Renovated Sky View Observatory in Seattle Takes the Experience to New Heights

Take in the views and enjoy a cocktail at the top of Seattle’s tallest building—902 feet in the air
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Our favorite view from the Sky View Observatory captured the hustle and bustle of our working waterfront.

There’s been a lot of attention around the sprucing up of Seattle’s most iconic viewpoints, with the Smith Tower getting a makeover in 2016 and the Space Needle’s ongoing glass-focused remodel. But standing sentry over them all at 902 feet, is the recently renovated viewpoint to end all Seattle views—the Sky View Observatory at the top of the Columbia Center.

The $25 million renovation started last year with the introduction of a 360-degree view (the observation deck used to only offer a 270-degree view) and the complete makeover offers many other updates to look forward to the next time you make your way over there. We checked it out and it does not disappoint.

Let’s start off at ground level: First, there is now a dedicated entrance to the observatory on the Fourth Avenue side of the Columbia Center. Second, and more important for the fun factor, there is a gift shop near the entry. According to Jen Tucker, general manager of the observatory, the gift shop used to consist of a small counter right before you entered the observatory. Now, the bigger new space sells clever trinkets that scream Seattle (and that sky-high view) such as cloud-shaped stress balls, umbrellas, and plushie Sasquatches.

Once you get down from the clouds, check out these cloud-themed souvenirs. Our personal favorites include the cloud umbrella and the cloud-shaped stress balls.

In addition to a dedicated entryway, there are now also two dedicated elevators that take you directly to the 73rd floor. During the ear-popping 70-second ride, a video is played on three sides of the elevator walls, chronicling the history of Mount Rainier. The same video currently plays on the way down, but Tucker says there are discussions of showing a different one, perhaps highlighting the growth of our city (we’re hoping for something like time-lapse movie shown in the elevator ride on One World Trade Center in New York City).

Once you’re 902 feet in the air, you are pulled to the stunning views. This is the tallest building in Seattle and on a clear day, you can see all the mountains (Hi Mount Rainier! Oh, hey, Mount Baker too!!) and ranges, and—perhaps even more interesting (at least to us): the hustle and bustle of our working waterfront shipyards as the vessels and trains come and go in the Port of Seattle on the southwest side of downtown.

Looking to take the perfect pic of the amazing views? Sky View Observatory provides some helpful hints.

"From 902 feet, guests will discover so many interesting opportunities to explore that may never have been noticed otherwise,” says Tucker.

Be sure to make your way to the newly expanded cocktail bar and eatery. Featuring local draft beer and spirits, Pacific Northwest inspired bites, with dungeness crab stuffed mushrooms ($9.50) and salmon cobb salad ($12) gracing the menu, you can now enjoy a drink and a nosh at the highest possible point in our city. There are a few tables set up around the bar area for you to relax and enjoy an Alki Manhattan ($12) or a Seattle 73 ($12), a tip to what floor you’re sipping this drink on.

It’s hard not to envy Tucker’s job; being the general manager of one of the most popular attractions in Seattle has its perks. Her favorite part?

Getting a firsthand traffic update from 902 feet in the air.

Admission: $22 adults, $16 children ages 5-13. Open daily 10 a.m.–10 p.m. this summer. Downtown. 701 Fourth Ave.

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