Let’s talk about the Seattle Center. It is home to the Space Needle and several notable museums. This is probably the best place to enjoy on rainy day or if you don’t want to do much walking. Plus, many of the attractions are included on the CityPass – a great way to make the most of your visit to Seattle without breaking the bank.
The easiest way to get to the Seattle Center is via the Monorail, which you can pick up from the top floor of Westlake Center on 5th & Pine. You could also walk straight down 5th Avenue under the monorail’s tracks for just over a mile (if you do walk, you have earned the right to stop at Top Pot Doughnuts–– President Obama’s favorite place in the city).
Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum is located at Seattle Center and is one of the tops spots to explore. This place is really special. Be sure to take your cell phone with you to do the audio tour (which you can even listen to on your desktop whenever you like), and your camera. The work here is really stunning. Stop at the museum’s Collections Cafe for a bite to eat afterwards. The food is quite good and each table at the restaurant features a different item that Dale Chihuly has collected (we’re talking fishing lures, alarm clocks, juice squeezers, etc.).
If you like music, you will enjoy the Museum of Pop Culture (aka “MoPop”). The building was designed by Frank O. Gehry to resemble a collection of guitar pieces. Inside, you can watch videos, try out instruments, and see lots of unique Jimi Hendrix memorabilia.
Paul Allen owns both of these museums. He buys Seattle cool things like EMP, the Science Fiction Museum, the Cinerama movie theater, the Sounders, and the Seahawks because he wants us to be happy. He’s not trying to change the world with these purchases, but if that isyour thing, then cross the street to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation where they aretrying to change the world. The visitor’s center is free and is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
If you want a quick bite to eat, stop by the Seattle Center Armory which is a food court full of local foods. You can find vegan dining, seafood, wood fired pizza, and even bacon jam (atSkillet). Another good dining option is Taylor Shellfish Oyster Bar, just across from the northwest corner of the Seattle Center (behind Key Arena). Taylor Shellfish is perhaps the finest purveyor of local shellfish, which is saying a lot. The food here is great. We also like the Mexican restaurant, Agave Cocina and Tequilas!
Seattle Center plays hosts to a ton of wonderful events and festivals such as Bumbershoot Music Festival, International Beerfest, Bite of Seattle, various cultural festivals and lots more! There are also free outdoor movies and fitness classes. Follow their Facebook Page for details and updates regarding all they have to offer.
While you’re there, be sure to check out and play in the iconic International Fountain on the lawn outside Key Arena (another great concert and event venue). Throughout the day it dances to 5 different songs! There’s also a skate park and an amazing children’s playground, opened just last year called Artists at Play.
You may notice that I have not yet mentioned the Space Needle. There is a reason for that. I love the Space Needle as much as anyone, probably more, but it costs an adult $22 to ride to the top, which I think is a bit pricey. If you must go to the top of the Space Needle, then by all means, go ahead. But, if you want a really great view with a smaller price tag, then go to the Sky View Observatory on the 73rd floor of theColumbia Tower for the best view in town. It is located at the corner of Columbia & 4th and 5th Avenues (NOT on the Seattle Center Campus). Tickets are only $14.75 for adults and the view is even better and higher up. On your way up there, stop at the highest Starbucks in the world on the 40th floor “Sky Lobby.”
As another viewpoint option, you can pop up to the top of the historic Smith Tower, which has watched over the city for over 100 years. At just 35 stories, it was once the tallest building west of the Mississippi.