Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Good Places for Aerial Views of Seattle

[UPDATED July 4, 2015]

I visit Seattle at least once a year, sometimes twice, so I have lots of tips for doing so. My first installment of these is on aerial views of the city. All are worth a visit, some more so than others. Some are mentioned in all Seattle guide books, but at least one is mentioned in none. This information came from a cheat sheet I make for friends going to Seattle

Kerry Park Viewpoint
LOCATION: 211 W Highland Dr, Queen Anne District
PROS: Free. View is mostly unobstructed. Open dawn to dusk
CONS: Up a very steep hill. View is only one direction (facing Seattle Center and downtown)

Volunteer Park Observation Tower
LOCATION: 1247 15th Ave E, Capitol Hill area
PROS: Free. Views on every side of tower
CONS: Up a narrow windy staircase. Views are only from a series of windows (covered in wire mesh, not glass), so you have to go from window to window to get a view. Also the wire mesh is hard to keep out of photos unless you zoom quite a bit. Due to the mesh, this is my least favourite aerial view

Downtown bridges
LOCATION: Downtown core: Ferry Terminal to 2nd Ave, Macy's to parking lot, Pacific Place to Nordstrom
PROS: Free. These are easily overlooked by other tourists as a photo op, so you’ll get photos that many other tourists won’t. Macy's has nice glass displays inside. Ferry terminal bridge available 24 hours, view unobstructed.
CONS: None are that high up, only two directions to really see (west and east).

Space Needle
LOCATION: 400 Broad St, Seattle Center
PROS: If you get a CityPass, two visits are included. 360 degrees, and open air. This is the best view of the Monorail route, Seattle Center, and some of the news headquarters.
CONS: This is actually the lowest of the pay locations, and also the priciest. Due to protective metal you have to zoom a little for the best shots.

SkyView Observatory at Columbia Center
LOCATION: 73rd-701 5th Ave, Downtown
PROS: Tallest view (73rd or so story). Very nice view of downtown/Pioneer District area, unobstructed due to clear glass.
CONS; Due to proximity of Smith Tower, some overlap with the view there; not quite 360 degrees (270 I think).
NOTE: I had previously listed this at inexpensive but the price subsequently jumped up ($5 in 2011 to $14.25 in 2015; however it is now open weekends.
Smith Tower
LOCATION: 1021-506 2nd Ave, Pioneer Square District
PROS: You get a discount if you were at Underground Tour earlier. Open air, highest up 360 degree view of the city. Nice views of downtown/Pioneer District
CONS: Again, some overlap with the taller Columbia Center due to proximity. You have to zoom due to protective metal. Smith Tower sometimes closes for special events.
NOTE: Closed for renovations in 2015.
Kerry, Space Needle, Smith, Columbia all offer views of Mt Rainier when the weather cooperates, both in terms of rain and forest fires.

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