When the World’s Fair came to Seattle in 1962, the city needed a marquee attraction for the world to enjoy. After years of planning, it constructed Seattle Center
, a massive fairground with striking features that have become cemented in visuals of the city. Two major features of the center were the monorail, which zipped passengers one mile from downtown to the fairgrounds, and the 605-foot-tall Space Needle, which offered panoramic views of Seattle. In the nearly 50 years that have passed since the Word’s Fair brought millions of visitors to the Seattle Center, many new features and attractions have been added to the 74-acre park.
Chihuly Garden and Glass
Opened in Spring 2012 at the base of the iconic Space Needle, Chihuly Garden and Glass
showcases the most comprehensive collection of Chihuly’s artwork ever assembled, including eight expansive galleries and both interior and exterior exhibits.
The Children’s Museum, Seattle
is much more than 11 permanent exhibits that explore the world. It’s a hands-on, family-friendly attraction that’ll draw kids into an educational experience covering art, culture and science.
This 140,000-square-foot building by esteemed architect Frank O. Gehry is itself a sculpture worth seeing from the outside. The fun is on the inside, though. EMP Museum
is an interactive museum that features an exhibit of native son Jimi Hendrix, a chronology of Seattle’s vibrant music scene and music studios that have even the most novice musicians banging on the drums, strumming guitar chords and singing like a rock star in no time.
Pacific Science Center
With daily planetarium, science and laser shows, and two large IMAX theaters that showcase everything from Hollywood hits to educational features designed for the massive screens, the Pacific Science Center
mixes fantastic entertainment with plenty of learning opportunities.
The Space Needle
is two things: the most distinctive part of the Seattle skyline and the best place to view the city itself. With 360-degree views from the 605-foot-high observation deck, visitors can marvel at amazing views of Seattle and all the surrounding areas including the Puget Sound, the Olympic and Cascade mountains, Mount Rainier and more. There is also a gift shop at the bottom and SkyCity Restaurant
right below the deck.
There is a public art installation at nearly every turn at Seattle Center. The “Seattle Mural” is perhaps the most famous, a 17- by 60-foot backdrop to the amphitheater stage just west of the Space Needle. Installed in 1962, this abstract, colored-glass art was created by Paul Horiuchi. More recent installations include John Fleming’s “Glass Blades,” a collection of 110 steel reeds that are 30 feet high and sway in the wind; and the “Children's Middle East Peace Sculpture,” an Italian marble piece atop black basalt inscribed with the word “peace” in Hebrew and Arab. Pottery Northwest, a non-profit that has been showcasing beautiful pottery since the 1960s, has a gallery on the campus that features nationally recognized artists. There are also several fountains in Seattle Center, but the International Fountain is the most recognized. It’s an interactive feature that shoots water a few dozen feet high and allows children and parents to play in and around.
The Vera Project
is a music-arts center run by
kids and young adults between 14 and 24. It engages participants in music production and community organizing, offers weekly performances, and art gallery, and a variety of classes including sound engineering, silkscreening and break dancing.
There are five distinct gardens scattered throughout the Seattle Center property. The September 11 Memorial Garden is a large collection of tulips that was grown atop compost from more than 1 million flowers deposited at the International Fountain Flower Vigil that took place right after the terrorist attacks on New York City’s World Trade Center. Seattle Center also features the Kobe Bell Meditation Garden, a gift from Kobe, Japan, for the World’s Fair. The site was renovated and rededicated in 2002. This serene Japanese-style garden features the namesake bell hanging from a Shinto Temple.
From major concerts such as Elton John and Aerosmith to premier sporting events and family entertainment, the KeyArena
has been a major entertainment center since opening in 1995, hosting everything from Disney on Ice to WWE and NCAA basketball tournaments and home games of the The Seattle Storm (WNBA).
Marion Oliver McCaw Hall
The performance venue of both the Seattle Opera
and Pacific Northwest Ballet
, McCaw Hall underwent a $127 million renovation in 2003 to transform the former site of the Seattle Opera House. The venue features a world-class 2,900-seat auditorium, an intimate 380-seat lecture hall, a café, and a 17,800-square-foot public plaza. There are performances and events year-round. This venue is also headquarters to the Seattle International Film Festival Cinema, which screens independent films and hosts the annual festival.
Food & Shopping
All this sightseeing is sure to build up a hearty appetite. Seattle Center’s food court has more than 20 dining options ranging from fast food to more upscale bistro options. There are numerous souvenir shops located in the central part of Seattle Center plus gift shops in the museums and the base of the Space Needle.
What’s a World’s Fair without a little dash of the future? The monorail saw more than 7.3 million guests ride it during the fair’s six month Seattle run. Now, the one-mile ride that takes two minutes from Westlake Center (at Fifth and Pine streets) to the Seattle Center carries about 2.5 million riders a year.