Sky View Observatory
The Highest Public Observatory on the West Coast
Located on the 73rd floor of Columbia Center, at a height of 902' with 360 degree views of Seattle and the surrounding areas, is Sky View Observatory. On a clear day one can see as far as the Olympic Mountains, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Baker, and much more. The vehicles on the downtown streets below, the ships in the Puget Sound, and the Seattle Great Wheel all look like miniature toys moving in slow motion from this vantage point. You're on the top of the world here, at least, that's how it feels.
A Unique View of the Pacific Northwest
Everyone is familiar with the Space Needle, Washingtonians and visitors to the state, we all know about it. Rightfully so, it's an iconic landmark that's in nearly every photograph of Seattle. It's been around since the 1962 World's Fair, it sees more than 1 million annual visitors, and it's observation deck is 520' in the air. The Space Needle is nice and all, but hey, did you notice it in the photo above? It's pretty tiny compared to Sky View Observatory. As a matter of fact, the Sky View viewing floor is nearly twice as high as that of the Space Needle's! More people need to visit this place.
Columbia Center, home of the Sky View Observatory, is a 76-story, 1.5 million square foot skyscraper developed by Martin Selig and completed in 1985. In 2013 the observation floor was remodeled to provide a 360 degree viewing area, which grew from a 270 degree area. A small portion on the east side of the floor is walled up and stops you from circling all the way around but this does not prevent you from seeing in all directions.
Visiting on a clear and sunny day will not let you down. As we stepped out of the elevator we were greeted with a bright blue sky looking out toward the Olympic Mountains. Walking right up to the windows and looking out in all directions, including down, was a thrilling experience. The blue sky, blue water, with white snow-capped mountains off in the distance are a beautiful sight to see.
There is one thing that the Space Needle does better, and that is it has an outdoor observation deck. Sky View is all indoors, behind glass which at times can reflect quite a bit of light from within the building. Taking photos without any reflection in them is tricky. However, the floor is quiet and calm. Couches and chairs are scattered about, signage with interesting facts are mounted on the interior walls. Sky View Cafe with sandwiches, salads, soup, coffee, beer, and wine is located on the south side of the floor. Happy Hour is 3-6 and all day Sunday!
Feel free to relax up here as long as you like, there's no time limit to your visit. We spent about an hour taking in the views, shooting photos, and catching up on some Internet time in this nice air conditioned building.
Hours, Directions, and More
Sky View is open 7 days a week from 8am - 11pm. Adult tickets are $14.75, children ages 6-12 are $9, 5 years and under are free. There's also student, military, and senior discounts. And you can purchase an annual membership for $95. We were able to find a great deal on GroupOn which came out to be around 50% off.
Whenever we venture into the city we tend to use public transportation to get there. We've learned our lesson when it comes to finding parking, paying the outrageous fees, and then trying to juggle time and activities to make sure we're back in time. Taking the Sounder train or an express bus there and back has worked great for us. You may not be able to visit all the areas and sites surrounding Seattle, but you can at least get a view of them from on high! However you choose to get downtown just find your way to 701 5th Ave Seattle WA 98104!
Below is from the Sky View website on how to get to the 73rd floor:
"To get to the Observatory make your way to the main lobby on the fourth floor of the Columbia Center via the main entrance on 5th Avenue, the elevators from the parking garage, or the escalators from the 1st floor Atrium off of 4th Avenue. Find the elevator bank labeled 37-76 and take the elevator to the Sky Lobby on the 40th floor (where the highest Starbucks in the world is located). As you exit the elevator an automated voice will tell you which direction to turn. Proceed to the elevators that are labeled “66-76″. Once in the elevator press “73″ and you will arrive at the tallest public view in the west in seconds!"
After your visit, or before, consider checking out Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. It's within walking distance. We made it over there an hour before they closed and ran out of time before seeing everything. Plan accordingly if you go, they close at 4pm. You can read about our visit right here. We also visited Pike Place Market beforehand and ate lunch at our favorite spot down there, Pear Delicatessen & Shoppe.