Seattle Center was first called the Century 21 Exposition; it was a large complex of buildings built by the city of Seattle for the 1962 World’s Fair. Today, these remain a center of community for the city, renamed the Seattle Center. The futuristic design of the original structures designed by World Trade Center architect, Minoru Yamasaki, remains intact in the majority of the campus. This includes the iconic Space Needle and the Monorail, connecting the Seattle Center with Westlake Center in Seattle's central business district. As the 50th anniversary of the Seattle Center approaches in 2012, many changes and improvements are on the horizon. However, the Seattle Center remains one of the most popular places in Seattle for both visitors and residents.
The Seattle Center is home to majority of the arts programs in Seattle. The Pacific Northwest Ballet is based out of Marion Oliver McCaw Hall. Nearby, the Seattle International Film Festival Cinema and the Seattle Repertory Theatre offers shows and films. The Seattle Center is also home to the Seattle Opera and the Seattle Shakespeare Company. If your passion is music, wander through the Experience Music Project, an eye-catching museum dedicated to the history and appreciation of music. If you’re looking for a good show, indulge your inner circus performer at Teatro ZinZanni, a five-course dinner accompanied by an enjoyable circus and cabaret performance. Nearby Key Arena is the premier entertainment venue in Seattle for large concerts, conventions, and sports games. Key Arena is also the home of the Seattle Storm woman's basketball team.
The Seattle Center is also the heartbeat of Seattle's many festivals. Possibly the most popular of all Seattle Center events is Bumbershoot, Seattle's Labor Day festival that has been celebrating music, film, comedy, spoken word, dance, theatre, performance, and visual arts since 1971. All throughout the year, Seattle Center events honor the different cultures of the world through the Festál Festivals. Commemorate the Japanese culture at the Cherry Blossom Festival, celebrate the French on Bastille Day, or dance to a mariachi band at Fiestas Patrias. Hungry Seattleites flock to the Seattle Center every July for The Bite of Seattle, highlighting the culinary expertise of local restaurants and eating establishments.
Seattle Center events celebrate the seasons, as well. During the summer, the grounds and fountains of the Seattle Center fill with locals and visitors enjoying the weather. Children play in the large International Fountain. Outdoor concerts and late night movies are offered at the Mural Amphitheatre. The Seattle Shakespeare Company performs Shakespeare in the Park. When the weather cools, the Seattle Center hosts Winterfest, a holiday celebration complete with ice-skating, fireside carol singing, a winter village and festive performances by music groups from local schools and universities.
The Seattle Center is a wonderful place for children. The Children's Museum, recommended for kids up to age 10, encourages children to discover and use their imaginations through their hands-on exhibits. Interactive programs include art projects and treasure hunts. The most popular exhibition for kids is the Pacific Science Center. Here, families can participate in interactive exhibits that teach about science and the world around us. They include Dinosaurs: a Journey through Time, a tropical butterfly house, an insect village, a saltwater tide pool, a planetarium, laser light shows in the Laser Dome, and two IMAX theatres. Visitors can also experience science by turning a two-ton granite ball with their bare hands or riding the High Rail Bicycle fifteen feet above ground. In addition to its permanent exhibitions, the Pacific Science Center also hosts science-themed featured exhibitions that rotate frequently.