The Great Wheel is the giant ferris wheel that has sprung up, seemingly overnight, along the Seattle Waterfront. It’s owner, Hal Griffith, bills it as a way to keep foot traffic up along the waterfront during the upcoming Alaskan Way Viaduct construction project. Locals and tourists alike see it as a fun attraction along the central waterfront, and one I couldn’t wait to check out personally.
It has received LOTS of attention building up to its grand opening last Friday afternoon, June 29. Though I wanted to be one of the first riders, life got in the way, and I finally made it to the waterfront a week later. I was lucky enough to have my trip fall on a beautiful Seattle summer day. I joined the line that was, at that point, snaking around the Christopher Columbus statue, and starting to head north. In other words, nearly to Alaskan Way.
I had resigned myself to quite the wait, but was pleasantly surprised by the fast moving line, and 40 minutes later was ponying up my $13 (less for kids, seniors, military). A clue for those who think ahead, buy your Great Wheel tickets online, and you may get to skip the ticket line. More waiting, in the ubiquous maze popular with all ride lines and we were being ushered into gondola number nine of 42.
The ride lasts about 15 minutes, and is smooth as silk. On this calm, sunny day I really couldn’t feel the movement of the wheel, just witnessed it with my eyes as we gentled ascended 175 feet to the peak. The air conditioners within the units are not powerful, but adequate, as are the seats. There is very little rock in the gondolas, and the views! Oh my…the Great Wheel actually extends out over Elliott Bay by about 40 feet, and you look up and down the waterfront, to the city, and out across the water to the Olympics.
My only complaint was that with my party of two, we had to share our gondola with another small party. It wasn’t so bad, really, and had a nice chat with some other locals downtown for the day, but it did block me from taking a picture looking out toward the water! That being said, I certainly understand the need to double small groups up when the line is as long as it was. On a beautiful sunset evening, I can actually see the Great Wheel being a popular proposal spot, if you can beg or bribe the operator into a seat in the sky for two.
A week after the grand opening, they were still doing some clean up at the Great Wheel site. However, on this jewel of a day, eyes were looking outward and upward.
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