Seattle Space Needle Facts

Seattle Space Needle

There is nothing more iconic in Seattle than the Space Needle and we think this should be a stop on your visit to the city.

Built for the 1962 Worlds Fair, Seattle’s iconic “Needle” is more than just an icon, but a centerpiece of Seattle.

Seen by its builders as an Eiffel Tower for the 21st century, the Eiffel Tower was a role model for the building of the Needle and is the only world tower that has come close to matching its legacy as a centerpiece and symbol of a city. In fact, the Eiffel flew out their entire kitchen crew to prepare the Needle’s first dinner and reaching into their cellar, they christened the Needle with French champagne when it opened.

In 1959, artist Edward E. Carlson was inspired by the Stuttgart Tower in Germany and was sketching his vision of futuristic structure for the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair which had a century 21 theme. He created his initial design on a placemat in a coffee house. Edwards original design underwent several revisions by architect John Graham Jr. before it became the internationally known symbol we see today.

The property where the Space Needle sits was secured for $75,000 to eliminate the possibility of lawsuits stopping the project as it would reside on private property and not public.

To get a sense of how high the Space Needle should be before it was built, a helicopter was chartered and to determine the best height. The sweet spot was between 500-600 feet. Making it too tall would have made the surrounding city look too small and they were close enough to the ground so people could also see the bustling city below.

The foundation for the Needle is 30 feet deep and 120 feet across and it took a total of 467 cement trucks to fill the hole. To make it the strongest, the pour was done all in one day and took 12 hours to deliver the 5,600 tons of concrete.

When they were digging the foundation, workers found a Mastodon molar and an old horseshoe that was probably left over from the old fire station at the same location years before. As a symbol of good luck, the horseshoe was nailed above the construction shack entrance.

Over 5,850 tons of concrete and steel were used to build it and it was built to withstand a wind velocity of 200 miles per hour.

The Space Needle is held together by 74,000 large bolts.

The union Iron Workers made $3.92 per hour to build the needle.

The trip to the top of the Space Needle was $1.00 and one may have waited in line for 3 hours to go up in 1962. Today that wait is still not uncommon, especially during the busy tours season.

The total cost to build the Needle was approximately $4.5 million.

The show Frasier, which took place in Seattle and Frasier Crane had an amazing view of the city and Space Needle from Kerry Park wasn’t filmed there until the 101st episode.

The original colors of the needle even took on a space-age focus at the worlds fair. The legs of the building were “Astronaut White,” the roof is “Galaxy Gold,” the halo is “Re-Entry Red” and the center is “Orbital Olive.” Galaxy gold was recently used again in 2012 to celebrate the 50 year anniversary of the Needle.

The Space Needle is 605 feet high. There are 848 steps from the bottom of the basement to the top of the Observation Deck

The observation deck provides a 360-degree view of Seattle.

What’s Inside

The 200-seat revolving restaurant at the top is called SkyCity. The restaurant makes one full rotation every hour on a single 1.5 hp motor. Elevators on the Needle descend at 10 mph, the speed of a rain drop.

2018 Update

The Space Needle is going through a $100 million remodel to take it into the next 50 years.

Glass will replace the wire safety cage on the observation deck.

The rotating floor of the restaurant will be replaced with glass as well, offering a look 500 feet down. This will be the first rotating, glass-floor restaurant in the world. (The restaurant is currently closed and should reopen in May of 2018.)

More fun facts from the Space Needle website

• When the Space Needle was built in 1962, it was the tallest building west of the Mississippi River.

• The center of gravity for the Space Needle is 5 feet above the ground.

• The Space Needle is fastened to its foundation with 72 bolts, over 30 feet in length and 4 inches across.

• The Space Needle sways approximately 1 inch for every 10 mph of wind. 25 lightning rods (24 actual rods, plus the tower) are on the roof of the Needle to withstand lightning strikes.

• The restaurant turntable revolves on a track and wheel system that weighs roughly 125 tons, borrowed from railroad technology. All it takes to make the turntable revolve is a 1½ horsepower motor (originally it was a 1 hp motor).

• The original nickname of the Space Needle was “The Space Cage.” The original name of the restaurant was “Eye of the Needle.”

