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by Gail Clifford MD (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer and photographer traveling the world, often following my daughter. Visit our site at and follow us on Instagram @ABLETravelPhoto
Published September 14th 2021
The most economical way to visit Seattle's Top 5 Attractions

Even before hosting the World Fair in 1962, Seattle took pride in innovating for the future. With great companies and charitable foundations, this city continues to welcome guests and locals alike into a waterfront wonderland.

When in Seattle for business or pleasure, you're well-advised to purchase the CityPASS for the most economical way to see the top attractions. Or, as they say, "Spend Less... Experience More."

In addition to saving money, purchasing the CityPASS allows express entry at these busy locations which saves you time.

And some great advice I received came from Rudd Schipp, the concierge at the Seattle Waterfront Marriott Hotel: "Purchase the CityPASS online or at any attraction other than the Space Needle. The lines are longest there."

The current iteration of the CityPASS includes admission to the Space Needle and the Aquarium with the choice of three of the four other attractions: Argosy Cruise, Chihuly Glass, MoPop, and the Woodland Park Zoo.

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The Seattle Space Needle as viewed through Chihuly Glass

Seattle Space Needle
400 Broad Street
Seattle, WA 98109
206) 905-2100
If you see one thing in Seattle, see everything."

When the Space Needle opened for the Seattle World's Fair in 1962, the architect's vision wasn't quite possible due to technology. There weren't glass panels large enough to withstand the elements at height. And no way to get them there. With the recent $100M renovation, the architect's vision for this beacon of the future will finally be achieved.

Now updated, with three floors of observation decks, your ticket price also includes a virtual reality encounter in the lobby… a bungee jump from the top. It'll give you something to think about as you enter the elevator and rise to the observation platform, you may feel the excitement build for the sweeping vistas you're about to experience. That's one of the many great things about the Space Needle.

The top deck reaches 518 feet (158m), but the antenna soars to 604 feet (184m).

The revolving platform allows you to stay firmly planted in one spot for an entire revolution. You can watch the cityscape beneath you or ahead of you.

PRO TIP: Maximize the use of your ticket. Return at night to see the city lights. It enhances your visit.

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Sea Otter relaxes after lunch at the Seattle Aquarium

Seattle Aquarium
1483 Alaskan Way, Pier 59
Seattle, WA 98101
(206) 386-4300

There are so many things to see and do at the Seattle Aquarium, you'll be glad you save the time with your express entry.

PRO TIP: My favorite time to go is when they're feeding the sea otters. They are so playful and friendly.

At the entrance, check on the times for the daily diver shows and any other presentations. You won't want to miss them.

Many of the exhibits on the first floor explain where the aquarium has been and where it's going. A combination of real-life and technologically enhanced displays allow and inspire you to understand how to best conserve Pacific Northwest wildlife.

And then something, like the luminous moon jellies, jumps into view and you're awestruck.

Continue along the well-marked paths to explore exhibits then walk through a small tunnel and find yourself in the Underwater Dome. It's a 360-degree tank filled with hundreds of fish you can find in the Puget Sound area. The silver-backed open-water salmon are my favorite, and you can spot lingcod, sturgeon, sharks, and rockfish if you look closely through the kelp forest.

You can rush through in an hour or spend the better part of the day. It all depends on your schedule.

Argosy Cruise of Elliott Bay
1101 Alaskan Way, Pier 55, Seattle, WA 98101
Hours: 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM daily
Phone: (206) 623-1445

Argosy Cruises have been amongst my favorites since we had our company picnic aboard one year. That may be the best way to cruise the Bay. But if you don't work in the area, there are plenty of options to capture your time on the water in and around Seattle.

The 1-hour Harbor Cruise is included in the CityPASS. While cruising Elliott Bay and the Seattle Harbor, a live narrator will entertain you with tales of the waterfront, shipyards, shipping containers, and, of course, "The Mountain." While the majestic Olympic mountain range to the west and Cascade mountain range to the east are impressive, Mt. Rainier, on a sunny day, steals the show.

PRO TIP: If you plan to do the other four attractions, this is the easy one in CityPASS to bypass and, instead, purchase the Locks cruise. And ask about the weekend special event cruises.

