Seattle Center is an arts, recreational, and civic center at the core of the city. Its roots reach back more than 100 years, as a site of Native American celebrations. Today, it is one of the nation’s best gathering places.
A wide variety of events and activities are hosted throughout the year, including art & culture festivals, music & dance performances, film festivals, stage plays, art exhibits, outdoor movies, and much more. Seattle Center is anchored by the iconic Space Needle, built for the 1962 World’s Fair.
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1962 Seattle World’s Fair
The Century 21 Exposition, also known as the Seattle World’s Fair. President John Kennedy open the Century 21 World’s Fair on April 21. The fair closed on October 21, 1962. The fair’s exhibits focused on modern science, space exploration, and the progressive future.
The Seattle World’s Fair attracted nearly 10 million visitors. Some of the more storied visitors included the ‘King of Rock and Roll,’ Elvis Presley for filming of the movie “It Happened at the World’s Fair”, Vice-President Lyndon Johnson, Walt Disney, and Prince Phillip of Great Britain.
The Fair also left the city with a legacy–the Seattle Center. Years of planning went into the effort to build facilities for the 1962 Fair. The idea was first proposed in 1954 by City Councilman Al Rochester.
Many of the concepts and icons of Century 21 are now ingrained in Seattle’s culture more than half a century later: the elevated Monorail train, the International Fountain, the NASA-themed United States Science Exhibit (now the Pacific Science Center), and the 605-foot tall Space Needle–once considered a risky investment because of its grandiose dimensions and spectacular design.
Seattle Center attractions
Today, Seattle Center is home to theaters, arenas, museums, and many art and culture organizations. Tourists and locals alike visit the grounds each year–over 12 million people annually.
The sprawling, park-like Seattle Center campus is open daily. The Armory is open every day, except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Hours vary for different attractions and organizations.
Seattle Center is home to many iconic attractions and venues:
- Space Needle
- International Fountain
- Exhibition Hall
- Memorial Stadium
- Skate park
- Monorail (travels between Seattle Center and Westlake Center in Seattle’s shopping district)
- Chihuly Garden and Glass
- Marion Oliver McCaw Hall
- Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP)
- Pacific Science Center
- Gates Foundation Discovery Center
More info: Seattle Center
Seattle Center organizations
Organizations that call Seattle Center home include:
- Seattle Opera
- Pacific Northwest Ballet
- Theatre Puget Sound
- Seattle Repertory Theater (aka The Rep)
- SIFF film organization
- KCTS 9 public broadcasting station
- KEXP 90.3 FM public radio station
- Northwest Folklife
- Seattle Shakespeare Company
More info: Seattle Center
Featured free Seattle Center events
Listed below we describe some of the featured free events at Seattle Center.
Seattle Center Festál is a series of free ethnic festivals held throughout the year. Each festival includes music, dance, art, crafts, history, and food from cultures around the world. Festal celebrates the fact that we are a nation of immigrant, indigenous, and ethnic cultures living together in the Pacific Northwest. This illuminating series seeks to connect people, build understanding, and dispel stereotypes through shared experience.
Free Fitness Classes at Seattle Center are held indoors in the Armory Loft and taught by certified instructors.
Northwest Folklife Memorial Day weekend festival is one of the largest free festivals in the country. The weekend cultural and music festival features artists from around the Pacific Northwest. Folklife Festival offers thousands of performers on 20+ stages.
Winterfest at Seattle Center from Thanksgiving until New Year’s is five weeks of free and affordable indoor and outdoor activities, including the popular winter train & village, ice sculpting, live music & dance performances, and a New Year’s Eve party.
For events anytime, check the Seattle Center Event Calendar (seattlecenter.com) or scroll down to our calendar below for a curated list of affordable events happening at Seattle Center.
Upcoming Seattle Center events
The following list of Seattle Center events includes free, cheap, and discounted events. It is updated throughout the year.
Wednesday, March 29, 2023
Saturday, April 29, 2023
Saturday, May 20, 2023