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This downtown location is the hub for all of the Seattle Public Library branches, and it circulates more than a million books annually. It has a large computer area and a 200-seat auditorium where literary programs, workshops and events for kids are held (all free of charge). Other services include an area to assist deaf, deaf-blind and hard-of-hearing patrons, a genealogy desk for those researching family history, and a writer's room to encourage new writers.
Located on the 73rd floor of the Columbia Center, the Sky View Observatory provides unobstructed views of Mount Rainier, the city, Elliot Bay, the Space Needle, Olympic Mountains, Bellevue and more. Popular among tourists and locals alike, this landmark is the tallest public observatory, reaching nearly 1,000 feet (304 meters), west of the Mississippi. Visitors pay a small fee to ride the elevator up and experience the breath-taking view. Come in the evenings to take advantage of the spectacular sunset, but be sure to visit before 7:45p when the last tickets are sold for the night.
Saint James Cathedral is located in the First Hill area, overlooking downtown Seattle. With its elegant facade and double steeples, the cathedral epitomizes quiet grace. Opened only on selected holy days, the two new bronze ceremonial doors, by renowned German artist Ulrich Henn, tell the story of the great procession of the human family towards the heavenly city. The cathedral holds a full schedule of services. Mass is offered several times a day all week.
One of Seattle's most famous landmarks, Pike Place Market is the oldest continuously working public market in the United States and one of the world's top 50 most visited attractions. Pike Place opened in 1907 as the city's first public market, expanding to keep up with its growing popularity as a convenient option for both shoppers and merchants. The market remains a veritable cornucopia of culinary and artisanal options, its crowded aisles and bustling halls thronged with customers jostled between vendors of fresh produce and gourmet eats, alongside fishmongers and craftsmen. The street level is dominated by the food and produce stalls, while the lower levels house a fantastic variety of shops including antique dealers, head shops, florists, and local artisans. A whirlwind of sights, sounds and aromas, Pike Place Market is nothing short of paradise for foodies and connoisseurs of unique wares.
With numerous fun-but-tacky tourist shops and the Alaskan Way Viaduct thundering overhead, the Seattle Waterfront should instead be visited for the spectacular views. Also bringing people here is the Bainbridge Island ferry that leaves from Colman Dock, and the popular Summer Nights at the Pier concerts play at sublime Pier 62/63. The Seattle Aquarium and the Odyssey Maritime Discovery Center are also here. The old streetcar clangs along the length of the waterfront, and the green spaces of Myrtle Edwards Park take over from the concrete mayhem at the northern end.
Want the best view of Seattle's colorful and glittering skyline? Then take a ride on the Seattle Great Wheel, which is situated on the pier off Alaskan Way. The 15-minute ride inside its climate-controlled gondolas will take you to a maximum height of 175 feet (53 meters), where you can capture splendid views of downtown and the picture perfect moments with your family on a camera. Each gondola has a maximum capacity for eight people, and the wheel is open for tourists 365 days of the year. Considered to be one of the tallest ferries wheels on the West Coast, the Seattle Great Wheel makes for a perfect family joy ride.
Seattle's most famous landmark, the Space Needle's futuristic design rises over 600 feet (182.88 meters) tall. The tower was originally built for the 1962 World Expo in Seattle, and was designed with cutting-edge know how by award-winning engineer John K. Minasian, known for his work at Cape Canaveral, home of the U.S. Space Program. From the top, the Space Needle provides 360-degree views of downtown Seattle, Mount Rainier, Elliott Bay, and the Cascade and Olympic mountains. Besides the Skydeck restaurant, the Space Needle also features a gift shop and observation deck.
Built for the 1962 World's Fair, then turned into a privately owned city park, the Seattle Center is still Seattle's chief gathering place. Fountains, museums, theaters and amusement arcades punctuate sweeping lawns and tree-lined walkways. Three times a year, in May, July and September, people swarm the grounds for the Folklife, Bite of Seattle and Bumbershoot festivals. The grounds contain the Experience Music Project, the Space Needle, one end of the Monorail, the Seattle Children's Theater and the Pacific Science Center. All 87-acres of the Seattle Center is buzzing with activity and why not? More than 5,000 free performances are held in various cultural festivals to concerts all through the year especially summer. Every museum and theatre stage comes alive including the eight fountains. So be a part of the food, fun and partying!
Chihuly Garden Glass amazes visitors with displays of color and fine artistry. With the iconic Space Needle serving as its backdrop, this unique exhibit – conceived by artist Dale Chihuly – features glass sculptures that have to be seen to be believed. The splendor of lush gardens showcasing Chihuly's signature glass creations is truly a serene experience. Easily accessible via the Seattle Monorail, there is no excuse for not experiencing this incomparable display of nature and glass.
The Seattle Chinese Garden (also known as Xi Huan Yuan) is not only the largest of its kind in the United States, but also one the largest outside China. Offering gorgeous views and a continually changing array of plants, the park includes several pavilions built using traditional Chinese materials and techniques. Visitors can view slide presentations of the construction process as part of docent-guided tours. Tours are free and last 90 minutes. For easiest access, park at the north entry.