It's a wheel that George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr. would be proud of. The Great Wheel is Seattle's newest cityscape icon (joining the 1960s-era Space Needle) and has quickly become a popular attraction for visitors and locals alike. It's a great way to see the moody vistas of this bustling Northwest waterfront city and its surrounding islands, the Puget Sound and distant, snow-capped peaks and mountain ranges.
Ferris, the originator of the eponymous attraction, built the first great wheel for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Ferris wheels are now the most common type of carnival ride at state fairs in the United States.
Since the original Ferris Wheel, there have been eight subsequent world's tallest-ever Ferris wheels. The current record holder is the 165-metre (541-foot) high Singapore Flyer, which opened to the public in March 2008.
Seattle businessman Hal Griffith had envisioned a Ferris wheel in the city for nearly 30 years and used his own pier as a location to make his dream become a reality. The Seattle Great Wheel was built in less than a year. The wheel was manufactured in various parts of Europe and the United States, assembled at the end of the pier, and extends nearly 40 feet beyond the end of the pier, over Elliott Bay. It weighs a whopping 280,300 pounds and 550 tons of concrete were poured to create the foundation for the wheel. It opened to the public on June 29, 2012 and became an instant symbol for the city's rapidly changing waterfront.
Amazing to look at (especially from up close) and fun to photograph from a variety of angles, the wheel is a pleasant and very scenic ride (as long as you aren't expecting any amusement park-type thrills.)
It's the largest observation wheel on the West coast, standing 175 feet tall and featuring 42 fully-enclosed gondolas, each seating up to eight people (meaning the wheel can hold over 300 passengers at any given time.)
The Seattle Great Wheel is open year-round. It has fully-enclosed gondolas and a covered waiting area (so you can ride rain or shine.) A VIP package is available ($115 for two) and includes front-of-line privileges, a private gondola with glass floor and better seats, an audio jack to plug in music, a tee shirt, a glass of champagne before or after the ride and a 6x8 photo for each passenger plus a digital copy.
The Great Wheel's hours of operation are Sunday though Thursday from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to midnight.