see the Olympic and Cascade Mountains, Mount Rainier, Mount Baker, Lake Union, Elliott Bay, and various islands in Puget Sound - we headed down to the 5 Point Cafe for lunch (a fantastic local diner) and then to the Chihuly Garden and Glass to explore some amazing hand-blown glass displays. Even if you’re not into blown glass, it’s a unique experience that you should absolutely give a chance (plus it’s included with the CityPass). We realized we had almost no time to go through MoPOP, coming in 45 minutes or so before it closed. The attendant kindly told us she would give us a voucher so we could come back the next day, but we had a train to catch relatively early, so we dashed through and took as many pictures as we could before the museum closed, particularly in their Scared to Death exhibit with tons of horror movie props.

After MoPOP, the sun was starting to set, so we headed back up to the Space Needle for our night-time visit, still included with our CityPass. All of our destinations this day were within a couple blocks of each other, so it was super easy to just walk everywhere.

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Watching the sunset over Elliott Bay in the Puget Sound was breathtaking. The colors were phenomenal! While up there for the evening, we stopped in at the Observation Deck bar and enjoyed a beer while watching the sun go down. There is usually a cafe open, but while we were there, it was still closed due to COVID restrictions. The cafe is a first-come first-serve type establishment, so no reservations are needed when it’s open.

Pro Tip: Make sure you have a hat and layers to stay warm while you’re up there, especially at night. You’re 500 feet up and it’s open-air, so it’s going to get really chilly really fast.

Once the sun was below the horizon and the temperature really started to drop, we went down to the lower observation deck to watch the downtown skyline light up. The glass floor panels there can be especially disorienting at night, when the Space Needle is lit up from below. At times in the dark, it can look like you’re looking up at the Space Needle when you’re actually looking straight down. There was another young couple there who were very apprehensive to step onto the glass and asked us if it was safe even though we were already standing on them. Phoebe jumped up and down a couple times to demonstrate that yes, they are safe, and the couple slowly stepped out, legs shaking. It’s such a fun experience to have with strangers, because it does take a little courage to stand on them.

There is a cocktail lounge on this level as well, called The Loupe, which opened with the renovations in 2018. It’s not open during the summer for whatever reason, but if you want to go, you have to purchase these tickets in advance. The cocktails look impressive, but it’s too pricey for us (more info in the tickets section below), so we didn’t partake. We were happy just having a beer on the Observation Deck upstairs.

Watching the city light up as the sun went down was incredible. The fact that we were standing in a structure designed and built over 60 years ago for the sole purpose of these views is amazing. It’s a feat of human ingenuity and is rightfully awe-inspiring.

Coming down from the Observation Deck, you are deposited into a large gift shop with a giant LEGO version of the Space Needle. There were a ton of fun gifts to buy, and although we usually only buy postcards to send to a few family members, we found a postcard from the 1962 World’s Fair that was also a record for around $6. You could stick it on a record player and listen to a song from the era. They sold these by the thousands during the World’s Fair so it makes for quite a unique gift.

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Tickets for the Space Needle

There are several different ticket options for the Space Needle which you can purchase in advance. Tickets are also sold on-site, but you should definitely purchase ahead of time if you can, as there are sold in timed-entry slots and could sell out on popular days.

General Admission for the Space Needle is between $35 - $37.50, depending on which day of the week you attend. Obviously, visiting on weekends or holidays will be the more expensive days.

The day/night pass (which we highly recommend) costs $59, which allows you to see the Space Needle by day and night on the same day for drastically different views.

The Space Needle also offers a combo ticket with admission to the Chihuly Garden and Glass next door (which we also highly recommend) for $57. This will only allow you one entry into the Space Needle and you must visit both on the same day.

The best deal, and it is endorsed by the Space Needle, is to get a CityPass for $115. This not only gives you a day/night pass for the Space Needle, but it includes a ticket to the Seattle Aquarium and the option of 3 other attractions, choosing from: a 1-hour harbor cruise tour from Argosy Cruises, admission to the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP), admission to the Chihuly Garden and Glass, or admission to the Woodland Park Zoo (which is further north from the Seattle Center). Since the Space Needle, Chihuly Garden and Glass, and the Museum of Pop Culture are all in the Seattle Center and the Argosy Cruise and the Seattle Aquarium are both on the waterfront, we choose those. If we had done all of the same stuff without the CityPass, it would have cost us an extra $60 per person, so it was a no-brainer for us.

For The Loupe cocktail lounge on the lower Observation Deck in the Space Needle, the cheapest package is $69 per person for a wine tasting with snacks, which isn’t too bad considering it includes your general admission. The cocktail package, however, is $200 per person. Again, the cocktails look great, but that’s just too much for us when you can just grab a glass of wine or a local beer on the upper Observation Deck for $10.

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Our Verdict

The Space Needle is a prime example of a popular tourist attraction that is 100% worth it! The individual ticket price is a little steep, but the CityPass is a fantastic value and this is absolutely a BUCKET LIST ITEM!

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Quick Reference Guide



How to Get There

Take the Seattle Monorail from the Westlake Center in Downtown Seattle to the Seattle Center. It’s just a few bucks and is better than trying to find parking in the area.

Time Commitment

We spent 1-1.5 hours when we visited in the late morning and another 1-1.5 hours when we visited at sunset. A general admission pass only allows you one entry and you can stay as long as you like, but if you want to leave and come back like we did, consider getting a day/night pass or the CityPass.


Our recommendation: CityPass for $115 and see multiple attractions for one base price (which saved us ~$60 per person overall)

General admission: $35-$37.50 (depending on the day)

Day/Night pass: $59 Space Needle/Chihuly Garden & Glass combo ticket: $57

Reservation Info

Book your tickets in advance if you can, as they are sold in timed-entry slots and could sell out on popular days. If they’re not sold out, you are able to purchase tickets at the door.

Our Verdict

This is among the greatest tourist attractions we’ve ever visited. It’s a wonder of the modern world that everyone needs to witness at least once in their lives. Put it on your bucket list and visit Seattle! It’s a great city with tons to do!

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Adam Neubauer Travel Writer For In The Great Wide History Travel Blog


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