See the sights fast with a Seattle City Pass

With a limited amount of time in Seattle and a toddler in tow, our ragtag group wanted to maximize our time and be as touristy as possible in a short time. I was traveling with my college roommate Faye, her husband and their 2-year-old, and her husband’s brother. We’d arrived with no set plans other than of course, “See the Space Needle,” so when we stumbled upon signs for the CityPASS, we jumped on the opportunity.

How it works

The pass allows you to visit 5 of the top Seattle attractions for only $115 plus tax. Three attractions are set in stone and the other two are flexible, allowing your party to make plans that work best for you.

The three set options:

– Space Needle
– Argosy Harbor Cruise
– Seattle Aquarium

The two choice options:

– Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) OR Woodland Park Zoo
– Chihuly Gardens and Glass OR Pacific Science Center

You can see how much of a deal the pass is from the regular prices provided below:

Space Needle — $35.00
Argosy Harbor Cruise — $35.00
Seattle Aquarium —  $29.95
Museum of Pop Culture (MOPOP) — $26.00
Woodland Park Zoo —  $20.95
Chihuly Gardens and Glass — $24.00
Pacific Science Center — $21.95

If you don’t use the CityPASS you’d only be able to see about 4 attractions for a similar price. What’s more, many of the attractions are in a close vicinity allowing you see a lot in a short time.

Several locations sell the CityPASS, including each of the attractions that are a part of the pass. We bought ours at the Argosy River Cruise ticket booth on Pier 55 and because a river cruise had just departed we decided to start with the aquarium quite close by.

The Seattle Aquarium

Open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The aquarium offers fun for all ages from the moment you step past the ticket counter and are greeted with a massive floor-to-ceiling fish tank. Baby immediately got rattled and hid his face in his father’s arms, only agreeing to peek out once they’d retreated to a safe distance. Colorful underwater plants and coral sway in the underwater currents and all sizes and shapes of fish float by. Some are actually quite large and intimidating. Even as an adult I found it a little scary to go right up to the glass and peer into the mysterious underwater world.

Smaller hallways contain little aquariums showcasing, of course, a bunch of Nemo fish, as well as tons of other species of little fish.

Beyond the small fish which delighted Baby, we adults were quite enthralled by the assorted mammals and birds that the aquarium is also home to. Sea otters, river otters, and seals splashed and dove and rolled about, well, except for the two adorable otters that were curled up together hugging as they napped in the sun.

In another section, we were able to see birds called Puffins hopping around on land then diving into a tank and swimming unbelievably fast, darting from side to side looking for food. They looked like mini penguins and we could have gone on watching them for much longer.

A cool jellyfish exhibit complete with pulsing lights that changed colors allows you to stand underneath the glass and watch as close as your heart desires as these eerie creatures pulsate by, lit up in reds, blues, greens and purples.

An octopus exhibit was disturbingly creepy and enthralled adults and children alike. Many of us stood fascinated for much longer than we planned simply unable to look away. The creepy nature of this ocean creature and it’s slow oozing movements and eyes that appear to look right at you make it virtually impossible not to stand for long minutes mesmerized into staring back.

Argosy Cruises Harbor Tour

Departure times vary based on day and season.

The cruises depart from a pier right by the Seattle Aquarium so we did this on the same day. Once the tour operator collected our CityPASS tickets we went straight to the back of the boat looking for a place to sit outside as the weather was gorgeous. The boat didn’t have many seats outside on the main deck, only about eight. There were more up on the top deck but we had a stroller which wasn’t allowed up there. We settled into a sunny nook and parked Baby who immediately fell asleep, his father curling up beside him and doing the same (#parentlife). The rest of us stood nearby at the railing taking in the incredible views of the Seattle skyline and basking in the spring sunshine. There is a bar on board and after a little while, we helped ourselves to a few beers and then continued to watch the scenery.

The guide chattered on entertaining us with fun facts about Seattle’s history and pointed out interesting sights along the tour. It really was quite informative at the time, though I must admit to forgetting most of it by the time I left Seattle later that week. Still, it was a beautiful cruise and there’s really nothing better than being out on the water on a glorious 80-degree day.

Space Needle

Open 365 days a year with times varying by season.

The Space Needle is right by the Chihuly Gardens and the two make for a good day’s fun. The visitors center down below is jammed with every possible souvenir known to man and offers plenty to browse for everyone in your party.

We were hot, tired, and hungry so beelined for the desk to turn in our CityPASS tickets and go on up. The Space Needle has a restaurant on-site and we were told that there were no available reservations in the dining room. We asked about any other places to get food and were told there was no food on top in the lookout area. This isn’t true! But we didn’t know it at the time and almost turned away to go get lunch first before ascending the tower. We were already there however and gamely decided we could all wait an hour to eat so we’d go on up.