• The Space Needle elevators weigh 14,000 pounds each with a capacity of 4,500 pounds. The counter-weight weighs 40 percent more than the elevator fully loaded.

• Each elevator has seven cables total, even though one cable is strong enough to hold the entire weight of the elevator.

• The elevators that travel 10 mph are equal to the speed in which a raindrop falls to earth. In fact, a snowflake falls at 3 mph, so in an elevator during a snowstorm, it appears to be snowing upwards.

• The last elevator arrived the day before the 1962 World’s Fair opened.

• The first Space Needle Manager, Hoge Sullivan, had acrophobia, a fear of heights.

• Renowned astronaut, Buzz Aldrin, was on hand to present the winner of the Space Race celebrating the Space Needle’s 50th Anniversary with the grand prize – a sub-orbital trip into space.

Check out the Space Needle Website

Best Way to Take Photos of Waterfalls With Iphone

Snoqualmie Falls

(The quality of the photo will not be as high as with a DSLR like the one above, but it’s a pretty cool effect for a camera in your pocket)

Every day we go to Snoqualmie Falls and help our guests take photos of the magnificent view of the falls. People often ask what the best way to get that silky smooth look of the falls with their cell phone is. In the past, we might suggest an app that allows you to slow down the shutter speed or if they had a camera, a Neutral Density filter and a tripod were required. The quality of the photo will not be as high as with a DSLR like the one above, but it’s a pretty cool effect for a camera in your pocket.

Well, that has all changed with the upgrade to IOS 11 for those of you with an iPhone 6 plus or newer. The significant part of this update, you can go back to old photos that you have shot before the update and re-edit them.

This only takes three easy steps:

First, you’ll need to upgrade to IOS 11. As of this writing, IOS 11.0.3 is having some issues with degrading battery life as well as a security issue that might allow unauthorized access to your photos. So you might want to wait for the next version. I am currently using 11.0.3 and have no issues with battery life however.

Step 1

Upgrade to IOS 11:

Go to Settings>General>Software Update and then download and install. As with any upgrade, make sure you backup your photos and data.

Step 2

Go into your camera and click on the icon between HDR and the timer icon to turn on the Live function.

Iphone live photo icon

Step 3

Take the photo of the waterfalls in the Live mode. Make sure you hold the camera real steady or brace it against a railing or put on a tripod like a Gorillapod for the best results. Spend $6.00 for a universal phone mount to make it easier to shoot on your tripod.

Step 4

How to shoot waterfalls with an iPhone

Open your photo that you just shot and then Swipe up. You will have four options to change your photo. Choose the Long Exposure option as seen above and you are done.

You might want to experiment with the other options such as the Loop and Bounce options.Snoqualmie Falls Bounce or Boomerang GIF

(Example GIF with bounce effect, may take a minute to load)

If you are a user of Instagram, the bounce option is the same as their Boomerang effect. We have seen some pretty great uses of this effect from our customers at the falls and other locations such as jumping.

Snoqualmie Falls Looping GIF

(Example GIF with continuous loop effect, may take a minute to load)

The loop option continually plays the photo and works really well for waterfalls such as Snoqualmie Falls.

Snoqualmie Falls on Iphone

This is my final shot with this effect, with a bit of cleanup with sharpness and contrast in Photoshop. You could also do this effect with not only waterfalls, night scenes and maybe a pounding surf. Though there is a limitation as to what you can accomplish with this effect as the iPhone only shoots 8 frames to merge together.

If you’d like to join us on a trip to Snoqualmie Falls, you can learn more about our Snoqualmie Falls and City Tour on our site.

Planting Tulip Bulbs For Beautiful Spring Colors

Seattle Tulip Festival Tours

Every year I take a drive to the tulip fields to meet with the owners and gardeners to not only learn about the tulip growing business but also to see where the fields are being planted for our upcoming tours and to learn more about the tulip business to help educate our customers. I feel that taking the time to build these relationships makes for a better tour experience for our customers. (Photo from our 2017 Tulip Tour)

Each year there are some pleasant surprises to look forward to with changes in the gardens and new designs that make each visit every year, different.

