Last week, I had a chance to play tourist in my own town with a trip to Seattle’s iconic Space Needle. I’ve been talking about taking the elevator up “the needle” with Little Bird for months. We drive past it several times each week and she gazes with rapt attention.
Is is scary, Mama?
Why no seat belts?
Built for the April 1962 World’s Fair, the 605-foot tall Space Needle was completed in December of 1961. It was designed by Architect John Graham, who designed the first shopping mall in the U.S.–also in Seattle (Northgate Mall). With over 1 million visitors annually, the Space Needle is the northwest’s #1 tourist attraction, a fact I should have considered when purchasing my ticket.
What could possibly go wrong? It was Friday, in August, in Seattle. Peak tourist season.
For someone who does so much online, it did not occur to me that I should purchase my tickets ahead of our adventure. Especially with a very excited (read: impatient) toddler in tow.
After Little Bird and I parked our car, we walked through the grounds of the Seattle Center to the base of the Space Needle where we encountered not one, but two long lines snaking this way and that way along the sidewalk. One line was to purchase tickets and the other line was where we would wait until the designated time arrived when we could go up in the elevator. As we stood and waited to buy tickets, I could see this was not a plan for parenting success.
I hopped on the (very cool) Space Needle website to buy tickets online. It was 11:00 a.m. and the next time slot for going up in the Space Needle was 2:00 p.m. Little Bird was fidgeting as I tried to explain what it would be like to wait. A long time.
We sing waiting song, Mama?
Yes, many times.
That’s when I spotted one of the Space Needle staffers. They were patrolling the lines, answering questions.
Do you have any suggestions for how I might speed up our wait? I’m here with my three-year-old.
She told me about the VIP ticket option. VIP! Little Bird could venture up the Space Needle gratis (kids under 4 are free), and I could purchase a VIP ticket which would allow us to bypass the entire line waiting to go up in the elevator. Once we had our ticket in hand, we could walk straight ahead, no stops, right up to the elevator door.
And that’s exactly what we did. I slipped on my VIP Space Needle lanyard (best souvenir ever), and we waved “Buh Bye” to all people we passed on our way to the front of the very, very long line. The extra cash I shelled out for that ticket was worth every penny.
From ground floor, we reached the observation deck at the top in only 43 seconds. The Space Needle elevators are fast! They ascend and descend at a rate of 10 mph or 800 feet per minute.
Mama, my ears popping.
One fun fact from the Space Needle website explains that the speed at which the elevators travel is equal to the speed in which a raindrop falls to earth. Snowflakes fall at a slower rate, 3 mph, so if you are lucky enough to be in the elevator during a snowstorm, the snow will appear to be snowing upwards.
At the top, all of Seattle lay spread out in the distance. We could see Mt. Rainier in all its glory, sea planes landing in Lake Union (Little Bird loved this), and the majestic Olympic Mountains.
Mama, where Dada work?
I had forgotten about all the nifty roof-top treats that awaited us from our sky-high perch, like the dinosaur-sized spiders.
Mama, that not Itsy Bitsy?
And EMP (Experience Music Project Museum) designed by Frank O. Gehry which, so they say, is supposed to look like one of Jimi Hendrix’s smashed guitars when viewed from above. You decide.
After we walked all the way around, it was time for snacks so we went inside to the SkyCafe, where you can get coffee, beer and light snacks, not to mention the Space Needle drink cup that is available for purchase. For an extra $1 you can get a drink in your extra tall cup which doubles as a piggy bank. How Seattle cool is that?
The Space Needle also houses the SkyCity Restaurant (originally named ‘Eye of the Needle’) which boasts fancier fare. If you choose to dine there, you’ll get to enjoy a 360-degree view from your table, assuming you spend at least 47 minutes dining, the time it takes for the floor to make one revolution.
All too soon it was time to zip back down with my little VIP who had nothing but admiration for her exciting excursion to the very top of the Space Needle.
So, was it scary?
What was your favorite part?
All of it.
Excuse me while I kiss the sky
~Jimi Hendrix, Purple Haze
Take the road less traveled, Beth