Skip to primary navigation Skip to content Skip to footer


Welcome to the Tours Northwest Blog! Join us on a virtual journey through the Emerald City’s vibrant landscapes, rich culture, and unique attractions. Immerse yourself in the heart of the Pacific Northwest as we share captivating stories, insider tips, and awe-inspiring visuals that showcase the beauty of Seattle. If you want to see more of Seattle and the surrounding areas in person, we invite you to check out our Seattle Tours & Activities page!

Back to Blog


Aerial view of Space Needle with Columbia Center and Smith Tower amidst the dense urban landscape

Space Needle and Seattle Skyline

Table of Contents

Space Needle Observatory Pros

Space Needle Observatory Cons

Space Needle Observatory Pricing

Columbia Center Skyview Observatory Pros

Columbia Center Skyview Observatory Cons

Smith Tower Observatory Pros

Smith Tower Observatory Cons

Written by Mark Dahl |  updated April 4 2024

Getting High in the Emerald City

(No, we’re not talking about Seattle’s legal cannabis stores – we’re comparing observation decks)

When planning a Seattle itinerary, the Space Needle is usually at the top of the list, which makes sense – Seattle is a city with stunning views of mountains, water, and skyscrapers, and if you want to enjoy the best panoramas of the Emerald City, you might want to see it from a tall viewpoint. However, the Space Needle is not your only option for city views, so you may want to consider each of the city’s three observation decks: Space Needle, Skyview Observatory, and Smith Tower. Each of them offers a different perspective and experience of Seattle’s beauty. Here are some pros and cons of each observation deck to help you decide which one to visit.

City views from the Space Needle Observatory

Space Needle Rotating Glass

Space Needle Observatory Pros:

  • The most iconic landmark in Seattle, built for the 1962 World’s Fair
  • The only revolving glass floor in the world, offering a 360-degree view of the city below
  • A modern and futuristic design with interactive exhibits and digital photo booths (photos are included in the price of admission)

Space Needle Observatory Cons:

  • The most expensive observation deck, with tickets starting from $35 per person – current hours and pricing 
  • The most crowded and touristy observation deck, with long lines and limited capacity
  • The view can be obstructed by clouds or fog on some days (although, in fairness, this is true of all 3 observation decks) – check the webcam to see the views when you’re thinking about going up and decide for yourself whether it’s worth the money
  • This might be obvious, but your view/pictures won’t include the Space Needle because you’re inside of it. If you want to capture some great photos from the outside, check out our Premier Seattle City Tour Bus so that you can get your selfies and explore more of what Seattle has to offer!

If you decide the Space Needle is still your pick (and I know most of you will), timing is everything.  Their convoluted ticketing website makes it as difficult as possible to see the variable pricing at a glance, so I compiled it here for you (current as of April 2024):



Space Needle Pricing by Day and Time

Day of Week Time of Day Adult Youth (age 5-12) Senior (65+
Monday-Friday 9am-11am $32.50 $24 $28
Monday-Friday 11am-7pm $42.50 $32.50 $36
Monday-Friday 7pm-8pm $32.50 $24 $28
Saturday-Sunday 8am-11am $39 $29 $33
Saturday-Sunday 11pm-7pm $42.50 $32.50 $36
Saturday-Sunday 7pm-11pm $39 $29 $33


I’ll try to update the pricing periodically, but your lowest-priced tickets are always going to be on weekday mornings/evenings.  Conveniently enough, this is also when you’ll encounter the smallest crowds, so it’s a win/win.  

My favorite strategy is to try to go up around sunset, which not only saves some money but gives you both daylight and nighttime views of the city. 

Chihuly Glass installation with the Seattle Space Needle in the background

Chihuly Glass Installation with the Space Needle





Also, consider a combo ticket with the  Chihuly Garden and Glass – it’s right next door, and  (in my opinion, at least) the most unique and spectacular attraction Seattle has to offer. 

Bonus tip – if you haven’t purchased advance tickets and need to wait for your ticket time to go up in the Space Needle, the Chihuly Garden and Glass is the perfect place to wait and not feel like you’re wasting your precious limited time in Seattle.


Though the Space Needle views and experience are iconic in Seattle, there are other amazing observation decks worth checking out! If you want a curated tour by Tours Northwest to see some of these locations for yourself, head to our Private Seattle Tour page. Otherwise, continue on to see the pro and con comparisons between the Skyview Observatory vs the Space Needle and Smith Tower vs Space Needle. 


Seattle Skyline View at sunset with Space Needle and water in the background

Skyview Observatory Columbia Center

Columbia Center tower with sky view observatory and amazing city views

Columbia Center Tower



Skyview Observatory Pros:

  • The tallest public observatory in the Pacific Northwest at 902 feet (you can look down at the Space Needle)
  • The largest observation deck in the city, spanning the entire 73rd floor of Columbia Center making it one of the best Seattle Skyline viewpoints
  • The most comprehensive view of Seattle and beyond, including Mount Rainier, Mount Baker, Elliott Bay, and the Olympic Mountains
  • $25 general admission ($22 seniors/military and $19 youth) – this includes all days/times – slightly to significantly less expensive than the Space Needle, depending when you’re going.  current hours and pricing

Skyview Observatory Cons:

  • Located in the downtown business district with limited parking options
  • The least distinctive observation deck, lacking any unique features or attractions
  • The view can be affected by reflections or glare from the windows on some days
  • Limited operating hours in the off-season (better in the summer) – check to make sure they will  be open when you want to go up




a close up of a busy city street with tall buildings and Smith Tower observatory in the background

The Smith Tower, built 1914

Smith Tower Observatory Pros:

  • The oldest observation deck in the city, dating back to 1914
  • The most historic and charming observation deck, featuring a vintage elevator (with an elevator operator), a prohibition-themed bar, and a museum of Seattle’s past
  • Least expensive option at $22 general admission ($21 senior/military, $18 youth/student) during all days/times –  current hours and pricing
  • The most intimate and cozy observation deck, offering a 360-degree open-air view of Pioneer Square and the waterfront

    Smith Tower observatory bar with view of Seattle City

    Smith Tower Observatory Bar

Smith Tower Observatory Cons:

  • The lowest observation deck in the city at 350 feet
  • The smallest observation deck in the city, with limited seating and space
  • The view can be blocked by nearby buildings or construction on some days
  • Operating hours are more limited than the Space Needle but less limited than the Skyview Observatory as of this writing, but check to make sure they will  be open when you want to go up


Finally, I wanted to give you a bonus recommendation that isn’t technically an observation deck, but it does have some great views without requiring you to buy a ticket.  The rooftop bar of the Thompson Hotel called The Nest has fantastic views (especially of the Pike Place Market and Puget Sound), and although the drinks are overpriced (what do you expect?), by Seattle standards the prices aren’t terrible.





Conclusion: There is no definitive answer to which observation deck is the best in Seattle. It depends on your preferences, budget, and mood. Get a chance to see some of these buildings up close when you book a Seattle City Tour with Tours Northwest!

Hopefully, this helps you to decide which option is right for you.