After two-and-a-half years of construction, Jeff Bezos dedicated The Spheres at Amazon’s downtown Seattle campus in late January. And Seattleites were excited with the news that they would finally be able to tour the uber-cool glass domes and virtual rain forest. However, due to some miscommunication and information about The Understory, a free exhibit that is housed underneath the giant terrarium, many anxious visitors have come only to be disappointed. But don’t fret, Seattle parents. We recently visited The Spheres and have the inside scoop on how you and your family can get inside. Read on!
Two Ways to Get Inside
In order to visit The Spheres, it will take some planning and patience and one of two options. The first option is to sign up for a 90-minute guided tour of Amazon’s Seattle headquarters. Tours take place on most Wednesdays from 10 a.m.–2 p.m. and include a visit to a few buildings such as the Doppler and Day 1 (two of the main Amazon office buildings), a trip through Amazon Go (a new partially automated grocery store that allows customers to make purchases without the need of a cashier) and some time in The Spheres. Tours are available for anyone ages six and older, however you must register online ahead of time. Psst…at the time of this writing, tours are filled up for the next month. Note: Amazon does offer a variation of its headquarters tour, one that is self-guided and can be done any time, but it does not offer access to the inside of The Spheres.
The second option is to visit during the special Open House days. Two Saturdays per month, Amazon arranges unguided visits to The Spheres between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Again, you’ll have to register in advance and reservations open 30 days in advance of each date. There are no age restrictions for the Open House events, but all minors (ages 18 and under) must be accompanied by an adult at all times, and anyone age 18 and older must present a valid government issued identification card to the reception desk in order to enter.
First Things First
While not the star of the event, The Understory does serve well as fairly decent pre-show. The 360-degree exhibit features some interactive displays, including a super-cool miniature model of the building, a sample of the “living walls” made from a variety of plants and a grouping of floor-to-ceiling video monitors showing incredible footage of the things you’ll see up above. The Understory is open Mon.-Sat. from 10 a.m.–8 p.m. and Sun. from 11 a.m.–7 p.m.
What You’ll Find Inside The Spheres
The 90-foot-tall biosphere, which looks like three large soap bubbles, contains 2,643 rounded glass panels and is home to over 40,000 plants from over 30 countries. Here, you’ll find grouping of tables and chairs in various nooks and out in the open. Psst…it’s estimated that the complex can seat 800 people at one time!
There are wonderful sights around every corner inside the four-level building. As you walk around, you’ll find cascading waterfalls, a fernery and short pathways through the foliage. The lower level contains an Old World Garden with plants from Africa and Asia and a New World Garden that features plants from the Americas including the crown jewel, Rubi, a 36,000-pound fichus tree. The 49-year old tree was transplanted from California where it had lived since 1969. Above that, you’ll find the “birdcage,” a seating area that sits alongside a wraparound wooden walkway and gives the sensation that you are walking on a rope bridge.
On the 6th Ave. side of The Spheres is where you’ll find the Living Wall. The 60-foot wall contains 200 plant species and can be seen on all four levels. The wall also includes a ventilation system and several misters that spray the plants every so often.
Where to Nosh
For those needing a snack, doughnuts and coffee can be found on Open House days on the second level at The Spheres’ resident cafe, General Porpoise. The doughnut shop, created by James Beard award-winning chef Renee Erickson in 2016, serves delish doughnuts filled with seasonal jams, jellies, curds, custards and creams as well as top quality coffees from multiple roasters and house-made gelato.
Before You Go
As to be expected, Amazon has a few rules when visiting The Spheres. You’ll be asked to remain on the walkways at all times and not touch the plant life. No outside food or drink, strollers or weapons of any kind are allowed inside The Spheres and all bags must not be larger than 12”x12”. Our best advice? Put your babe in his front pack carrier and leave your bulky diaper bag in the car. And don’t bundle up either. The inside temperature hovers right around 72 degrees, with 60 percent humidity.
2111 7th Ave.
Seattle, Wa 98121
Have you seen the inside of The Spheres? Planning to go soon? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.
—Jeffrey Totey (all photos courtesy of the writer)