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The Columbia Tower Observation Deck

Downtown Seattle - Columbia Tower

Downtown Seattle - Columbia Tower

Built in 1985, the Columbia Center is the 7th tallest building in the USA, and at 932 feet, it is the tallest building in the entire Pacific Northwest. The building has 76 floors, 46 elevators, and the antennas on the roof bring the total height to 967′.

While the Space Needle is Seattle’s Statue of Liberty, the Columbia Center is our Sears Tower. Our Empire State Building. It’s the centerpiece of the best skyline in the solar system. It’s the first thing you see when you approach Seattle, and the last thing you see when you leave.

Downtown Seattle - Columbia Center

Downtown Seattle - Columbia Center

Downtown Seattle - Columbia Center

Downtown Seattle - Columbia Center

Downtown Seattle - Columbia Center

Downtown Seattle - Columbia Center

I live in the shadow of this building, about 8 blocks away, but until today, I had never been to the top.

Fortunately, a clear day lined up with an appointment I had in Pioneer Square this morning, and afterward I decided to go ahead and check out the Sky View Observatory.

Columbia Center Starbucks

Columbia Center Starbucks

Columbia Center Starbucks

Columbia Center Starbucks

Columbia Center Starbucks View

Columbia Center Starbucks View

Columbia Center Starbucks View

Columbia Center Starbucks View

From the lobby of Columbia Center, I took the elevator to the 40th floor and stopped at the Starbucks in the Sky. I grabbed a quick coffee and a few photos here, then proceeded to take a second bank of elevators to the 73rd floor.

Columbia Center Elevator - 73rd Floor

Columbia Center Elevator - 73rd Floor

I walked out of the elevator, turned left, gave a man $5 for admission and …….. wow.

I was speechless.

Downtown Seattle from the Columbia Tower Observation Deck

Downtown Seattle from the Columbia Tower Observation Deck

West Seattle from the Columbia Tower Observation Deck

West Seattle from the Columbia Tower Observation Deck

Elliott Bay from the Columbia Tower Observation Deck

Elliott Bay from the Columbia Tower Observation Deck

Mount Rainier, Beacon Hill, and I-5 from the Columbia Tower Observation Deck

Mount Rainier, Beacon Hill, and I-5 from the Columbia Tower Observation Deck

Olympic Mountains from the Columbia Tower Observation Deck

Olympic Mountains from the Columbia Tower Observation Deck

Good god, this town is ridiculous. Just silly. The scenery here is impossible, and at times you have to rub your eyes to make sure you’re not having polydrug flashbacks.

From the observation floor, you can see for 100 miles in any direction, except north (the view is 270 degrees). The Olympics to the west, Mt. Rainier to the south, the Cascades to the east, and everything in-between. Ferries and traffic below, and airplanes and helicopters almost at eye level. From this high up, both the Puget Sound and Lake Washington look like puddles. It really is breathtaking.

Panoramic View from the Columbia Center Sky View Observatory

Panoramic View from the Columbia Center Sky View Observatory

Panoramic View from the Columbia Center Sky View Observatory

Panoramic View from the Columbia Center Sky View Observatory

While looking to the south, I could spot work being done on the interior of Qwest field. I’m not sure what they are doing, but it looks like a drastic overhaul.

Qwest Field from the Columbia Center Sky View Observatory

Qwest Field from the Columbia Center Sky View Observatory

Speaking of Qwest … you know … I understand why Seattle sports teams suck.

Think about it.

Look around you.

Now look at pictures of any other city in this country.

If Seattle was this beautiful, and had winning teams, it would be patently unfair to the rest of the nation. We’d be rubbing their nose in their abject municipal inferiority.

This is an empathetic town, though.

Losing teams are the bone that Seattle tosses to the rest of the nation as a consolation prize for not being anywhere near as great as Seattle.

I’m really not even joking. For crying out loud, look at this scenery.

I’ve been to every observation deck in every city in North America, but no place compares to Seattle. Not even close. Not … even … remotely … close.

I walked around for about two hours, and I really didn’t want to leave. I was transfixed. The view was like a religious experience for me, only better.

Unfortunately, there’s always a fly in the ointment, and my fly was this guy:

Columbia Center Sky View Observatory - Fly in the Ointment

Columbia Center Sky View Observatory - Fly in the Ointment

This thoughtless individual staked out the best corner on the observation deck, and proceeded to yap on his cellphone for 30 minutes as people queued behind him to get pictures. It was surreal. The weed just stood there talking to his friend about his girlfriend (she is thinking about buying a place in Seattle but isn’t sure she wants to commit to the area since her family lives in Colorado) and wouldn’t budge. As far as he was concerned, he was the only person up there. I really, really wanted to see this guy fly head-first down 73 stories.

I digress.

I tried my best to capture the view from the observatory in this post, but trust me, pictures are not sufficient. This has to be experienced first-hand.

The Sky View Observatory is open from 8:30am – 4:30pm Monday through Friday. No night shots and no weekends. Also, there is a Metro Traffic Control radio station at the top, and you have to keep your voice down.

