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The Ultimate Guide to Seattle's Space Needle

The Seattle Space Needle has been delighting visitors ever since its debut in the 1962 World’s Fair—and it’s still a beloved attraction for locals and tourists alike. It’s the most iconic sight in the Seattle skyline and, for most people taking a trip to the Emerald City, it’s at the top of the "must do" list (it also tops our list of things to do with kids that parents also love!). Rocket 520 feet up in the glass elevator to the Observation Deck to enjoy panoramic views of downtown Seattle, Elliott Bay, Puget Sound, the Olympic Mountains, Cascade foothills, and the majestic snow-capped Mount Rainier. It’s an unforgettable experience, especially on one of those rare clear, sunshiny Seattle days.

Renovation Notice: Beginning in September 2017, the Space Needle will take on its biggest and most ambitious renovation project since it was first built. Among other updates, the safety "cage" and netting on the outside of the Observation Deck will be replaced with outward-slanting glass walls to offer a fully unrestricted view. Another elevator will be added, and the Space Needle restaurant, SkyCity, will receive a glass floor and a new revolving motor. The restaurant will close during this time, but work on the Observation Deck will be done in pie-shaped sections—one sixth at a time—so that it does not need to close totally during the renovation period, which is expected to finish in June 2018. This is something to be aware of as you plan your trip, however, as visitors during this time may not experience the full 360-degree view.

The Seattle Skyline by Day and by Night

Your Seattle CityPASS allows you to visit the Space Needle twice in one day, which means you can catch that gobsmacking view by daylight and then come back during the last three hours of operation to marvel at the gorgeous city lights after sunset.

The Space Needle

The Space Needle at a Glance: Fun Facts

  • Built in just 400 days for the 1962 World’s Fair, the Space Needle was a compromise between two visionary designs: a giant balloon tied to the ground and a flying saucer.
  • The Space Needle is 605 ft. high, 138 feet wide, and weighs 9,550 tons. The diameter of the halo (the "flying saucer") is 130 feet.
  • When the Space Needle was built, it was the tallest building west of the Mississippi River and featured the country’s second revolving restaurant.
  • Built to last, the Space Needle can endure winds up to 200mph and earthquakes up to a strength of 9.1 on the Richter scale.
  • There are 25 lightning rods on the Space Needle building (including the needle itself) to help it withstand lightning strikes.

Plan Your Visit to Seattle Space Needle: Things to Know Before You Go

Hours: The Space Needle is open 365 days a year. Its hours of operation are Monday – Sunday: 8:00am to 12:00am, though this can vary on holidays, for special events, or maintenance. It’s worthwhile to double check before you go.

Accessibility: The Space Needle is wheelchair-accessible. Just inform the cashier and they will arrange for you to be expedited to the accessible elevator.

Bringing babies: Infant car seats are allowed on the elevator, but strollers are not. There is a designated "Stroller Parking Area" where you can leave your stroller during your visit to the Observation Deck.

Cameras: Cameras are encouraged and tripods are allowed, as long as you are considerate of other guests. Video cameras for personal use are fine, but professional use needs to be approved by the PR department.

Getting there

The Space Needle is located in Seattle Center, at 400 Broad Street, Seattle, WA 98109.

Monorail: The Seattle Monorail is a fun and easy option for getting to the Space Needle. Hop on at the Westlake Center Station, at 5th Avenue and Pine Street, and it will drop you right at the base of the Needle. Ticket prices are as follows:

$2.25 for Adults
$1.00 for Youth ages 5-12
$1.00 for Reduced Rate (Seniors 65+, disabled, persons with Medicare cards, & active duty U.S. military)
Children 4 and under ride free

Parking: If you choose to drive to the Space Needle, there is valet parking available at the base. Parking is valid for 3 hours, and rates are as follows:

General Valet $26
SkyCity Restaurant Guests $13
Observation Deck Guests $17
Chihuly Garden and Glass Guests $17
Each additional hour $3

Motorhomes, RVs, double-axel vehicles and vehicles over 11’ 6” are not accepted. There are several other paid parking lots or parking garages near the Space Needle. See the Space Needle website for a full list of excluded vehicles.