On our tour, we stop at Roozengaarde first, so this was my first stop on this day as well. Roozengaarde was created by the Washington Bulb Company, owned by the Roozen family who have been in the tulip business for several hundred years. Back in 1947, William Roozen came to America with the dreams of what was possible. With his family experience in growing tulips, he arrived in the Skagit Valley to fulfill that dream. Saving for five years, he purchased some acreage and Washington Bulb Company was born.

Today the Washington Bulb Company is the largest producer of tulips in the country.

Ricardo of Roozengaarde

Whenever I arrive at the gardens I always see the familiar faces of the staff that run the store year round. But,  I’m also on the lookout for Ricardo, the head gardener and the guy responsible for all the hard work that he and his team put in to make our visits the best they can be. This photo was taken of us at the beginning of the 2017 Tulip Festival.

First I wandered the 5-acre display garden just to get a sense of what was going on, and they are at the very beginning stages of bringing the garden together.  With almost half a million bulbs painstakingly planted, the amount of manual and intellectual labor is intense.

Planting Tulip Bulbs at Roozengaarde

First, the flower beds have to be designed for not only colors but varieties whether they are early or late blooming tulips. Once the design phase is complete, then those designs are laid out on the dirt, with each bulb placed where it will be planted with proper spacing and optimal design. Next, each bulb will be planted one by one, by hand, until half a million bulbs are planted. Ricardo told me they would be planting into December and I was there in mid-October.

He also shared with me some of the new changes they have made to the gardens with different designs and layouts, but I’ll save those for your Spring visit as I don’t want to give any of it away.  But these guys always knock it out of the park with their displays. I have had many customers say that these gardens rival Keukenhof Gardens in Holland with their design and colors, on a much smaller scale of course.

Before and After Tulip Planting

It’s fun to wander the gardens when no one is there and try to imagine what it will look like when we bring our customers and see the delight on their faces as they walk around the gardens. I always joke with people at the end of the day and ask them if they are “Tulip’d Out” Many can agree that there are so many to see that it’s hard to take it all in.

Tulip Town in Skagit Valley

My next stop was Tulip Town, our second display garden that we partner with. As I slid the door open to the warehouse, I ran into Matt. Matt and I have known each other for a number of years as he has been an employee of Tulip Town since we started providing our tours six years ago. He was busy working but took the time to chat and walk around and explain the process of planting the fields and shared with me the equipment that was designed for their operation. They had transformed what is normally the indoor display garden to an operation for planting the tulips for their gardens. Normally this location has beautiful indoor murals with a large variety of colors, but those were all covered in plastic until the Spring.

Tulip Town in Skagit Valley

The owner Tom stopped by to say hello and I was not surprised that he was working as he was pushing a lawnmower. As the rain slowly started coming down, he shared with me where they planted their fields for the upcoming season. He also let me know that this year the tulip bulbs were going to be planted closer together and it should be even more colors than previous years. This was music to my ears as I could just imagine those beautiful alternating rows of colors being even more vibrant than years past. Always one to talk and educate me on the tulips, he shared with me lots of information on the challenges of growing tulips, but also some improvements he is making for our customers to have an even better experience. Again I don’t want to give anything away here, but I am excited for the Tulip tours to start, already.

Always one to talk and educate me on the tulips, he shared with me lots of information on the challenges of growing tulips, but also some improvements he is making for our customers to have an even better experience. Again I don’t want to give anything away here, but I am excited for the Tulip tours to start, already. Visiting Tulip Town close to 150 times throughout the years, I feel like their success and improvements are ours as well.

Colorful Birdhouses at Tulip Town

As I was getting ready to leave, I said one last goodbye to Matt and he showed me some of the birdhouses he has been building. These will be sold at an upcoming holiday show, but he will be building more that our customers will be able to purchase in the Spring. He shared with me that he uses repurposed wood he finds around the farm, old doorknobs and whatever other materials he can use. He then handed me a sack of tulip bulbs to take home and plant. These are perfect, as I will now have my own way to see how the tulips are progressing so I can adjust our tour dates and add additional tours.

