Seattle Center Walking Tour, Seattle

Seattle Center Walking Tour (Self Guided), Seattle

Immediately north of Downtown Seattle, you will find the ever-popular Seattle Center. Developed for the 1962 World's Fair, this 30-hectare (74-acre) park and arts & entertainment center contains numerous landmarks. It is also where Seattle's biggest festivals, concerts, film screenings, and theatrical performances are held.

At the heart of this bustling area stands the iconic Space Needle, a towering structure that offers breathtaking panoramic views of the city and its surroundings. The Space Needle is both an architectural marvel and a symbol of Seattle's skyline.

Not far away, the Pacific Science Center provides visitors with interactive exhibits and educational experiences, making it an excellent destination for both children and adults interested in science and technology. In turn, the adjacent Mural Amphitheater hosts various outdoor events and performances, adding to the area's lively atmosphere.

Art enthusiasts will find the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit captivating, showcasing the mesmerizing glass artistry of Dale Chihuly. Nearby, the Seattle Children's Museum offers a playful and educational environment for young ones to explore and learn.

The International Fountain is a popular spot for relaxation and enjoyment, with its choreographed water displays and inviting wading pool. Visitors looking for culinary delights and unique shopping experiences can head to the Seattle Center Armory, home to a variety of food vendors and shops.

For those interested in pop culture, the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) is a must-visit, featuring exhibits on music, science fiction, and contemporary culture. Additionally, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Discovery Center offers insights into philanthropy and global health initiatives.

Whether you're a resident or a visitor, Seattle Center is a captivating destination that offers something for everyone. So why wait? Take this self-guided walk and treat yourself to a truly unforgettable experience.
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Seattle Center Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Seattle Center Walking Tour
Guide Location: USA » Seattle (See other walking tours in Seattle)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.1 Km or 0.7 Miles
Author: doris
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Space Needle
  • Pacific Science Center
  • Mural Amphitheater
  • Chihuly Garden and Glass
  • Seattle Children's Museum
  • International Fountain
  • Seattle Center Armory
  • Museum of Pop Culture
  • Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Discovery Center
Space Needle

1) Space Needle (must see)

Only one World's Fair was the setting for an Elvis Presley movie ("It Happened at the World's Fair") and that was the one held in Seattle in 1962. However, Seattle residents are proudest of the fair's most tangible legacy: the internationally recognized Space Needle.

The Space Needle is an iconic observation tower and landmark located in Seattle. Built for the 1962 World's Fair, the Space Needle has become a symbol of the city and a must-visit attraction for visitors from around the world. With its unique design and breathtaking views, it offers an unforgettable experience that showcases the beauty of Seattle and its surrounding landscapes.

Designed by architects John Graham, Victor Steinbrueck, and John Ridley, the Space Needle was inspired by the futuristic vision of the World's Fair. Standing at a height of 605 feet (or 184 meters), the tower features a distinctive saucer-shaped structure with a rotating restaurant and an observation deck at the top. The design is characterized by its slender profile and the iconic 100-foot (or 30-meter) wide observation deck, providing visitors with unparalleled panoramic views.

Riding the elevator to the top, visitors are greeted by the observation deck, which offers 360-degree views of the Seattle skyline, Puget Sound, Mount Rainier, and the Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges. On clear days, the visibility stretches for miles, allowing visitors to fully appreciate the beauty of the region. The deck features floor-to-ceiling windows that provide unobstructed vistas, as well as outdoor viewing platforms for an even closer look at the scenery.

The Space Needle also features the SkyCity restaurant, which revolves 360 degrees as guests dine, completing a full rotation in approximately 47 minutes. This unique dining experience allows visitors to enjoy a delicious meal while taking in ever-changing views of Seattle and the surrounding landscape.

The Space Needle is not only a popular tourist attraction but also an integral part of Seattle's cultural fabric. It has been featured in numerous films, television shows, and photographs, becoming an iconic symbol of the city's skyline.

Try to get your tickets and your reservation for the café a few days in advance – especially if visiting on a weekend. Note that if you eat at the restaurant, you can go to the viewing tower free of charge.
Pacific Science Center

2) Pacific Science Center (must see)

The first U.S. museum founded as a science and technology center, the Pacific Science Center aims at advancing public knowledge and interest in science. Designed by Minoru Yamasaki, who also designed the World Trade Center in New York, its five buildings contain interactive exhibits, two IMAX theaters, the Butterfly House, an excellent planetarium, and laser shows that feature music synced up to lasers.

Hands-on math and basic science exhibits delight school-age children, and other exhibits excite the inquiring mind with demonstrations of virtual reality, computer science, and robotics. Two of the many exciting permanent exhibits are 'Dinosaurs: A Journey Through Time', which features eight full- and half-size robotic dinosaurs that roar; and the 'Insect Village', inhabited by live and robotic insects, and a beehive.