If you have time midday or on the weekend, the locals recommend taking the extended cruise of the locks. Michelle, our tour leader, was well versed in legend and history and caught many of us with the giggles. Keep an eye out for wildlife. Most days you can spot the not so studly seals by one of the debris barges, slumbering or not so elegantly frolicking, so not likely to get the girl seal the next time they go for the competition further south.

The best seats are on the north side (left when facing the wheelhouse) so that you get great Sound and City views for photographs once the ship has turned around. Fun to watch, the containers are moved on ships on a regular basis.

Fun Fact: The Sound is deeper than 650 feet in spots, more than the height of the Space Needle … so the Needle could be put upside down in the Sound.

With all the ships and all the shipping containers, you may be surprised to learn the biggest export in these containers: cattle grade grain.

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Towering Guitar Structure at MoPop Seattle

MoPop: Museum of POP Culture (formerly EMP)
325 5th Ave N
Seattle, WA

Founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, this is multi-media mecca at its finest. Their mission, to "make creative expression a life-changing force by offering experiences that inspire and connect our communities" can be felt throughout the compound.

From the reflective orangish wave of the exterior to the flow and sensory challenges inside that explore some of the most significant moments in pop culture, you can spend hours or days being inspired by the hands-on access pop culture on display and the people that helped change our history.

Inside, you'll find everything from the largest guitar sculpture, iconic artifacts, and huge media screens to revolving exhibits, like Marvel Comics, the history of sci-fi and fantasy, and horror. Or School of Rock. Or Heroes and Villains: the Art of the Disney Costume. Be inspired. Go out and make your own art, be it music or any of the multi-medias explored here.

But before you go, take advantage of the sound booths available so you can try your hand at instruments and vocals can keep you busy the entire day if you like. Without hurting your family's hearing.

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A larger than life vase at Chihuly

Chihuly Garden and Glass
305 Harrison Street
Seattle, WA 98109
(206) 753-4940

If you love blown glass, or even explosions of color, this will be an exciting attraction for you. If you have no idea why anyone could get excited about a Museum of Glass (located in Tacoma), then prepare to be blown away.

Located an easy walk from the Space Needle, the blown glass flowers amongst the natural flora of Seattle draw you in. This is the place where color and curiosity allow your creativity to bloom. It was enough to get even me to try my hand at glass blowing. I'm not quick enough, and that stuff is hot!, but my daughter quickly became adept at it and continued her studies while in Seattle.

The artist who inspired this all? Dale Chihuly.

Born in Tacoma in 1941 (if you have time, visit the Tacoma Museum of Glass), Chihuly revolutionized the way glass, neon, ice, acrylic paint, charcoal, and other media are used in sculpture. The works of art he creates truly transform the way we see light, color, and form.

The live glassblowing demonstration should not be missed.

Flowers, fish, Avant-garde works, all blown from glass live and thrive here.

Fortunately, an audio tour is included with your ticket. All you need is your smartphone. Chihuly's innovation and passion are on display through the audio tour, garden tour and Gallery talks. Walk from exhibit to exhibit and enjoy the explanations to better understand the work and effort, thought and imagination for each item.

Walk beneath a ceiling of larger-than-life flowers. Explore an entire seascape the size of a large ballroom. Or the most intricate vase standing about 16 feet high and perhaps that wide.

There are even photo opportunities for you to pick up on your way out (or have emailed directly to you).

If you live in the area, becoming a member of Chihuly Glass makes perfect sense. That also gives you first notice on events, like Tai Chi below the 100-foot suspended sculpture in the Glasshouse or garden workshops or photography lessons.

Woodland Park Zoo
5500 Phinney Ave N
Seattle, WA 98103
(206) 548-2500

If you love zoos, has Seattle got the place for you! With over a thousand animals representing more than 300 species, this top award-winning zoo allows you to connect with nature while encountering one of the largest land mammals, the rhino.

Or, if smaller animals are your cup of tea, check out the schedule for the outdoor theater programs. Here you can meet the "clever ambassador animals" including porcupine, hornbill and sometimes a parrot.

For your littles, explore the Zoomazium, an indoor nature play space designed especially for your children to safely explore and be inspired to save wildlife.

Back outside, you can discover lions and tigers and grizzly bears, oh my!, as well as little sloth bears and the newest additions to the zoo.
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