Shuh Farms Pumpkin Patch

I had one last stop I needed to make and that was at Shuh Farms. October is the perfect time to visit this farm as all the pumpkins are ready to pick and the barn and store are busy with people coming from all over to get into the fall and Halloween spirit.

Shuh Farms for Halloween

Shuh Farms is always creative and have lots of fall vegetables available from their own and surrounding farms.

Shuh Farms in October

On this day the rain was just starting as I turned on my windshield wipers as I started my journey back home.  My thoughts went to all the people who work on the farms and gardens year round. Though the Tulip Festival is only for one month in April, the planning and preparation take the whole year for the employees and owners. They spend the time and dedicate their lives to creating something that is magical for over half a million people a year that visit the Skagit Valley.

If you would like to buy tulips can do so from Washington Bulb Company or Tulip Town, in the fall.

For now, those tulip bulbs will be nestled into their beds for the long winter nap. But come springtime, you can join us for our tulip festival tours whether you are a local or traveling from afar.

Chihuly Gardens and Glass for Photographers

Chihuly Gardens and Glass in Seattle

Chihuly Gardens and Glass in Seattle are offering three upcoming events for photographers to get special access to the gardens. Chihuly Through the Lens will allow photographers to bring tripods during this early access photo session.

Designed for photographers of all levels, this special session will allow unobstructed views of the installation.

October 28:  9:00am registration | 9:15am session

November 18:  9:00am registration | 9:15am session

December 29:  8:00am registration | 8:15am session

Tickets are limited so purchase early.

Buy Tickets Here


How We Spent a Day Touring Seattle

Being tour guides in Seattle requires us to not only know a lot about the city but also keep up with all the changes that happen throughout the city from month to month. Amanda and I decided that we needed a day taking tours and seeing some of the recently added attractions in Seattle.

Our first stop was to take advantage of the 10-hour early bird parking special at the garage on Third and Stewart. This is only a few block from the Pike Place Market and as of this writing, it was $18.00 for up to ten hours if we arrived before 9:30.

Biscuit Bitch in Seattle

Heading to the Pike Place Market, we knew that we had to head over to Biscuit Bitch for some breakfast. This place can be hectic, and on the weekends there are probably 40-50 out the door waiting to get served. Featured on the Travel Channel, New York Times and Wall Street Journal, you know this is a place not to be missed.

I ordered the Smokin’ Hot Bitch with Biscuits and Gravy, (both Gluten free), cheese, spicy hot sausage and had them hold the jalapenos. It was really too much food for me, but it was a great way to start the morning.

Next Amanda and I wanted to explore the Pike Place Market and see if much had changed and it really hadn’t.


9 Fun Things to Do in Seattle

Shutter Tours PikePlaceMarket

There are many options of things to do in Seattle from sightseeing tours such as our Snoqualmie Falls and City Tour, to exploring Seattle waterfront and local neighborhoods like Fremont, how of the famous Fremont Troll.

We thought we would put together ideas for you to help make your travel plans to Seattle.

Snoqualmie Falls and City Tour

Snoqualmie Falls

Of course, we think our Snoqualmie Falls and City Tour is the best value in Seattle and so do over 600 people on Trip Advisor who gave us 5-star reviews. Our tour begins at Pike Place Market at 10 AM, just late enough where you can grab some breakfast at Cafe Lieto, known for their biscuits and perhaps a cup of coffee at the original Starbucks or one of our favorite coffee shops, Storyville Coffee.

Seattle Kerry Park Shutter Tours

You’ve probably searched for how to get to the location where the famous viewpoint is in Seattle with the Space Needle in the foreground, that is Kerry Park, our last stop on our tour. This is the view made famous in the show Frasier, and we often see Mt. Rainier towering 14,410 feet in the distance. By taking our tour you can check this off your bucket list, but better than that, you’ll have the perfect viewpoint to get some fantastic photos of the city to remember your trip to Seattle.

Tour price $69.00

 Chihuly Garden and Glass


Dale Chihuly is a world famous glass artist known for his large-scale “Glass Sculptures” and was born and raised in the Seattle area. You may not know this, but Seattle is #2 in the world for glass studios next to Murano, Italy thanks to the local influence of Dale. Dale Chihuly’s  work has been featured all over the world and is included in more than 200 museum collections worldwide. On your visit to Seattle, you don’t want to miss this impressive Chihuly Gardens to see the work of this master artist that has brought a whole new appreciation of glass art.


Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market in Seattle

The Pike Place Market is the heart and soul of the city. Starting in 1907 on the corner of First and Pike Place, the market has been continuously running ever since. With over 10 million visitors per year, tourists and locals love this place.

Between the summers of 1906 and 1907, food prices rose sharply in Seattle. Onions that had been ten cents a pound were now a $1 (keep in mind John Nordstrom sold a pair of new shoes for $2 a pair). The boom in prices followed the increase in lumber prices following the San Francisco earthquake and fire in April of 1906. But also because the middlemen were gouging the consumer. Due to this frustration, the Seattle City Council passed an ordinance for Pike Place as a site for a farmer’s market and the Pike Place Market was born.

The first day only seven farmers showed up to sell their produce. Rumors from threatening boycotts by middlemen to death threats made its way around the city. This didn’t stop over 10,000 people from showing up that day. The first day was such a success that the next Saturday, over 70 farmers made their way to the market with just as many waiting customers.


Steve and Jess and Their Great Tour Video

Flying The Nest

Stephen and Jess of Flying The Nest joined our Snoqualmie Falls and City tour and shot this great video. They were great to have on the tour and full of wonderful travel stories that you can read about on their website.

Top 10 Places To Take Photos In The Seattle Area.

Seattle's Top Photo Spots

Book a tour with Shutter Tours, we are one of the top things to do in Seattle. You’ll see many of the most scenic and interesting locations in Seattle.

10. Pu Pu Point in Issaquah

Pu Pu Point in Issaquah WA Photo Credit Terry Divyak via

This is one of the locations that many Seattle natives may not even know about. Located about 10 minutes east of Issaquah, Pu Pu Point is the jumping off location for paragliders. With it’s breathtaking view of Lake Sammamish and surrounding areas, makes for a great backdrop with the colorful paragliders as your subject matter. This is one of those locations you’ll have to work for, however. It’s is about a 45 minute hike up to the point from the parking lot and has a pretty good elevation gain, so bring water to keep yourself hydrated. Once you arrive, you will want to spend some time sitting and watching the almost delicate ballet of the paragliders as they float on the updrafts. It is not unusual to see 20 or more floating above the point on a beautiful day.

Location to shoot from:

First and foremost, you want to stay out of the way of the para gliders. This is a dangerous sport and the less distractions, the better for those that are trying to get airborne. You can get a great shot, standing directly behind the launching point. This gives you a terrific background, especially in the mid morning hours. I also like to stand on either side of the launch pad and use both a wide angle and telephoto lens to capture the action. You’ll need a telephoto lens once they are airborne to get some good closeups.

9. Snoqualmie Falls


Snoqualmie Falls Tours

Snoqualmie Falls is one of the most popular attractions in Washington State next to Mt. Ranier and Seattle’s Pike Place market.  About 45 minutes from Seattle, this is the farthest location from Seattle on our list. Rising 268′ from the bottom of the basin, the falls can be captured from the observation deck with a perfect view as the above image by KM Photography illustrates. This was not listed further up the list as it is quite a drive from Seattle, but is worth the effort to get there.

Location to shoot from:

The observation deck, about 100 yards from the parking lot is the most popular place to shoot. Setting up a tripod can be a bit of a problem when there are weekend crowds, so go later in the day or on a weekday. As you look at the falls, you are looking East, so the sun will be behind the falls in the morning and illuminating the falls in afternoon and evening. You can also take a trail to the bottom of the falls. There is a wooden boardwalk that will give you a good vantage point from below. At the bottom of the trail is also the 1910 powerhouse, closed off behind fences, and the river itself. Visitors can leave the boardwalk and  walk on the river rocks to get a better view from the bottom. Be advised that this area floods during heavy rains.


10 Interesting Facts You May Not Know About Seattle

Pioneer Square Seattle

1. It doesn’t rain in Seattle as much as you think it does or does it?

Well this is a two part answer. No it doesn’t rain as much as people are led to believe.  It does if you are measuring the days of rainfall Seattle gets per year.