Why You Should Visit:
One of the better science centers in the US considering the variety of options available and the level of detail.
They offer different plans, either for the exhibits alone or with the movies (plenty of movie offerings, too).
The gift shop is very nice and full of many well-priced items for taking home as gifts.

If looking to do lots of things downtown, make sure you take advantage of the CityPass as it will save you 40-50% and you can knock out lots of attractions.
Mural Amphitheater

3) Mural Amphitheater

Located in the heart of Seattle, the Mural Amphitheater stands as one of the premier destinations for live outdoor concerts and film festivals in the city. Nestled against the iconic Space Needle, this enchanting venue offers a captivating setting for entertainment and cultural events, attracting locals and tourists alike.

One of the main attractions of the Mural Amphitheater is its remarkable 60-foot-long cycloramic mural, created by the renowned Japanese artist Paul Horiuchi in 1962. Horiuchi employed his distinctive collage technique to craft this masterpiece, which features 54 panels of Italian-made Venetian glass in a stunning array of 160 color variations. Not only does this mural serve as a visually captivating backdrop, but it also acts as a sound-reflecting acoustic element for the stage, enhancing the overall auditory experience for the audience.

The design of the theater itself is a testament to the visionary work of local architect Paul Thiry, often referred to as the father of architectural modernism in the Pacific Northwest. Thiry's expertise shines through in the terraced lawn layout of the amphitheater, providing optimal sightlines and seating arrangements for concertgoers and film enthusiasts. The open-air setting allows attendees to bask in the natural beauty of Seattle while immersing themselves in the magic of live performances.

During the summer months, the Mural Amphitheater plays host to a beloved event called 'Movies at the Mural.' This popular series invites people of all ages to enjoy free outdoor evening screenings of classic and contemporary films. The combination of captivating movies and picturesque surroundings creates an unforgettable cinematic experience.
Chihuly Garden and Glass

4) Chihuly Garden and Glass (must see)

Chihuly Garden and Glass is a captivating museum and art exhibition located in Seattle. Dedicated to the stunning works of renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly, the museum offers visitors an immersive and awe-inspiring experience that celebrates the beauty and versatility of glass as an artistic medium.

Chihuly Garden and Glass is situated at the foot of the iconic Space Needle. The museum's indoor exhibition space presents a mesmerizing display of Chihuly's sculptures, installations, and intricate glass creations. The artwork explores a wide range of forms, colors, and textures, showcasing the artist's mastery of the glassblowing technique and his innovative approach to sculptural design. Visitors can marvel at the intricate details and vibrant hues of Chihuly's signature works, which often evoke natural elements like flowers, sea creatures, and organic shapes.

In addition to the indoor galleries, Chihuly Garden and Glass features an expansive outdoor garden that beautifully integrates art with nature. The garden exhibits Chihuly's sculptures against a backdrop of carefully curated plantings, creating a harmonious blend of color and form. The glass artwork interacts with the surrounding flora, water features, and natural light, creating a dynamic and ever-changing visual experience throughout the seasons.

Visitors can stroll through the garden pathways, discovering hidden nooks and unexpected displays at every turn. The juxtaposition of the delicate glass artistry against the ruggedness of nature creates a sense of wonder and exploration. The garden also features a stunning glasshouse, showcasing one of Chihuly's largest suspended installations—an extraordinary chandelier-like structure that spans the entire ceiling and is illuminated to create a breathtaking spectacle.

Chihuly Garden and Glass offers visitors more than just visual delight. The museum provides educational insights into Chihuly's creative process, the history of glass art, and the evolution of his artistic career. Interactive exhibits, videos, and informative displays shed light on the intricate techniques and craftsmanship behind the glassblowing process, further enriching the visitor experience.

Since this exhibit doesn't take too long, try getting tickets at or after 4pm if possible, as they are significantly discounted.
Seattle Children's Museum

5) Seattle Children's Museum

The brainchild of a group of creative Seattle parents who formed a nonprofit organization in 1979 to educate their children in an entertaining and informative way, this museum started with a single exhibit but currently features 18,000 square feet of play space with a dozen hands-on, interactive, and child-size exhibits on world culture, art, technology, and the humanities. Those looking to really have a great time should come on a weekday, as the place gets pretty packed and hectic otherwise.

There's plenty of activity and play adventure for those in the age 1-5 range to entertain themselves with, be it the little supermarket, post office, or construction zone – all of which are big hits. Parents can do in and outs, and must accompany their child to supervise them, as this is definitely not a daycare for drop offs! Unless they bring their own meal, families are offered good options in the food court upstairs, so after the kids play, they can be fed right away before falling asleep for a nap.

Why You Should Visit:
A great way to combine education and vacation for young children; clean and well-structured, with hands-on learning about real-world activities. Close proximity to the best outdoor play structures in King County, too – and if you head out on a clear day, kids will also love the nearby International Fountain.

