The Smith Observatory Tower was at one time the 4th tallest building in the world. That was in the early 1900’s. Now it is dwarfed by the growing Seattle Skyline, but still provides beautiful views of Safeco Field, CenturyLink Stadium, and Mt. Rainier when it’s visible. It’s a white building that stands out in the brick neighborhood of Pioneer Square.
The main draw of this experience is the bar at the top of the tower. Before you get there though, they have you walk through a museum that details the Tower’s history. It must have been a big deal back in the day because they have a lot of old timey crap in there that they want you to see. If history/ the early 1900s interests you then this will be fun. For me though, I wasn’t impressed and wanted to get straight to the bar.
After two floors of museum, my visiting friends and I finally located the elevator up to the observatory deck/bar. The elevator ended up being an attraction itself. Until recently it was a hand crank elevator. Although that charm was removed, it was still the type of elevator that closed with the metal grate that leaves all the floors visible as you go up. Maybe it was the edibles, but this visual fascinated me. We weren’t going so fast so that each floor was a blur, allowing for the foyer of each floor to be taken in by the passenger, only to be wiped away by a dark horizontal bar that led to the beginning of the next. It was trippy and made me feel as if I was looking through a view master that was out of control Not sure if I would pay for just an elevator ride but its a visual that I would appreciate if used right in TV or film.
When we reached our floor the elevator door opened to reveal a beautiful bar with late day sunlight pouring in. The swanky feel immediately left me wishing I wore something slightly more elegant. It didn’t feel like an overalls kind of place.
My friends and I quickly scurried to seats with a view facing south. After we sat down, one of my friends asked “Hey YT, where’s Rainier supposed to be?” I’ve had 4 groups of people visit me before this group of friends came and Rainier had shown itself to none of them. Up until this moment. I scanned to my 2 o clock and said “Uhhhh I think there, before settling back on my 12 and there it was. A cloud had hidden the top but after a brief adjustment I saw it and quickly alerted my guests.
I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, Rainier does not get old. Our drinks arrived just as the grandeur of the mountain was making its impression on all of my friends. They were impressed and we enjoyed a quiet moment gazing at the mountain while enjoying some adult beverages.
The second downside of the observatory tower aside from the museum part, was that you’re not allowed to have your drinks outside. The Space Needle has a glass enclosure on its deck while the Smith Tower has good old iron bars with large spaces wide enough to fit an arm and a glass. I guess the rationale is that you could potentially throw a glass over the side and kill someone. This is a fair safety precaution, but honestly it took away from the experience.
All in all it was a great time with great friends, I just wish it was a tad cheaper.
Rating: Pretty Good
Would I Do it Again: Yes but not often