Tuesday 12 February 2013

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New Year's Eve at the Space Needle - What You Need to Know

When we decided to spend New Years Eve at the Space Needle in Seattle, we had some questions that needed to be answered. How big would the crowds be? Where was the best place to watch the fireworks from? How much second hand marijuana smoke would we be exposing our kids to considering its newly legal status in Washington State? Most importantly though, what time did we need to get there?

Seattle Center New Years Eve

The answers to the first three questions are simple. Very big...almost anywhere...and surprisingly, virtually none. The last question however was our biggest point of concern. Sure we could have gotten there six hours before midnight and camped out in a prime spot, but we're kind of wimps when it comes to the outdoors. Cutting it as close as possible without getting turned away was our goal, and since we were staying at the Hyatt Place only a couple of blocks away, it was decided that I would be in charge of reconnaissance, probably because I love to pretend that I'm a secret agent. The plan was for me to take a walk up to Seattle Center every hour until we decided that it was getting too crowded, and then we would all go join the party. In true secret agent fashion I took both notes and photographs which I now present to you to help you make plans for any future New Years Eves that you might decide to spend in Seattle. Or for your consideration should you find yourself in the need of a secret agent. Either way.

Space Needle New Years Eve
Mural Amphitheater - 7:30 pm

7:30 pm - I decided that the Mural Amphitheater at the base of the Space Needle would be the ideal place to watch the fireworks from, so that's where I monitored the crowd. There was no congestion on the sidewalks either coming to the Seattle Center or on the grounds themselves. Parking was readily available at a cost of $5-$20 depending on the level of security you require, but all street parking in the immediate area seems to be gone. Nobody at all in the Amphitheater, and only one drunk guy walking around yelling "Are you talking to me?" although he lacked both the coolness and clarity of speech that Robert DeNiro would have brought to the line. There are a few early birds arriving in formal dress for the party in the Space Needle itself, but other than that it could be any other night of the year. Definitely too early to arrive.

Space Needle New Years Eve
Mural Amphitheater - 8:30 pm

8:30 pm - Walkways in and around Seattle Center starting to get a little more crowded, but there's still nobody set up in the Amphitheater for the night. The cheaper parking is beginning to disappear, and traffic is getting very congested at the front entrance while people get dropped off for their parties. Most of the people being dropped off seem to have had too much to drink already, yet they're heading in to the party at the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum. This can't end well.

Space Needle NYE
Mural Amphitheater - 9:30 pm

9:30 pm - The sidewalks are now getting quite busy, but most of the crowd still seems to be people attending parties at the various venues around Seattle Center. We do however, have our first couple of people set up on the Amphitheater lawn. All surface lots in the area are full now, and traffic has slowed to an absolute crawl. I'm also starting to wonder about the sobriety of some of these drivers as there's a lot of illegal u-turns and sharp braking taking place, along with countless "Happy New Year" screams that seem to indicate a general unawareness of the actual time.

Space Needle NYE fireworks
Mural Amphitheater - 10:30 pm

10:30 pm - Somewhere in the last hour the police and security forces have come out in numbers sending the drunks back indoors to their parties. It's getting pretty crowded, but you can still walk to wherever it is you're trying to get without too much difficulty. People are starting to set up on the lawn, and there's about 50 people in the Amphitheater now. Pretty much all the parking lots are full, and the police are starting to cordon off the streets immediately surrounding the Space Needle. Surprisingly, there's still people circling the block in their cars. Really? You're trying to find a free street parking space now? Good luck with that. 
We've decided that now is the time for us to head to the Amphitheater, so I head back to the hotel to gather the rest of the family.

Seattle New Years Eve

11:15 pm - Whoops! Somewhere in the last half hour things got out of hand. We got back to the Seattle Center just after 11 pm, but the closest we could get to actually getting onto the grounds was the sidewalk right in front of the Pacific Science Center. The walkway into the area was filled with people coming out, suggesting that there was nowhere to go once you started up that path. The sidewalks were at a complete standstill as people tried to change directions and find a way into the area, but there didn't seem to be anywhere to go. After a few minutes of attempting to make any kind of progress, we gave up and retreated to a street corner a couple of blocks away. It wasn't quite the way we'd planned it, but we still had a pretty good view of the fireworks from there and we had no crowds to deal with at all.

Seattle New Years Eve

Space Needle NYE

New Years Eve Seattle

So, the answer to the question "What time should I get to the Space Needle to get a spot on New Years Eve?" is 10:30 pm. Any later than that and you run the risk of ending up on a street corner for the fireworks, although in my experience that was just as good an option. Of course if you're going to watch from a street corner, you probably don't need a secret agent to do reconnaissance work for you. Got any top secret documents you need transporting? 

 This post is a part of Travel Tips Tuesday at Suitcases and Sippy Cups and Walkingon Travels. If you didn't get here from there, you should go check it out. There's people there who definitely seem to be following me. My wife thinks it's harmless, but I suspect that she's in on the plot to assassinate me. I should never have signed that life insurance.

Written by Steve Pratt