Friday, October 03, 2014

The View from Above: The Sky View Observatory in the Columbia Tower

The natural beauty of the Puget Sound and the surrounding mountains is undeniable. It's part of what makes Seattle, Seattle and there are some things that just never get old, like seeing Mt. Rainier in the morning light. We are also a hilly city, which means that there are many vantage points where you can see the city and the surrounding landscape. Kerry Park (below) is home to one of the most iconic images of Seattle, as one example.




More recently, man made vantage points have given a new look at the region. The most well known is, obviously, the Space Needle and the views from there are, indeed, spectacular. However, there are other options like the Smith Tower and, in particular, the newly remodeled Sky View Observatory in the Columbia Center to consider.




This observation deck provides the highest public observation deck on the west coast (and west of the Mississippi) and the new enhancements make it a much more tourist friendly visit than before. It now offers a full 360 degree view around Seattle and there is more information for people who want to know what they are seeing. The down side is that prices went up: Regular tickets are now $12.50 a person ($9 for students, military, and seniors).









Not feeling like spending the money, but you are in the area anyways? The Columbia Tower also has what is known as "skybucks": A Starbucks located on the skylobby level of the building (floor 40). The view is not the same, but it is the cheapest way to enjoy a view from above inside of the downtown core of buildings.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

My Shortest Commercial Flight Ever: LKE - KEH on Kenmore Air

What if I told you that I could fly on a commercial route for less than the price of  cab? As it turns out, such a route does exist and it is a surprising amount of fun thanks to being operated by Seattle's seaplane airline, Kenmore Air.

The route itself is a little known leg in the Kenmore Air route map. It is a nine mile, as the plane flies, jump from Lake Union in Seattle to Kenmore Air's main base in Kenmore. It is the shortest commercial flight I have ever been on or may ever be on. 


The price if you were to take a traditional cab*? About $70, plus tip.

The price to fly? $40, total. 

The flights themselves are short, lasting about 15 minutes in each direction. You do get a little more time in the air and see more if you book the scenic tour for $100 a person, but a round trip from Lake Union to Kenmore can be a cheaper and just as interesting alternative (All of the photos in this post were taken from the flight I was on). 






Booking this little round trip does, however, require a little work. It is not a "normal" route that pops up on the website, but it can be booked online via their booking system. The link to connect directly to the booking system is here. The ticket and route is legit, as my photos here prove. 




One work of caution is that while you can do a tight turn around like we did where you depart, arrive, and immediately turn around to fly back, there is a risk that your flight will be delayed going up. That almost happened to us, so it is probably advisable to to leave time in between the flights. It depends on how much you want to live on the edge. If you do leave time, you have the option of walking over to the 192 Brewing Company Tap room for a beer or two. There is not a lot to do in Kenmore, so don't plan an entire day there!





 If you are snapping pictures like mad, the left side flying up and the right side flying down will probably give you your best shots, including something like this perfect shot of the Space Needle. The final approach is usually from the north, so the plans come in and bank left, given a view of he city. Enjoy!



*Even a flat rate taxi is $31 for the trip. Uber estimates that it would be between $23-31 for a one way trip, but you could make it less using their first ride up to $30 free deal.



Wednesday, September 24, 2014

200,000 Pageviews!



We hit 200,000 page views! Thanks for reading!



Sunday, September 14, 2014

SkyCity at the The Space Needle

For first time visitors, a trip to Seattle is rarely complete without visiting the iconic Space Needle. Built as the signature piece of the 1962 World's Fair in Seattle, the Space Needle is one of the symbols of the city, along with the Pike Place Market sign and Mt. Rainier. The futuristic architecture and stunning views help cement that position as being a common experience for millions of visitors to Seattle (2.3 million visited during the fair alone). 



In addition to the observation deck, the Space Needle also has a revolving restaurant known as "SkyCity". Just for fun (and to satisfy my skybar aficionado streak), I took a group of friends up to take a look. Much to my surprise, I can honestly say that SkyCity is the best revolving restaurant I've been to and, if done right, a reasonably priced excellent addition to the Space Needle experience. 


Rotating restaurants can be miserable experiences. The rotation can be too fast. The view of the inner wall and the exterior can cause motion sickness. The food and drinks can be outrageously priced and mediocre. When they are bad, they are really bad, but the Space Needle is not one of these. The rotation is a perfect speed and the view is stunning (even better than the observation deck), but the real key is that a trip to the restaurant can actually be a good deal.






The trick is this: If you going up the Space Needle, a basic ticket is $19 online or $21 if you buy it there. This gets you up to the observation deck through the main line with a timed slot (book early for your time or be prepared to wait in line). You can save by buying admission in a package, but I'll use this as a comparison. In contrast, with a reservation for SkyCity, you proceed directly to the front of the time, you can visit the observation deck after you dine, and the only requirement is that you spend at least $35 on average per person. 

Depending on how you look at it, you are either going up the Space Needle for free or getting drinks/snacks for an extra $15. The entrees for dinner and lunch are expensive, but there is nothing that says you have to buy them. Alcoholic drinks, appetizers, and dessert all count towards the average and since it is average, it is perfectly fine if one person in your party orders a soda or even just water. If you want to drive the price down even more, Costco in Seattle often offers gift cards marked down 20% ($80 for $100 in value... although this is mainly for the locals since going to Costco on vacation is not a great use of time).





My recommendation? Schedule your reservation about 45-60 minutes before sunset. This will give you a view of the city both day and night, plus during the golden hour of sunset. Focus on appetizers and desserts and then drinks and enjoy the view!








I'm back!

I am back after a month hiatus. I have been settling in to a new city and as a result, I haven't been posting much, but now I am back, so keep an eye out for new posts!