Wheels on a Ferris Wheel

Reprinted from PN December 2012

The accessible Seattle Great Wheel offers incredible views of the city and Elliott Bay.

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Fully wheelchair accessible, the Seattle Great Wheel is the largest observation wheel on the West Coast of the U.S. (John Greenland image)

Wheelchair visitors to Seattle can roll onto another type of wheel for a fun ride and incredible views of the city and Elliott Bay.

The Seattle Great Wheel opened this past June as the area’s newest tourist attraction. At 175 feet tall, it is the largest observation wheel on the West Coast. Open year round, the wheel extends nearly 40 feet beyond the end of a pier and over water. Great care was taken to make sure the wheel is wheelchair accessible.

The wheel has 42 fully-enclosed gondolas that can hold up to eight people each. Every gondola will accommodate any type wheelchair or disability. Service animals are allowed, but they must wear their service vest to identify them as such.

Ernie Butler, executive  director of the Northwest Chapter of Paralyzed Veterans of America, took a ride on the wheel earlier this year. Butler says the boarding ramp is made of sturdy high-strength aluminum with a no-slip surface and rails to prevent a wheel going off the ramp. He adds there is plenty of room inside the gondola, and it’s very comfortable.

Each ride consists of three full revolutions, and you should plan about 30 minutes from boarding to off loading.

Nighttime rides during Seattle Seahawks and University of Washington Huskies football games are extra special. The wheel does a light show with more than 90,000 LED lights.

“Do I recommend going on down and taking a ride? You bet I do,” Butler says. “Every view was better than the last, no matter which way I looked. And the entire process from buying tickets to getting off the wheel was easy and enjoyable.”

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Wheels on a Ferris Wheel


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