It’s hard to believe that one of Seattle’s most iconic attractions is also one of its youngest. Since it opened in June of 2012, thousands of Seattle families and tourists have flocked to the Seattle waterfront to ride the ginormous Ferris wheel perched high above Pier 57. But believe it or not, there are many families who have never taken a ride. The next time you’re looking for things to do in Seattle, head to The Seattle Great Wheel to get a bird’s-eye view of the city like no other. Scroll down to learn more.
It’s All About the Wheel
The 175-foot tall Seattle Great Wheel dwarfs your regular run-of-the-mill Ferris wheel by over 100 feet. Located at the end of Pier 57, the Seattle Great Wheel offers spectacular views of the Seattle Aquarium, Elliot Bay, Century Link Field, Mt. Rainer, T-Mobile Park, Space Needle and Pike Place Market. The Wheel features 42 fully enclosed gondolas, so the ride is perfect whatever the weather. (Note: if winds reach sustained speeds of 55 mph or higher or if there are lightning strikes within one mile, it will stop operating.) Other than that, you’re good to go!
What to Expect on the Ride
Each gondola holds up to eight adults which when you do the math, can hold over 300 riders at a time, so the line moves pretty quickly even on the busiest of days. Because ride times vary based on how large the crowd is at any given time of the day, you can expect your tour to last anywhere from 10-20 minutes in length, but that will include at least three full revolutions.
If you only have a few people in your party, it’s likely that you’ll have to share the space with another smaller party of riders. The gondolas are not huge inside–there is just enough room to sit and enjoy the ride. However, if you arrive early or visit on a day that isn’t very busy, they might be able to accommodate you with your own cabin.
photo: Charles K. via Yelp
At first, the ride is slow, as all 42 gondolas are loaded with new riders, giving you a chance to really take in the view. Once everyone is on board, you will go on three slow-ish rotations around the wheel depending on how long the boarding process takes. Although this doesn’t sound like long, we promise you that it’s the perfect length of time to be in a gondola with your children. Little ones will be pretty antsy by the end of those 20 minutes and you’ll be ready to bust free as well…no matter how amazing that view is.
Feeling nervous about being up so high? We won’t lie and tell you that it’s no big deal–at a whopping 175 feet tall (that’s over 17 stories!) your heart is likely to skip a beat or two on your first trip around. The littlest ones won’t even notice the height, but older children may get the heebie jeebies. Luckily, the ride is super smooth and you’ll easily be able to distract them with all of the cool sights.
Who Can Ride?
Just about anyone can experience the Seattle Great Wheel. It is wheelchair accessible (however the door width is 30”), the ride is slow and smooth making it appropriate for both pregnant women and babies and given that each gondola can hold up to 1300 pounds, nobody is too big to ride.
photo: Juan M. via Yelp
The Price of Tickets & Where to Get Them
The Seattle Great Wheel tickets are $14 for adults (age 12 & up); $12 for seniors (65+); $9 for kids (ages 3-9); and anyone age 2 or younger rides for free. While you can always wait in line to purchase your tickets, we recommend you buy them online. However, tickets for children 0-2 and seniors are only available at the ticket booth. There is no service fee to purchase tickets online, but be sure to print them out at home and have them in hand when you arrive. If you only have the confirmation code, you will still have to wait in the regular line to have the tickets printed, which will likely test your patience and your crew’s patience. Tickets are general admission and valid for any date or time that the wheel is open (excluding the by reservation only New Year’s Eve Midnight Ride) and do not expire until used.
photo: Angela N. via Yelp
What to Bring
The bad news? There isn’t a ton of room in the gondolas, so you’re going to want to pack light. The good news? You can bring a stroller and park it at the bottom of the stairs where you get on the wheel and leave some of your not-so-valuable items in there while you ride. Speaking of strollers, leave your SUV-sized double jogger at home and opt for a smaller umbrella stroller instead. It will be great for little ones who get antsy standing in line. Otherwise, bring clothes for the weather–you will be waiting in line outside in the Seattle elements sunglasses for the ride in the wheel to make sure you can see all the sights and, of course, your camera. Food and drinks are not allowed in the gondolas, so leave the snacks and juice boxes in your stroller.
photo: Kristina Moy
The Great Wheel VIP Experience
If you really want to splurge or plan a very special date night, go for the VIP Experience. The Great Wheel features one special luxury gondola with four leather bucket seats, a stereo system and a glass floor. VIP tickets are $50 each and includes a champagne toast at Fisherman’s Restaurant, a souvenir t-shirt, photo booth photos and priority boarding. Note: the VIP gondola is available on a first-come, first-served basis.
LED Light Shows
The Seattle Great Wheel is covered in over 500,000 LED lights and on weekends (Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays) you can watch the colorful light show displays. Mid week, the Wheel typically illuminates just the ring beam. Psst…keep an eye out on holidays and game days for special themed light shows—they are especially fun to watch! But guess what? You can also “order” your own custom light show. If you are getting married, having a special event or want to do a baby gender reveal, they can program an array of patterns, letters, colors and designs just for you. Email The Seattle Great Wheel at LightShow@pier57seattle.com for more information.
photo: Kristina Moy
What Else Can You Do at Pier 57?
You can actually plan to spend up to a few hours at Pier 57 (aka Miner’s Landing). In addition to the Great Wheel, the Pier is home to a lesser-known but just as iconic Wings Over Washington flying theater. Expect an experience similar to one you’d find at a Disney theme park. You can read all about the ride here. You’ll also find a historic indoor carousel, the Waterfront Arcade, a variety of places to eat and shops and oddities to check out.
Seattle Great Wheel
1301 Alaskan Way – Pier 57
Seattle, WA 98101
Sep.–June: Mon.-Thurs., 11 a.m.–10 p.m.; Fri. 11 a.m.–midnight; Sat., 10 a.m.–midnight; Sun., 10 a.m.–10 p.m.
June–Sep.: Sun.-Thurs., 10 a.m.–11 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 10 a.m.–midnight
Editor’s Note: Operating hours may change during special times of the year. Visit the website for current hours before you head out. Last ride loads 10 minutes before closing time.
—Jeffrey Totey & Katie Kavulla