At 38 inches of rain per year, we are not even in the top 50 list for annual rainfall in major U.S. Cities.

We are in the top 5 cities for the number of days of precipitation at 151 days per year.

We also average 226 cloudy days a year with only 58 days of clear skies. It’s no wonder people who move to Seattle suffer from S.A.D or Seasonal Affected Disorder.

It doesn’t rain almost 90% of the time. If you add up all the hours in a year, Seattle only gets rain 11% of the time.

Source: National Climatic Data Center, NOAA

2. Seattle is the largest city in America named after a Native American

For a time other cities like Olympia, Port Townsend and Port Gamble had been named, but the settlement now known as Seattle was nameless until a clerk in Olympia called it Duwamps to the dismay of the residents. At the insistence of Doc Maynard, the settlers quickly put together a less repulsive name.

Named after Chief Seattle (also known as Sealth, Seathle, Si’ahl, Seathl, Seeathl, or See-ahth) or si?al in his native Lushootseed language. He led the Duwamish and Suquamish Tribes when settlers arrived in the greater Seattle area in the 1850s.


The Best Ways to Get to Downtown Seattle from Seatac Airport

How to get to Seattle from Seatac Airport

Here is a list of options to go from Seatac Airport to Seattle and back.

1. Ride the Light Rail

If you don’t mind wheeling your luggage, this is the best and cheapest way to go. The light station rail is about a 10-15 minute walk from the airport terminal with the final stop at Westlake Center in downtown Seattle. The trip will take between 35-40 minutes and will cost 3.00 per person for downtown stops. Once you arrive at your station, you’ll have to take an escalator or elevator to exit the station to go to your hotel

You’ll find all the information you need for getting to Seattle from Seatac Airport on the Link Light Rail at the Sound Transit website.

When coming back to the airport from Downtown Seattle, you will be getting off at the very last stop. The two closest stations to Downtown Seattle are the University Street Station at Benaroya Hall and the Westlake Station at 5th and Pine at the Nordstrom building.

Sound Transit also has an easy trip planner to help you determine which stop you’ll need to get off at that is in close proximity to your hotel.

2. Using Uber to go to Seattle from Seatac

I love Uber and travelling to Seattle is easy via their app. You’ll need to meet your driver by following the “Ground Transportation” signs towards the parking garage. On the third floor, you’ll see a pickup zone marked with a rideshare sign. This is where your Uber driver will meet you.

There are a couple of options with Uber

Uberpool: You will be in the car with somebody else to help share the costs. Approximate cost from Seatac via Uberpool to the Westin Hotel as of this writing is between $29-37 with no surge pricing in effect.

UberX: You and your party are not sharing an Uber and as of this writing during non-surge to the Westin Hotel from Seatac would be $33-42 depending on traffic.

Coming back to Seatac Airport from Downtown Seattle is approximately $4-5 less than the above prices.

Download the Uber App

3. Take a Cab from the Seatac Airport

When leaving Seatac Airport, cabs will charge a metered rate that is set by the City of Seattle. Currently, that rate is $2.70 per mile plus pickup charges and also charges for any time delays you may have sitting in traffic. If you are travelling to the city during a work week from 6:30am-9:30 am, you’ll have to expect some delays coming into Seattle from the airport.

Based on the app, Taxifarefinder, you will pay anywhere between $48 during non-peak times and over $75 during rush hour.

When leaving Downtown Seattle for Seatac Airport, most cabs charge a flat rate of $40 from downtown to the airport.

4. Use Lyft

Lyft is another rideshare service you can use to get to Downtown Seattle from Seatac. Based on the website Ride.Guru, the approximate cost for a shared ride is between $14-19 as of this writing. The cost for a car by yourself with Lyft is about $29.00  for a 22-minute ride between Seatac Airport and the Westin Hotel which is centrally located to downtown.

5. Take an Airporter from Seatac Airport to Seattle Hotels

Airporters are probably your cheapest option if you have lots of luggage and don’t want to walk to the light rail station.

A few options with pricing are:

Shuttle Express is only $18 from Seatac Airport to Downtown Seattle hotels.

