Seattle Tower (Space Needle)
Even if you’re not a fan of the Frasier Crane television show or an avid watcher of Grey’s Anatomy, you will no doubt have seen pictures of the Seattle Tower. Also known as the Space Needle, this iconic part of Seattle’s skyline is so famous that in 1998 the nearby city of Fife wanted to buy it to boost their tourist numbers.
Built in just one year, the Seattle Tower was the centerpiece of the 1962 Seattle World Trade Fair. Once the tallest building west of the Mississippi, the tower still attracts millions of people. And for good reason.
The Seattle Tower is 605 feet high, with an observation deck at 520 feet. Just below the observation deck is the Sky City restaurant which rotates 360° in 47 minutes. From either vantage point, if the air is clear, you can see for many miles. The Seattle skyline is always visible but you may glimpse the snow-capped Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges in the distance, as well as famous peaks such as Mount Baker or Mount Rainier. The water of Elliott Bay, with its islands and busy water traffic, changes color with the seasons and weather, creating constantly changing photo opportunities.
Different ways to travel
Not everyone comes to the Seattle Tower for the views. Four intrepid base jumpers legally parachuted from the top in 1996. Two others jumped in 1975 without permission and were arrested. For those not interested in plummeting down outside the tower, inside are 848 steps that lead up to the observation deck. These have been off limits to visitors but recently charity events have been held, with thousands making the arduous 520 foot climb.
If you would prefer an easier route to the top, elevators will whisk you from ground level to the observation deck at 10mph. In winter this can lead to an unusual effect. Snow falls at 3mph, so as you descend the snow appears to be rising and not falling.
A beacon for tourists
Built with Seattle’s fickle climate in mind, the elevators automatically slow when the external wind speed reaches above 35 mph, although the tower can withstand wind speeds up to 200 mph. Earthquakes are rare in Seattle, but the tower was constructed to survive a whopping size 9 on the Richter scale. When the 6.8 quake of 2001 struck, apart from some water sloshed from the toilets, the tower itself remained undamaged.
At the top of the Seattle Tower is an 85 million candle power light called the Skybeam, which points to the heavens. It is used to mark public holidays and special event days in Seattle. The people of Seattle celebrate New Year’s Eve with enthusiasm and nowhere more so than at the Seattle Tower, where a spectacular firework display is synchronized to music.
Visiting the iconic Seattle Tower is a must for any tourist in the Emerald City. Besides the fabulous views from the observation deck or dining at the revolving Sky City restaurant, it has a unique history with links to modern culture.