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The “Emerald City,” so nicknamed for the lush evergreen trees in the area, Seattle, Washington, prides herself on innovating for the future. Incorporated in 1869, Seattle is the birthplace of Starbucks, Seattle’s Best Coffee, and grunge music, home to the 1962 World’s Fair (Century 21 Exposition), Space Needle, Seattle Aquarium, and so much more.
When in Seattle for business or pleasure, you’re well advised to purchase the Seattle City Pass for the most economical and quickest way to enter the top tourist attractions. Or, as they say, “Spend Less… Experience More.” The City Pass allows you to save 46 percent on the price at the five top venues while offering express entry at these busy locations. And, potentially, hours in line. I like the time savings almost as much as the cost reduction.
If you know before you leave home that you’ll go to these attractions, you can order your tickets online or you can purchase them directly at any of the attractions.
The Seattle City Pass includes admission to the Space Needle and the Aquarium with the choice of three of the four other attractions: Argosy Cruise, Chihuly Glass, MoPop, and the Woodland Park Zoo. Great news for you, too. You don’t have to choose which three you’ll attend until you go. If your party includes small children, 4 and under, check the site to see if they require tickets.
Pro Tip: Do not purchase your Seattle City Pass at the Space Needle. It’s the busiest of all the attractions and you’ll waste a lot of time in line.
1. Seattle Space Needle
“If you see one thing in Seattle, see everything.”
When the Space Needle opened for the Seattle World’s Fair in 1962, the architect’s vision wasn’t quite realized due to the technology available at the time. There weren’t glass panels large enough to withstand the elements at their height. And no way to get them there. With the recent $100 million renovation, the architect’s vision for this beacon of the future will finally be achieved.
Now updated, with three floors of observation decks, your ticket price includes a virtual reality encounter in the lobby: a bungee jump from the top. It’s a stomach-dropping experience.
The top deck reaches 518 feet (158 meters), but the antenna soars to 604 feet (184 meters).
The revolving platform allows you to stay firmly planted in one spot for an entire revolution. Or you can move about to watch the cityscape beneath you.
Pro Tip: Maximize the use of your ticket. Return at night to see the city lights.
2. Seattle Aquarium
There are so many things to see and do at the Seattle Aquarium, you’ll be glad you saved the time with your express entry.
At the entrance, check on the times for the daily diver shows and any other presentations. You won’t want to miss them.
Many of the exhibits on the first floor illustrate the aquarium’s success and future goals. A combination of real-life and technologically-enhanced displays allows and inspires you to understand how to best conserve Pacific Northwest wildlife.
And then something, like the luminous moon jellies, jumps into view and you’re awestruck.
Continue along the well-marked paths to explore exhibits, then walk through a small tunnel and find yourself in the Underwater Dome. It’s a 360-degree tank filled with hundreds of fish you find in the Puget Sound area. The silver-backed open-water salmon is my favorite, and you can spot lingcod, sturgeon, sharks, and rockfish if you look closely through the kelp forest.
Go outside and around to the otter pools. When I was there, feeding time was around 12:30 p.m. You can call in advance and ask.
At the aquarium, you can rush through in an hour or spend a wonderful day. It all depends on your schedule.
Pro Tip: My favorite time to go is when the sea otters are fed. They are so playful and friendly.
3. Argosy Cruise Of Elliott Bay
Argosy Cruises has been one of my favorites since we had our company picnic aboard. The 1-hour Harbor Cruise is included in the City Pass. While cruising Elliott Bay and the Seattle Harbor, a live narrator entertains you with tales of the waterfront, shipyards, shipping containers, and, of course, “The Mountain.” While the majestic Olympic mountain range to the west and Cascade mountain range to the east are impressive, Mt. Rainier, on a sunny day, steals the show.
Michelle, our tour leader, was well versed in legend and history and struck many of us with the giggles. Keep an eye out for wildlife. Most days you can spot the not-so-studly seals by one of the debris barges, slumbering or not so elegantly frolicking — inadvertently funny, so not likely to get the girl seal.
The best seats are on the north side (left when facing the wheelhouse) so that you get great sound and city views for photographs once the ship has turned around.
The sound is deeper than 650 feet in spots, more than the height of the Space Needle … so the Needle could be put upside down in the Sound.
Pro Tip: If you plan to do the other four attractions, this is the easy one in City Pass to “skip” and independently purchase the Locks Cruise. Ask about the weekend special event cruises.
4. MoPop: Museum Of POP Culture
Founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, MoPop is a multimedia mecca at its finest. Its mission, to “make creative expression a life-changing force by offering experiences that inspire and connect our communities” can be felt throughout the compound.
From the reflective orangish wave of the exterior to the flow and sensory challenges inside that explore some of the most significant moments in pop culture, you can spend hours or days being inspired by the hands-on access to pop culture on display and the people that helped change history.
From the largest guitar sculpture, iconic artifacts, and huge media screens to revolving exhibits, like Marvel Comics, The History of Sci-fi and Fantasy, and Horror, School of Rock, Heroes and Villains: the Art of the Disney Costume. Be inspired. Go out and make your own art, be it music or any of the multimedia explored here.
Taking advantage of the sound booths available so you can try your hand at instruments and vocals can keep you busy the entire day if you like — without hurting your family’s hearing.
5. Chihuly Garden And Glass
If you love blown glass or just explosions of glass, Chihuly Garden And Glass will be an exciting attraction for you. If you have no idea why anyone could get excited about a museum of glass, then prepare to be blown away.
Located an easy walk from the Space Needle, the blown glass flowers among the natural flora of Seattle draw you in. This is the place where color and curiosity allow your creativity to bloom.
The artist who inspired this all? Dale Chihuly.
Born in Tacoma in 1941 (if you have time, go visit the Tacoma Museum of Glass), Chihuly revolutionized the way glass, neon, ice, acrylic paint, charcoal, and other materials are used in sculpture. The works of art he creates truly transform the way we see light, color, and form.
The live glassblowing demonstration should not be missed.
Flowers, fish, avant-garde works, all blown from glass, live and thrive here.
Fortunately, an audio tour is included with your ticket. Chihuly’s innovation and passion are on display through the audio tour, garden tour, and gallery talks.
Walk beneath a wall of larger-than-life flowers. Explore an entire seascape the size of a large ballroom. Or see the most intricate vase standing about 16 feet high and perhaps that wide.
There are opportunities for you to get your photo taken and pick it up on your way out (or have it emailed directly to you).
6. Woodland Park Zoo
If you love zoos, Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo is the place for you. With over a thousand animals representing more than 300 species, this top award-winning zoo allows you to connect with nature while encountering one of the largest land mammals, the rhino.
Or, if smaller animals are your cup of tea, check out the schedule for the outdoor theater programs. Here you can meet the “clever ambassador animals” including porcupine, hornbill, and, sometimes, a parrot.
For your little ones, explore the Zoomazium, an indoor nature play space designed especially for your children to safely explore and be inspired to save wildlife.
Back outside, you can discover lions, tigers, and grizzly bears (oh my!) as well as little sloth bears.
Pro Tip: Don’t let your fear of rain or overcast skies keep you from getting out in Seattle. It’s a great town.
More Seattle attractions to explore include: