I don’t typically find myself flocking to tourist spots when I’m visiting a city. I usually try to find the time to visit new museums and galleries, but at this point in my life trips to new cities are more often than not dictated by occasional chances to spend time with distant friends, and the typically high cost of visiting a tourist attraction is usually enough to stop any potential plans in their tracks.
My once-a-year family trips growing up tended to be filled front to back with visits to various tourist spots: the Empire State Building and Rockefeller Center in New York, the Polar Caves in New Hampshire, and the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in North Carolina are a few of the countless daytrips that occupied my childhood summers. But at some point these trips came to a relative halt. I don’t think I’ve ever actively considered myself to be “too old” to enjoy a tourist attraction, but there’s something about living in a city – any city – that makes the consideration of visiting these sorts of destinations less compelling.
I visited Seattle this past week for Thanksgiving, and the day before the holiday I found myself at the base of the Space Needle with a ticket bearing a 2:30 PM reservation for an elevator ride to the tower’s observation deck. This was the first time in years that I held such a ticket, and as I rounded the ramps up to the elevator my cynical side was trying to get the best of me. I looked around at the swarms of families and other tourists eagerly awaiting the chance to ride to the top of the iconic structure, and my inner sarcastic self couldn’t help but smirk at the commotion surrounding me. As I stepped into the glass-walled elevator with my eyes ready to roll, my mood was quickly overpowered by the excitement in the air. In the years that had transpired since my last trip to the top of some tall building, I had managed to forget that the real reason to do these things is purely for the unashamed amusement.
Wednesday was beautiful, and the mid-afternoon sun cast a soft glow across the city’s skyline in all directions. We spent about an hour on top of the Needle, first gazing out from the outdoor deck and then sitting and drinking a beer inside the tower. It was refreshing to allow myself a bit of earnest enjoyment, and as I anticipate a few more trips out of Chicago I hope that I continue to set some time aside to simply sit back and look out.