I was worried about the elevator and the height of the tower. I don’t think I’m afraid of heights but sometimes they get to me and with the elevator having a glass front which meant we’d be able to see the ascent I was nervous. It turns out I had nothing to fear. The elevator rises at a gentle pace and the views are absolutely stunning! Even Baby was fine, looking out at the city below in wonder, snug in his father’s arms.

The elevator doors opened and we took a few steps out right in front of a café! Turns out the girl down below had no idea what she was talking about. (Ugh, teenagers!) There is indeed a café at the top of the Space Needle (hallelujah!), although it is practically impossible to find information about it online. Almost everything points to the Sky City Restaurant which is an expensive sit-down lunch or dinner option.

I don’t know why information about the café isn’t more readily available but I do know they serve beer, fries, garlic fries, and I believe hotdogs and sandwiches. They also have lighter options including yogurt and water. I’ll admit to not paying attention due to starvation! I immediately got a large beer and an order of garlic fries as our entire party descended into the café happily. The views could wait!

There are numerous small high-top tables and we crowded around one and chowed down. The views are incredible from every angle and it was great to quench our hunger and thirst and take in the scenery. After eating we walked to the outside deck and snapped photos and walked around the entire circle, checking out the views from every angle.

I couldn’t get over the size of Mt. Rainier. It seemed to just hang suspended in the sky, a backdrop to the entire city. Photos didn’t even begin to do it justice though we tried our best.

Chihuly Garden and Glass

Seasonal hours based on time of year.

I sometimes love traveling with others because it often opens my eyes to things I normally wouldn’t experience. I wasn’t too interested in visiting “some garden” and would have preferred poking around the science center but Faye mentioned immediately that she wanted to go to the gardens so off we went.

I’m so glad she did! This attraction is absolutely breathtaking. I can’t wait for my next visit to Seattle to go back and stay longer.

A review on TripAdvisor says, “Thought we were killing an hour but it was the highlight of our day. No photographs could do it justice … ”

That’s exactly why you’ve got to check it out in person! I too thought of it as just killing time but was enthralled from the very first exhibit. Even though pictures can’t do it justice, I tried.

Dale Chihuly, an incredible artist, has his work on display in over 200 museums around the world. (Unfamiliar with him previously, I ran into one of his designs a month later at the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha.) Here at the Chihuly Garden and Glass which opened in 2012, his creations are divided into three sections: the Interior Exhibits, the Glasshouse, and the Garden. While it’s difficult to pick a favorite I do have to say that the massive 100-foot-long sculpture suspended across the ceiling in the Glasshouse was almost incomprehensibly stunning.

Views through the roof capture the Space Needle in the background and I took more pictures than I could ever possibly know what to do with.

If I lived here I would come often just to sit in the presence of such awe-inspiring beauty. If you go please make sure to block off more time than just the hour you might think you’ll need. It’s such a beautiful peaceful environment as patrons wander around in an almost holy reverence whispering and pointing to each other, and of course, snapping tons of photos.

Note: We had a toddler in tow and he remained strapped in the stroller. Even he remained quiet and awestruck throughout. If you’ve got small kids of walking age, this may not be the attraction for them unless they’ll hold your hand and behave throughout. Understandably the exhibit attendants are watching over these glass art pieces very carefully.

Museum of Pop Culture (MOPOP)

Seasonal hours based on time of year.

I’m not a big museum-goer. I try and I try again but I’m just not good at it. MOPOP was interesting however because it’s so different from the normal stodgy image I get in my head when I think of museums. Exhibits are dedicated to so many things that you’ve actually seen or heard about or experienced.

It’s near the Space Needle and Chihuly Gardens so even though we had less than an hour and a half before it closed, we decided to squeeze it in. Upon entering we were told that since it was so close to closing we could get a sticker to come back the next day without paying admission again so that was awesome!

We immediately lost the boys in our party to a video game exhibit Indie Game Revolution and instead wandered off to check out Guitar Gallery: The Quest for Volume. Here you can see famous guitars throughout the ages and learn about the musicians who played them like Kurt Cobain, Eddie Van Halen, Jimi Hendrix, and more.

Once the boys joined us we continued on to Wild Blue Angel: Hendrix Abroad, 1966-1970, Can’t Look Away: The Lure of Horror film, and Infinite Worlds of Science Fiction. Many of these exhibits have since moved on but you can check out current exhibits at MOPOP here. We realized that we were having quite a good time and planned to return again the following day to see more.

At the time the museum featured 11 exhibits with a 12th, Scared to Death: The Thrill of Horror Film, opening soon. In addition to the regular exhibits, the museum also hosts special events like a costume launch party for the opening of the Scared to Death exhibit. This event included a Q&A with filmmaker and guest curator Roxanne Benjamin and prizes for the best costumes. They also host movie nights as a part of their Campout Cinema series and tons of other events.

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The links for CityPASS in this post are affiliate links and I do receive a small amount of compensation if you choose to purchase through the links provided. I used CityPASS on my first trip to Seattle before becoming an affiliate and like everything on this blog, I only endorse things I actually use and love. Your support is greatly appreciated!

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