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Happy birthday, Space Needle! Seattle's iconic landmark turns 60 this week

The Space Needle has always made a point to know where its visitors are from, whether through its ticketing system or a massive virtual guestbook.

SEATTLE — For 60 years, the Space Needle has been the landmark tourist attraction in Seattle, welcoming more than 60 million visitors since it opened on April 21, 1962, at 400 Broad Street. 

But who are all of these visitors and where are they from? 

Those are just a couple of questions the Space Needle has looked to answer to help shape the visitor experience.

"From ticket sales and surveys and listening to our guests, we know a lot about where our visitors come from," said Randy Coté who runs business development for the Space Needle. 

Coté says learning where visitors are coming from has been an important part of Space Needle history from day one.

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"They were counting ticket sales of course in 1962, it was $1 to come up the Space Needle when it opened for the World's Fair," Coté said. 

Back then, it was a paper ticket system eventually turning digital, and in 2015, the Space Needle created the Global Guest Book, which featured a 20-foot wide interactive touch screen.

"Someone would punch in their postal code and then you could click on the next person and see someone from the next town over, a small town that they've only ever heard of," Coté said. 

While the COVID-19 pandemic paused the interactive experience, Coté says it's really been the ticket sales that have helped tell a bigger story about who is visiting the needle. 

25% of people who visit the Space Needle are from California, and 75% of visitors travel to Seattle through Sea-Tac Airport. 

"It's always interesting to see what draws people to this great city. We know from the Space Needle's perspective, the view and the thrill is a big piece of it, but there's so much happening around town," Coté said. 

According to a 2019 Space Needle visitor survey, the top countries where visitors come from are Canada, Great Britain, Germany and Australia. 

"But we get locals too," added Coté, giving a nod to Washingtonians who keep coming back. 

But he says no matter who is taking in the 520-foot view or where they're from, "We're happy to have all those people here making memories with us every day."

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