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Celebrate 50 years of Seattle's Space Needle

Seattle's landmark Space Needle turns 50 with great fanfare. Celebrate in style at its revolving SkyCity plus take in Dale Chihuly's colorful glass work.

November 11, 2012|By Rosemary McClure
  • The new Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibition at the Seattle Center is an explosion of color from glass artist Dale Chihuly.
The new Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibition at the Seattle Center is an explosion… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)

New Yorkers pride themselves on the Statue of Liberty, San Franciscans the Golden Gate Bridge. Both are sturdy, sensible landmarks that reflect well on the cities surrounding them.

Then there's Seattle, with a '60s-era spaceship revolving 605 feet above the city.

But Seattle residents wouldn't have it any other way. That's why they've been partying for months to celebrate the 50th birthday of the Space Needle, their iconic landmark in the sky, built as a tourist attraction for the city's 1962 World's Fair.

In honor of the birthday, I revisited the Jetson-esque Needle for the first time in years and found it well-dressed for the party, following a $25-million face-lift. It's decked out with a "Galaxy Gold" coat of paint, oodles of oldies music wafting through the sound system and some high-tech additions such as touch-screen interactive maps. Tickets range from $12 for children ages 4 to 12 to $19 for adults (400 Broad St., Seattle; [206] 905-2111).

The bed

W Seattle doesn't have as good a view of Puget Sound as the Space Needle does, but at 26 floors, it offers a sparkling panorama of downtown Seattle. The hotel, which underwent a multimillion-dollar renovation earlier this year, has an updated lobby and a new restaurant and bar called Trace. But I was too entranced with the view to spend much time in the lobby. I whiled away the evening at the window of my room admiring the city far below (1112 4th Ave.,; [206] 264-6000. Rates start at $259).

The meal

I knew the Space Needle's restaurant, SkyCity, would be pricey, but as the oldest revolving restaurant in the world and one of the 25 busiest restaurants in the nation, it deserved a try. The food and service were great. Add the sightseeing factor, and my $29 ahi salad seemed worth the expense. Lunch entrees from $25 to $35; dinner from $38 to $58.

The find

At the base of the Needle at the Seattle Center sits a new city landmark, Chihuly Garden and Glass, a $20-million, 45,000-square-feet exhibition of master glass artist Dale Chihuly. The sculptor's vivid glass works are displayed both inside and outside. Some can be viewed without paying the admission fee, but the show itself is a Technicolor explosion that's too quirky and colorful to miss. Tickets are $12 for children ages 4 to 12 and $19 for ages 13 to 64 but can be combined with Space Needle admission for $21 for children and $33 for adults.

The lesson learned

Riding the Monorail from downtown to the Space Needle was a blast from the past that cost only $2.25. I decided to walk back, though. Seattle is a great city for walkers.

The tab

Airfares aside, the price tag was about $350.

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