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To Inspire Wonder

Seattle’s Point of View Since 1962

One of the most photographed and recognized structures in the world, the Space Needle was built as a cultural centerpiece for the 1962 World’s Fair, whose theme was “The Age of Space.”

At 605 feet tall, the landmark was constructed to symbolize humanity’s Space Age aspirations, and since its grand opening on April 21, 1962, continues to represent the innovative and forward-thinking spirit of Seattle.

The tower’s 520’ saucer-shaped “top house” offers visitors Seattle’s only 360-degree indoor and outdoor panoramic views of downtown, Mount Rainier, Puget Sound, and the Cascades and Olympic mountain ranges.

2018: Spacelift


Napkin doodle to Space Needle

Seattle hotel executive and chief organizer of the 1962 World’s Fair, Edward E. Carlson, traveled to Stuttgart Germany where he was inspired by a broadcast tower featuring a restaurant. He doodled an idea of a dominant central structure for the fair on a napkin, convinced that such a tower could become an enduring symbol for Seattle. He called it a “Space Needle.”


Making Space

Early investigations indicated there was no room for a tower at the fairgrounds, but just 13 months before the World’s Fair, a suitable 120- foot-by-120-lot on the site of an old fire station was found and sold to investors for $75,000 in 1961.


A Rainbow of Fame and Flame

The Space Needle officially opened the first day of the World’s Fair. During the expo the tower hosted an estimated 2.65 million visitors including many well-known faces.

The original mast atop the structure was a natural gas torch that was lit up at night in rainbow colors.


Wheedle on the Needle

Local children’s book author Stephen Cosgrove introduced an infamously shy, orange character with a bright red nose who lived atop the tower: the Wheedle. This Bigfoot look-alike became the mascot for the NBA SuperSonics, Seattle’s defunct men’s basketball team.


Falling for the Needle

For April Fools’ Day, the KING-TV Almost Live comedy show ran a spoof news announcement that the Space Needle had fallen over. The live broadcast included a mocked-up graphic of the tower in ruins on the ground. The prank received international attention and overwhelmed Seattle’s 9-1-1 emergency system with people who believed it was real.


Kurt Alert

The iconic grunge rock band Nirvana visits the Space Needle.

April 21 1997


For its 35th anniversary in 1997, the tower introduces a new, short-lived mascot, Sneedle.

April 21 1999

Shining Higher

The Space Needle unveiled its Legacy Lights for the first time. The powerful beam of light is powered by lamps that total 85 million candela (a light’s luminosity) shining upwards from the top of the tower.

The Legacy Lights remained lit for eleven days straight in response to the September 11th attacks in 2001 and continue to honor national holidays and special occasions.


Y2 Upgrade

The tower completed a $20 million revitalization in 2000. The project included construction of the Pavilion Level, Spacebase retail store, SkyCity restaurant, Observation Deck improvements, exterior lighting additions, exterior painting and more. In comparison, the Space Needle was built for about $4.5 million dollars in 1962.


Buzz Aldrin speaking at a lectern at Space Needle's "Space Race 2012".

Space Race

For the Space Needle’s 50th anniversary, it sponsored “Space Race 2012,” a contest that selected one lucky individual to win an actual flight into orbit. The contest was announced by Buzz Aldrin, the Apollo 11 astronaut who was the second man to walk the moon.


A Breath of Fresh Air

“The Century Project” renovation began in September 2017, revealing the tower’s internal structure and harkening back to the original conceptual sketches. Thanks to its 360o Spacelift, guests can now enjoy two levels of breathtaking floor-to-ceiling views from the outdoor observation deck, down the Oculus Stairs, to The Loupe—the world’s first and only rotating glass floor.


Looking to the Future

In 2023, the Space Needle started a four-year elevator modernization project. In addition to bringing the elevator system into the 21st Century, the project features a new elevator cab design that will debut in 2025.