Space Needle, Seattle
Certainly, it is an office building and therefore isn't really anything you would want to put onto a "Things to Do" list, but if you happen to be in the area of the Seattle Center (the facility that houses the Space Needle and several museums), it might be worth wandering across the street to the Bill and Melinda Gates Building.
Around the perimeter of the building there is a low wall, and on top of this wall there are a number of verses designed to inspire social consciousness. The west wall has a large video screen on which a continuous loop of an observer visiting what appears to be an African village. The drinking fountain near the bus stops on the west side of the building empties the water onto the ground, which then goes into a nearby planter. The design of the drinking fountain reminds me of a number of watering troughs that I have seen in Africa.
Seattle has a program where those who own property near bus shelters are allowed to decorate them with certain artwork. The bus stop on the western edge of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation building has a straight and to the point message: "All Lives Have Equal Value".
So, there isn't too much here for the tourist (at least not yet - the visitor's center will open in 2012), but if you are in the area you might as well see what is here. At the very least the poetry and quotes on the top of the wall around the building may be interesting for you.
This new operations center for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was opened in June of 2011 so the landscaping hasn't had much of a chance to fill in yet, nor vandals had much of a chance to damage things.
How to Get Here: I suggest taking the bus, as parking and traffic in the area is obnoxious. There are a large number of bus routes that go past the building, including fairly frequent trolley bus routes 1 and 2. MANY bus routes serve the Seattle Center, and from there it is just a matter of going to the east side of the Seattle Center and getting across the street.
While the Space Needle is by far the most famous feature of Seattle, and the Experience Music Project is an increasing attraction, most tourists don't seem that interested in simply exploring the Seattle Center (the complex where the Space Needle is located) and seeing what is interesting and eccentric in the immediate area around the Space Needle.
There are a number of things here, including tourist attractions of various types, but here I will concentrate on the bizarre art scattered around the Seattle Center.
To the immediate northwest of the Space Needle itself is a fountain that sits in an ampitheatre-like bowl. This fountain seems to be quite popular with a number of children in the summer, who come here to cool off on hot days.
North of this much larger fountain you will find a much smaller fountain that is called "Fountain of Seseragi" and is a simple series of steps with water flowing over them into a common basin.
Near the southern end of the Seattle Center complex, you will find a huge series of pipes welded together to form a huge tangled structure, and painted bright red. Note the size of this thing compared to the people on the far right side of the photo!
Other sculptures near the entrance to the Seattle Center include "Moon Gates" and a series of sharp angular dark metal sculptures.
If you explore the Seattle Center a bit you will find a few other odd works of art scattered around the grounds, so dont' think the only thing here is the Space Needle!
Besides the space needle, there are many other things to do while at the Seattle Center. There is a pavillion that houses restaurants on the main floor with shops up above. The children's museum is located down below and is pretty interesting. Other activities are the science center, with 2 IMAX theatres, and a few halls that show ballet and opera. It's a good place to kill most of a day especially with kids.
It’s not really “Off The Beaten Path” but this was the only way I could add more pictures. The Seattle Center is located at the north of town, less than 2 minutes from the center of downtown. There you will find the Space Needle, the Experience Music Project [aka EMP], a great skate park [as in skate boarding], Fun Forest Amusement Park [a traveling carnival type setup, except is it there all the time. Games, rides, etc.], The Monorail to downtown, A ton of different Theatre’s and much more. This is another place where you can really waste a whole day just walking around and sight seeing. It is worth spending at least 3 hours in, especially of you are going to hit EMP. Plan on spending more time then.
Another thing to do around the Space needle is locate the fountain that randomly is going on and off. It is pretty fun for the kids to go down and get wet, on a warm day at least.