Metro Traffic Control Radio Station

Metro Traffic Control Radio Station

If you come to Seattle and can do one thing, and one thing only … the Columbia Center Sky View Observatory would have to be it. At this point, I would have to call it the best kept secret in Seattle. Unlike the Space Needle, there is no line here, and the price is only 5 bucks.

It’s the best five dollars I have ever spent in my life.

Columbia Center Sky View Observatory Entrance

Columbia Center Sky View Observatory Entrance

View from the Columbia Center Sky View Observatory

View from the Columbia Center Sky View Observatory

View from the Columbia Center Sky View Observatory

View from the Columbia Center Sky View Observatory

I-90 Floating Bridge from the Columbia Center Sky View Observatory

I-90 Floating Bridge from the Columbia Center Sky View Observatory

Pioneer Square from the Columbia Center Sky View Observatory

Pioneer Square from the Columbia Center Sky View Observatory

Capitol Hill, First Hill, Central District, and Lake Washington from the Columbia Center Sky View Observatory

Capitol Hill, First Hill, Central District, and Lake Washington from the Columbia Center Sky View Observatory

Seattle Waterfront from the Columbia Center Sky View Observatory

Seattle Waterfront from the Columbia Center Sky View Observatory

Columbia Center Sky View Observatory Interior

Columbia Center Sky View Observatory Interior

ID, Pioneer Square, and SoDo from the Columbia Center Sky View Observatory

ID, Pioneer Square, and SoDo from the Columbia Center Sky View Observatory

520 Floating Bridge and The Cascades from the Columbia Center Sky View Observatory

520 Floating Bridge and The Cascades from the Columbia Center Sky View Observatory

Bellevue from the Columbia Center Sky View Observatory

Bellevue from the Columbia Center Sky View Observatory

The Space Needle and Queen Anne from the Columbia Center Sky View Observatory

The Space Needle and Queen Anne from the Columbia Center Sky View Observatory

Mount Rainier, Beacon Hill, and I-5 from the Columbia Center Sky View Observatory

Mount Rainier, Beacon Hill, and I-5 from the Columbia Center Sky View Observatory

Interstate 5 from the Columbia Center Sky View Observatory

Interstate 5 from the Columbia Center Sky View Observatory

Capitol Hill from the Columbia Center Sky View Observatory

Capitol Hill from the Columbia Center Sky View Observatory

Elliott Bay from the Columbia Center Sky View Observatory

Elliott Bay from the Columbia Center Sky View Observatory

Belltown and The Space Needle from the Columbia Center Sky View Observatory

Belltown and The Space Needle from the Columbia Center Sky View Observatory

Downtown and The Space Needle from the Columbia Center Sky View Observatory

Downtown and The Space Needle from the Columbia Center Sky View Observatory

If you have yet to go up to the Columbia Center Sky View Observatory, then do yourself a favor and go.

Now.

If you can’t make it today, then call in sick tomorrow.

If you have a heart attack or get run over by a car before you have the opportunity to see this view, then your life will have been wasted. You must make it to the top.

It’s as close to heaven as most of you will ever get.

12 comments to The Columbia Tower Observation Deck

  • Chuckreis

    Ah good ole Metro Traffic. I hate those fuckers.

  • blueboar

    Very nice.

    I didn’t know that place existed and would definitely go there. Strange hours though.

    The building itself looks kind of unremarkable. But that view is great!

    I disagree slightly with you though. If a person could do only one thing in Seattle, I’d have to vote for riding the ferry. (But this looks like a close second.)

  • trentmc

    You found my favorite spot in the city. I loved your writing, photos and the video.

    It’s funny but in one of your photos is a sign for The Kingdome. Which was imploded many years ago to make way for Qwest Field.

    I love it up there. There is no better spot in the city. The only thing better in the state is visiting our National Parks which are Rainier, Olympic and North Cascades. Strapping on a backpack and hitting the trails. The wilderness of Washington is the most beautiful in the world.

    I don’t see you doing that Rex but if you ever get the urge then let me know.

    Thanks for that piece. It’s time for me to get back up the Columbia Tower.

  • CanadaRye

    Ah good ole Metro Traffic. I love them!!!! They give good traffic reports and help me get home on time. As for Chuckreis I hate you you dirty fucker.

  • CanadaRye

    Merry Christmas to Chuckreis the traffic lover.

  • Marita

    Thanks for the great photo tour. We will be making a quick stop in Seattle in the near future. Looks like this is the place to go instead of wasting time and money at the Space Needle.

  • Melissa

    My family paid to see the view of Seattle from the top floor at the Columbia Tower when I felt sick so I waited form them by the elevators. A staff member demanded to know why I was waiting there and told me to leave because it looked bad that I was there. She was extremely rude, inconsiderate, and didn’t apologize for unwelcoming a visitor. My family and I left since it was such an awful experience.

  • Jay

    Maybe now you can change this line…

    “Speaking of Qwest … you know … I understand why Seattle sports teams suck.”

    It’s now called Century Link Field, and I think you’re aware of the other reason! :^)

    S E A H A W K S !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • NW*Juliana

    Is it true that this observation deck has received an overhaul, is 360 degrees now, and costs more like $15? So hoping this isn’t true as I’m headed to Seattle in the morning from eastern Washington and I was going to take my daughter up.

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