My wife and I recently celebrated our 1-year wedding anniversary. We enjoyed a fabulous dinner and then spent a few hours exploring the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit. Located in the Seattle Center, it’s an amazing place to explore the world of glass blowing. The exhibit spans 1.5 acres and includes an Exhibition Hall, Glasshouse, and Garden that allows visitors to wander at their own pace.
Seattle Chihuly Garden and Glass Exhibit – Exhibition Hall
The Exhibition Hall has eight galleries that provide a look into Chihuly’s works. The galleries are Glass Forest, Northwest Room, Sealife Room, Persian Ceiling, Mille Fiori, Ikebana and Float Boats, Chandeliers, Macchia Forest, and Drawing Walls.
Each of the galleries has its own look, style, and history. I won’t cover all of them though you can find the descriptions on the Exhibition website, I will tell you about our favorites. The first gallery, the Glass Forrest, presents elements that look very much like glass blobs, which it turns out they are. The glass is melted and dropped to the floor from high up on a stepladder. They’re allowed to cool and deflate, and the results are stunning. They’re illuminated by neon and argon lights to create an eerie display of light against a dark background. Do they resemble sperm? Well, yes.
We were in awe when we entered the Sealife Room. Here visitors are presented with stunning colors from the sea and glass blown representations of conch shells, urchins, starfish, manta rays, octopus, and more.
The next gallery that took our breath away with its stunning color was the Mille Fiori Gallery. It turns out “Mille Fiori” means “a thousand flowers” in Italian, and the installation is an ode to his mother’s gardening passion. The shapes give the piece an air of movement.
Seattle Chihuly Garden and Glass Exhibit – The Garden
The Garden is lined with plants, flowers, and trees all of which work to create an incredible natural backdrop to the works of art nestled among them. Here you’ll find the Citron Icicle Tower and Viola Crystal Tower. There is also a collection of Seal Pups and Neodymium Reeds among salvaged old growth Western Red Cedar, which was brought in from the Olympic Peninsula. The centerpiece is a planting of 4,500 black mondo grass plants with an explosion of oranges and yellows. For springtime visitors, you’ll have the added burst of color from 26,000 flower bulbs that were planted in 2013. Curious what else is growing in the garden? Download the map discover more about the plants and where they grow.
Seattle Chihuly Garden and Glass Exhibit – The Glasshouse
The Glasshouse is the centerpiece of the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit and deservedly so. Chihuly designed the Glasshouse with inspiration from the Crystal Palace in London and the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris – two of his favorite buildings. The main installment is a made of suspended sculptures in colors of orange, yellow, reds, and ambers. The complete piece is 100 feet long and is made up of 1,340 separate pieces all hung to look like one cohesive piece.
The Glasshouse frames the Seattle Space Needle brilliantly, and you’ll find photographers lined up here to take their shot. In fact, because photography is allowed at the exhibit, you’ll find yourself being blocked from entering many of the galleries while others take their photos. Bring along your camera, and your patience, and you’ll be rewarded with some amazing photographs.
Seattle Chihuly Garden and Glass Exhibit – Best Time to Go
The best time to visit the Seattle Chihuly Exhibit depends on your desires and camera ability. If you want to get stunning night shots of the lighted glass in the Garden and Glasshouse, visit 1-hour before dusk, so you have an opportunity to take a few during sunset. Then you’re ready for those stunning nighttime shots – in winter that can be 4 pm and in summer 9 pm. Check the local weather forecast for the sunset time. If you don’t have a camera capable of fabulous night shots, go at opening before the sun it too bright, or after 4 pm for the same reason.
Seattle Chihuly Garden and Glass Exhibit – Best Way to Get There
There is parking at the Seattle Center, including Valet Parking at the base of the Space Needle (rates are posted daily and fluctuate) as well as a self-park lot at 516 Harrison Street. Named the 5th Avenue Parking Garage, the lot has over one thousand spaces, is open 24 hours a day, includes 32 ADA spaces, and has rates that start at $5 for one hour. Events bump the prices up to as much as $20. The lot is conveniently located for the EMP, Memorial Stadium, the Armory, Seattle Center, and the Space Needle.
If you’d like to park downtown, park at Westlake Center and take the historic Seattle Monorail. The fare is $2.25 each way for adults for the 2 minute ride. Children ages 5-12 are $1 as are seniors 65+, active duty US military, and disabled persons with Medicare cards. Unfortunately they only accept CASH for monorail tickets, but an ATM machine is available inside the Westlake Center.
Parking at the Westlake Center is slightly cheaper than the Seattle Center, but significantly less expensive for events that increase the parking fee Seattle Center. Events usually include festivals, as well as Ballet and Symphony performances.