The Gatlinburg Space Needle: 9 things you should know

The Space Needle in downtown Gatlinburg, Tenn., is an iconic landmark in the Great Smoky Mountains area (stock photo)

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There’s an Eiffel Tower replica in Vegas. 

A great pyramid sits on the shore of a mighty river in Memphis. The one in Tennessee, not Egypt.

There’s a Parthenon in Nashville.

And the London Bridge in Lake Havasu City in Arizona. 

So is it really all that strange that you can find a Space Needle in the city of Gatlinburg?

Standing at 407 feet tall, the Gatlinburg Space Needle pales in comparison to the 605-foot tall version in Seattle, but the Tennessee tower stands on its own.

While many visitors to the region are familiar with the Space Needle’s familiar silhouette along the Gatlinburg Skyline, not everyone knows the unique place the tower holds in Gatlinburg history. 

Here are several interesting facts and insider tips you probably never knew about this popular Gatlinburg attraction:

1. The Space Needle is more than just a view

The top of the observation tower, of course, offers unequaled panoramic views of the Great Smoky Mountains – including Mount LeConte – with free viewfinders.

But the observation deck offers more than just great views. It’s also something of a museum in the sky.

There are several information-packed, higher learning exhibits that enrich the viewing experience, offering facts and local history about Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains. 

It’s a great place to go for an educational experience.

Seattle Space Needle
The Seattle Space needle in Washington is the Gatlinburg Space Needle’s (literally) distant cousin (photo by CK Foto/shutterstock.com)

2. It has a cross-country cousin

The Space Needle in Gatlinburg opened just seven years after its cross-country cousin.

The Seattle Space Needle opened in 1962 as part of the World’s Fair exhibit.

The Gatlinburg Space Needle opened in 1969 and was, at the time, the second tallest tower in Tennessee.

It now ranks fifth. 

Ripley's Believe it or not used to be located at the base of the needle (vintage photo)
Ripley’s Believe It Or Not used to be located at the base of the tower until it was destroyed in a fire. The attraction has since been relocated just a couple of blocks away along the main Gatlinburg strip (archive photo shared with permission from OldGatlinburg.net)

3. It almost burned to the ground

While the Space Needle escaped the deadly 2016 wildfires that caused massive damage and death throughout Gatlinburg and the mountains, another fire nearly destroyed the landmark decades earlier.

In 1992, a fire destroyed the Ripley’s Gatlinburg museum which was, at the time, located at the base of the needle.

The needle suffered extensive damage and was closed for three years.

Now the Ripley’s attraction sits just down the road.

the arcade at the base of the Gatlinburg space needle
Arcadia, a 30,000 square foot arcade, is located directly below the Gatlinburg, Tennessee Space Needle (photo by Stephen B. Goodwin/shutterstock.com)

4. There’s an arcade and game center at the bottom

Arcadia sits at the bottom of the Space Needle in Gatlinburg.

This 30,000 square foot amusement center features arcade games, redemption games, a live escape experience and simulators.

It took me a minute but redemption games are the ones in which you can win a prize.

Arcadia’s escape game is called “The Captured”.

5. There’s also a mentalist at the base of the Space Needle

Arcadia also houses the Iris Theater, which is home to the mentalist and magician Erik Dobell whose show is “Mindblowing,” according to Penny from Hendersonville, Ky., who is quoted, no doubt accurately, on the Arcadia website.

Dobell has performed around the world in places from Las Vegas to South Korea. This show promises a night of “stunning magic, reality-shattering mind-reading and hilarious mayhem.”

You know, I’m really starting to think Penny undersold the show. Tickets for the show range from $14.95 to $29.95.

It appears hilarious mayhem does not come on the cheap.  

Read Also: Theater and dinner shows in Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg

the Gatlinburg space needle view from the strip
The Gatlinburg Space Needle is one of the few attractions in the Smokies that is open 365 days a year (photo by Dawid S Swierczek/shutterstock.com)

6. The Space Needle is open 365 days a year

Christmas? Yep.

Easter? Check. Chanukah, Lent, July 4th and Flag Day?

Yep. Yes. Of course and yes, sir.  

7. The Space Needle has two glass elevators

There is a fantastic opportunity to make Willy Wonka jokes here.

The observation deck is served by two glass elevators.

Entertain your fellow elevator riders with quotes from Wonka’s classic ending like “But this roof is made of glass! It’ll shatter into a thousand pieces! We’ll be cut to ribbons!”

Great fun for the entire family. 

Gatlinburg Space Needle
The Gatlinburg Space Needle costs about $16 per adult and $10 per child, which is very affordable when compared to the Seattle Space Needle (photo by Stephen B. Goodwin/shutterstock.com)

8. The Space Needle is comparatively affordable

Tickets to the Seattle Space Needle are $49 for adults and $35 for youths.

In Gatlinburg, you’ll pay $15.95 for adults, $9.95 for kids 4-11 and $12.95 for seniors 60 and over.

On a per-foot basis, I think that’s a significantly better deal. Family pass and VIP options are also available.

Check their listing on Groupon when booking tickets.

Read Also: 8 tips: How to do a Gatlinburg trip on a budget

Slice Pizzeria
Slice Pizza Bakery is located at the base of the Gatlinburg Space Needle (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

9. This Space Needle has connections to New York

At the foot of the needle is a classic New York-style Pizzeria, which promises a taste of the Big Apple in the Smoky Mountains.

The cleverly named Slice Pizza Bakery offers Italian-esque cuisine including appetizers, hearty calzones, sandwiches, genuine New York-style pizza and salads.

While the Slice Pizza Bakery promises the best Italian food in Gatlinburg, I will admit I am dubious about this claim.

Sure, go for the games, stay for a history lesson, enjoy some games and a mind-bending show.

If you get hungry, I’m sure you could do worse, but my recommendation is to manage your expectations.

How much is the Gatlinburg Space Needle?

At the time of this writing, admission tickets cost:

  • Adult: $15.95
  • Child: $9.95
  • Senior and military: $12.95

Children age three and under are free with an adult ticket. Group rates are also available.

And here’s a pro-tip: Space Needle Tickets are frequently offered as a Groupon deal at up to 22% off admission. So always check their listing on Groupon before you book.

Entertainment family packages are available for $67.95, which includes two adult tickets, two child tickets and four $10 play cards.

These prices are subject to change and may vary by season.

The Space Needle is located at 115 Historic Nature Trail in downtown Gatlinburg TN.

Have you been to this 407-foot observation tower with incredible views of the Great Smoky Mountains? Let us know in the comments.

Disclaimer: While we do our best to bring you the most up-to-date information, attractions or prices mentioned in this article may vary by season and are subject to change. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any mentioned business, and have not been reviewed or endorsed these entities. Contact us at info@thesmokies.com for questions or comments.

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