The Space Needle’s New Vibe

Mostly improved, but missing one thing—the restaurant

The centerpiece of the 1962 World’s Fair, the futuristic Space Needle got a $100 million renovation—mostly for the better—using 176 tons of glass to achieve a lighter and brighter feel. Although, now something’s missing—actually, replaced.

This time around we opted to enjoy the Space Needle from on the ground. Oh, we could have paid $140 for all four of us to take the elevator up for the viewing experience. But really for me, the best part has been “upgraded.” I was hoping to take my teenage boys up to the restaurant with an ever-changing view like I did when I was young, but now a meal with a view is no longer an option for families.

The best part of the top had always been the rotating restaurant—not to mention an included trip up there.

The restaurant has now been replaced with the Loupe Lounge, a swanky revolving ultra-lounge with a 500-foot-high view straight down through the glass floor (disconcerting to acrophobes). Guests here must be 21+ years of age with packages starting at $89 per person for a 2-hour max. I’m sure it’s a super cool place to watch the sunset with a cocktail and some hors-d’œurves, but we obviously couldn’t go up for lunch with the boys.

Growing up, I always looked forward to dining with my family at the restaurant atop the Space Needle as the floor slowly rotated around. The joy was in watching the view continuously change while we ate fresh seafood. Back then my sister and I were always welcome wherever our parents took us—which was just about everywhere. We grew up eating what our parents ate and knowing public etiquette.

When Aaron and I had our own children, we did the same with them. We didn’t have a separate “kids table” or provide separate “kids meals.” They learned to stay seated at the table, to order for themselves, to eat good food, and to have real conversations with all ages. It wasn’t always perfect, but we persevered to guide them in acceptable dining behavior. This doesn’t seem to be the norm in American culture. And many places understandably don’t want screaming kids running around preventing others’ enjoyment—I certainly don’t.

It feels unfortunate to me that American social norms are so different from our experiences in Europe. There, we appreciate that it’s very common for whole families to dine together—children sit a the table, everyone talks and eats together, undistracted by devices. People appear much more engaged and aware of their effect on others. They don’t have separate “child-friendly” menus of highly-processed mac-n-cheez, chicken nuggets, and tater tots. Kids eat real food.

I loved eating king crab and king salmon at the Space Needle’s old Sky City restaurant. I loved dining on good food with a good view. I’m sure there were challenges running a restaurant 500 feet in the air, and the floors certainly needed a facelift. The renovations do look amazing.

The rotating level of this iconic site, however, no longer has a family-friendly restaurant but rather an ultra-lounge with a glass floor that caters to adult couples or small groups. Conveniently, a spiral staircase now connects the rotating Loupe level to a much brighter observation deck above. Seemless full-height tilted glass panels replaced the old safety nets so that now visitors might feel like their floating as they sit on tilted glass benches called “Skyrisers” against glass in the open-air viewing area. A glass-enclosed espresso bar serves cupcakes and ice cream, or champagne at sunset. Sounds intriguing.

Kids can certainly enjoy many parts of the improved Space Needle. But I do miss my time as a child, watching what felt like the world turning around me in a relaxed setting with family, dining on crab cakes and lobster.

And really, the best views of Seattle actually include the Space Needle.


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