its been a long time since I went up the Smith Tower. Many people prefer the view at Columbia Center on 4th and Seneca for $5. Its only open weekdays but a spectacular view of water and area.
I've been up the Space Needle & Smith Tower, but never up the Columbia Center.
The Space Needle is taller (?) & sits in a large city park, so you have a 360 degree unobstructed views of Elliott Bay, Alki (West Seattle), downtown, Lake Union & Queen Anne. Last time I was there they had interactive info kiosks which give you an idea of what you're looking at - geographically & historically.
Smith Tower sits in the eastern end of downtown & offers views of the stadiums, International District & the east end of Elliott Bay. I believe it was the tallest building West of the Mississippi River when it was built. I once attended a wedding in the Chinese room on the observation level. There is a cool private apartment in the very top of the building. It's been written about in the New York Times, but isn't open to the public. I have to close my eyes on the elevator ride as the glass windows allow you to see the floors go by. Gives me vertigo.
They are just completely different. Why Smith Tower is cool is because it's an historic building. There are manned-guilded elevators that you take up to the Chinese Room and the Observation deck. It was the tallest building west of the Rockies in its day. But it's not all that tall.
Space Needle has the most amazing views and is a fun place to go if the weather is clear.
I haven't been up Columbia Center but I know it's another good suggestion.
I'm quite familiar with all three, and the Smith Tower is my choice. The reason is that the Space Needle is such an emblem of Seattle, but when you're in it you can't see it, if you get my meaning. In the Smith Tower, while you're certainly not as high up, you have a great view of the Space Needle centered in the middle of the Second Avenue "canyon" - it's a great endpoint on the vista.
Another great thing about the Smith Tower is that, unlike the Columbia Center, you can actually go outside and walk around the entire perimeter of the building on a (fenced) balcony. Looking down, believe me, if feels plenty high up.
The Smith Tower is also closer to the stadiums and the "working" waterfront - ferries, ships being loaded/unloaded in the port, things like that. I find that more interesting than the Space Needle, which of course is quite some distance from those things.
The manned elevators and the history of the Chinese Room are big bonuses IMO.
I tell visitors who want to visit the Space Needle that the best deal is to buy lunch. It's a minimum $25 food and bev charge, but they waive the admission/elevator charge, so it nets out to a $6+ lunch, which is a good deal.
To me, the combination of the Smith Tower, Kerry Park - http://gardyloo.us/KerryHD0110.jpg - and West Seattle - http://gardyloo.us/20091226_19a.JPG - give the best set of views of Seattle, two of them free.
(FYI the Columbia Center is the tallest black building in the second photo above, the Smith Tower at the extreme right edge, almost off the picture.)Edited: 17 June 2012, 16:48
I am visiting Seattle now and did go to the top of the Needle. In answer to your question, skip both and visit Kerry Park - wow, what a view, and free! We went after dinner when the city was all lighted up. Lots of people appreciating the view and taking pictures. Added bonus is that you get to see the Queen Anne neighborhood.
Do you belong to any social (golf or otherwise) clubs at home? If so, check to see if you have reciprocity with the Columbia Tower Club (owned by Club Corp) which occupies the top 2 floors of the Columbia Center. Then you can enjoy the views for free and the amenities such as a pretty terrific happy hour (first glass of wine $1). Make sure to check out the top floor women's restroom (even if you are a man...it happens more than you'd think).
-:- Message from TripAdvisor staff -:-
This topic has been closed to new posts due to inactivity. We hope you'll join the conversation by posting to an open topic or starting a new one.
To review the TripAdvisor Forums Posting Guidelines, please follow this link: http://www.tripadvisor.com/pages/forums_posting_guidelines.html
We remove posts that do not follow our posting guidelines, and we reserve the right to remove any post for any reason.