Ask at the desk about the jungle gym with huge slides and go there first if you so desire.
International Fountain

6) International Fountain

The International Fountain underwent a thorough renovation in July 2021, following a three-month closure. The renovation included the replacement of 56 out of the fountain's 274 water jets, the installation of vibrant LED lighting, and the re-caulking of 5,000 feet of sealant around the large metal water dome. Additionally, the technology and electrical systems were upgraded.

Originally built as a prominent feature for the 1962 Seattle World's Fair, the fountain was designed to evoke the spirit of outer space exploration. The presence of protruding nozzles and jagged, irregular white rocks surrounding the original silver metal dome aimed to create a "lunar landscape" ambiance. However, these elements made the fountain less accessible to visitors. In a rebuild carried out in 1995, the nozzles and rocks were removed, and numerous flat jets were installed on the new stainless steel dome's surface. This modification allowed for more interactive play and engagement. Consequently, the fountain quickly became a focal point of the grounds, with children splashing in its basin and attempting to outwit its super shooters.

The recent maintenance work focused on updating the mechanical components of the fountain, ensuring its longevity as a beloved attraction for the community well into the future.

It is worth noting that the International Fountain also prioritizes environmental stewardship. The fountain operates with a water recycling system and undergoes three types of natural treatment processes before the water reaches the public, making it perhaps the cleanest water feature in the city.
Seattle Center Armory

7) Seattle Center Armory

Originally built as an armory in 1939, this stately building, newly named Seattle Center Armory, housed half-ton tanks and the 146th Field Artillery. It was remodeled in 2012 and now contains a large food court with an impressive array of popular eateries like Mod Pizza, Premier Meat Pies, the great Plum Pantry vegan bistro, as well as the arts- and culture-oriented Children's Museum, and a performance area where 3,000 free public performances are held each year.

In short, there's a lot to choose from when getting a quick bite or sitting for a meal, but one might also bump into several interesting exhibits with all sorts of vendors, ethnic food, performers, and even African wears. There's something for everyone and there's a lot of seating available inside. Come on in and see what you will find!
Museum of Pop Culture

8) Museum of Pop Culture (must see)

The Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP), located in Seattle, Washington, is a captivating and dynamic institution dedicated to the exploration and celebration of popular culture.

MoPOP stands out for its striking architecture, designed by acclaimed architect Frank Gehry. The building's unconventional design features a mix of curving, colorful metallic panels that resemble flowing sheets of music or distorted guitars. It has become an iconic landmark in Seattle's skyline, drawing visitors with its bold and distinctive aesthetic.

The museum's mission is to engage visitors in a multi-disciplinary exploration of popular culture across various mediums, including music, film, television, video games, science fiction, and more. It offers a vast array of exhibits and interactive displays that immerse visitors in the rich tapestry of pop culture.

One of the museum's notable attractions is the Sound Lab, where visitors can experiment with musical instruments, recording equipment, and technology to create their own music. The interactive nature of the exhibit encourages visitors to engage with music and gain a deeper understanding of its cultural impact.

MoPOP also boasts an extensive collection of artifacts and memorabilia, showcasing the history and influence of popular culture icons. Visitors can explore exhibits dedicated to legendary musicians, such as Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, and Prince, examining their impact on music and society. The museum also hosts rotating exhibitions that delve into diverse aspects of pop culture, from science fiction and fantasy to horror and comics.

Beyond music, MoPOP pays homage to other forms of popular culture through its exhibitions. Visitors can delve into the world of science fiction and fantasy, exploring iconic franchises like Star Trek, Star Wars, and The Lord of the Rings. The museum also highlights the artistry and cultural significance of video games, featuring exhibits that delve into the evolution of gaming, influential titles, and the creative minds behind them.

The museum is also home to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame, honoring the most influential and groundbreaking contributors to the genre. Inductees include renowned authors, filmmakers, artists, and visionaries who have shaped the landscape of science fiction and fantasy.

Either get a CityPass (available inside) or a combo ticket to the Space Needle and Chihuly's Garden and Glass exhibit to bring the price down. If you're short on time, dare to ask when buying ticket/s if there's a way to reenter the following day.
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Discovery Center

9) Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Discovery Center

Considering it's free to visit and only a quick walk from the Space Needle area, a walk to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is recommended to learn about the legacy this family seeks to leave. The inspiring stories, cool innovations, and impacts presented are quite interesting and should make you feel a little bit better about humanity.

If you don't have time for the tour, there are plenty of displays, videos and interactive kiosks to view, including some hands-on things for the kids (and adults and teens) towards the back room, and lots of questions and topics to get you really thinking how we can each "make a difference" (e.g., the little topic cards placed all around the Center encourage visitors to volunteer, learn, use their voice, show kindness, donate, or raise money for their own causes) – so, if anything, you will learn something and be inspired to do your part, too. There's a great attention to displaying the various exhibit portions in an eye-pleasing way, while also allowing for the video/sound components of exhibits to be appreciated – all without being too distracting to those viewing other portions of the space.

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