Space Needle Couple

Getting Your Space Needle Tickets

For your daytime visit, you’ll need to reserve a timed ticket at the Space Needle Ticket Booth or one of the self-service kiosks at the Space Needle. You can do this up to nine days in advance, allowing you to schedule your "launch time" for a time that suits you and skip some of the waiting. The earlier you go, the more choice you’ll have of entrance times. All you need to do is exchange your CityPASS for a timed ticket. (If you have not yet exchanged your CityPASS voucher for a booklet, you’ll have to do that at a ticket booth first.) Then you can head off on your other Seattle adventures and return when it’s time for your visit.

You don’t need a timed entry ticket for your night time visit; just pop into the general boarding lane.

Blasting Off: The Elevator Ride

Once you have your ticket, there can be a wait for the elevator up to the Observation Deck (possibly 20 or more minutes, even with a timed-entry ticket), since it carries a limited number of passengers at a time. The length of the lines varies depending on how busy the day is; expect longer waits on weekends, especially during summer. (Keep in mind there may also be a wait to catch the elevator back down for the same reasons, so give yourself enough time.) If you take your time heading up the ramp to the elevator, you’ll be able to look at photographs and read about the Space Needle’s history.

The elevator is an attraction in and of itself, and the ride is worth the wait. At 10mph, it’s super fast for an elevator, which means that the trip only takes 41 seconds from the ground floor to the Observation Deck! (On very windy days the elevator may slow to 5mph for safety reasons.) The floor-to-ceiling glass walls of the elevator mean that you can see the neighboring buildings whiz by as you’re ascending, which is a real thrill for kids and adventurous adults. If you’re wary of heights, you might find this part of the visit the most challenging, but standing at the back of the elevator makes things a little easier!

The Observation Deck

From 520 feet in the air, you’ll get a whole new perspective on Seattle. For those who get nervous when it comes to heights, the inside part of the Observation Deck allows you to appreciate the view without looking down. You can relax at one of the many tables and chairs with a snack or drink, and take in the sights at your leisure. There are several interactive exhibits to enjoy, and staff will take a free photo of you that you can email to yourself.

Venture outside and get up-close and personal with the 360-degree views. Glorious Mt. Rainer is to the south, the Cascade mountain range is to the east, and the majestic Olympics are to the west. If your sense of direction isn’t the best, don’t worry; important landmarks are helpfully labeled so that you always know what you’re looking at. You can also use a free Swarovski telescope to zoom in and get a closer look at the city below.

Even if you catch the Space Needle on a warm, clear day, chances are you’ll want to wrap up and hang onto your hat once you step out onto the outer Observation Deck; the winds all the way up there can be surprisingly strong. Gloves and coats are highly recommended so that you can take your time enjoying the deck without feeling chilly!

Observation Deck

Snacking and Shopping

SkyCafe and Wine Bar:

Once you get to the Observation Deck, you can refuel at the snack bar. Sandwiches, hot dogs, ice cream, coffee, and wine by the glass are available to enjoy as you take in the view from the warmth and comfort of the cafe.

SkyCity Restaurant:

Note: The restaurant will be closed from September 2017 until May 2018 as part of the overall Space Needle renovation.

The SkyCity Restaurant, Seattle’s famous revolving eatery, is a favorite for special-occasion dining. It’s worth its own trip to the Space Needle, as every meal includes a complimentary visit to the Observation Deck. Executive Chef Jeff Maxfield offers a world-class menu with a focus on fresh seafood from the Puget Sound. Plus, every table is the best table: each has an unobstructed view as the restaurant slowly revolves 360 degrees, perfect for your romantic night out.

Reservations are a must, especially on weekends. Reservations are accepted up to 90 days in advance, except for holidays. For parties up to 4, you can make reservations online. For parties of 5 to 10, you should call the restaurant directly. Or host a spectacular private event at the 100’ level in SkyCity for larger parties!

Brunch is served Monday – Sunday from 10:00am to 2:45pm. The restaurant offers a three-course brunch prix fixe menu.

Dinner is served Monday – Sunday from 5:00pm to 9:45pm. You can choose between prix fixe and á la carte menu options.

SpaceBase Gifts:

The gift shop at the Space Needle gets major points from visitors for their selection. The descending elevator drops you off right in front, so you can extend your visit a little longer as you browse the souvenirs and pick out a few mementos and gifts. If you show your CityPASS booklet at the Needlicious Fudge Center, you can get 1/2 pound of fudge free when you buy 1 pound.

Visiting Seattle’s Space Needle is like a mini vacation all by itself – packed with sights to see, adventure, and great food. That’s not to say you shouldn’t check out the rest of what the Emerald City has to offer, but make sure the Space Needle is on your list when you come visit Seattle!