Speedi Shuttle rates start @ $15.99 per person

6. Get a Rental Car

All the major rental car companies operate out of Seatac airport, but one thing you have to keep in mind is that parking at your hotel will be very expensive. The Seattle Westin Hotel is $45 for self-service parking to $57 for 5-24 hours with valet service. Valet Parking at the W Seattle Hotel is $68, so be careful about these additional rates when making your travel plans to Seattle.

In Conclusion

As you can see there are many options for getting to Seattle from Seatac airport and it all depends on what your budget is. We have found it super easy to use the Light Link Rail and for most hotels, the Westlake stop will be a perfect fit for those of you staying in downtown Seattle. You could always use the money you saved to take one of our tours.

Arival In-Destination Event For Tour Companies

This past week I attended the first trade show of its kind for small tour operators in Las Vegas. The Arival In-Destination event was attended by a lot of companies such as Expedia, Viator, Travelzoo and many in-destination tour companies throughout the world.

One of the challenges I have owning Shutter Tours is that I am so focused on business, often I don’t get to talk with other tour companies unless it’s just in passing with another tour guide at one of our stops. Usually, we cannot share too much about our business because we are all competitors in the same market in Seattle.

That’s why this event was so imported for me to attend, allowing me to look at the excellent opportunities we may have been missing on things like additional tour experiences and how to manage our future growth.

Courtesy Steven Joseph Photography in Las Vegas

When I first arrived, I was asked if I wanted a head free headshot and being a photographer, I’m always interested in how other photographers set up their lighting.

Stephen Joseph Photography of Las Vegas was the Photographer, and he had everything dialed in perfect to get those great headshots for all the attendees. This is the result of sitting for about 30 seconds and I have to thank Travelzoo for providing these as well. (I did do a slight photoshop edit to clean things up in the photo).

For the next few days I was able to talk to and hear speakers with companies from as far away as Rome, Hawaii, Australia and all over the U.S. I think it was the simple conversations that I had as I introduced myself with the common question, “what brings you to Arival?”, that gave me the most insight into what the possibilities were for Shutter Tours moving forward.

For example, I met Fiona of Go West Tours in Australia. Though our conversation was brief, she shared with me how they were a small company like ours when the first started and had grown to provide many great tours and shared some insight on how to build without sacrificing the customer experience. I never want our company to become just another average city tour company. We always need to provide that extraordinary experience, even if we grow slow. This is one of the reasons we don’t do tours in November in Seattle as this is the month with the most rain per year for Seattle. We would rather have customers choose another option then be standing at Snoqualmie Falls with high winds, rain, and a blown umbrella.

I was also surprised by the uniqueness of the tours, such as One Ocean Diving of Oahu, who provide an experience where you swim with sharks without cages in the open water. They are also educators and conservationists that help people understand the importance of sharks and why they are crucial to the ocean.

David of Washington Photo Safari

David Luria owns Washington Photo Safari, and you can see by the photo above, he enjoys what he is doing. We had a nice brief chat about what we both do and it was nice to hear the success he has had as well. I was surprised that no other Seattle companies attended, but there is nothing wrong with having a bit of an advantage over our competitors.

To wrap this up a bit, because I don’t want to ramble too long in this post. I am excited to get to work this winter on some fantastic ideas I came away with in creating even more exceptional experiences for our customers when they visit Seattle. A business like this takes a lot of dedication and work, and I think what you’ll see next year from us will surprise, wow and delight you.

Amazon Started as a Home Based Business

Amazon House in Bellevue

Many Entrepreneurs have a dream of starting a business and reaching a point where they have a good customer base and can make a comfortable living. But I wonder if Jeff Bezos had any idea that the beginnings of his home-based business would lead him to become one of the richest men in the world with an estimated net worth of $80 billion dollars.

Founded on July 5th, 1994 in Bellevue, Washington, Jeff launched the company as Cadabra LLC and registered the website URL Bezos’s first Lawyer, Todd Tarbert felt that the name was too obscure and people calling on the phone might mishear the company name as Cadaver. Later that summer, as Jeff was brainstorming other website name ideas, he also registered,, as well as the In September of 1994, he also registered the URL, which is still owned by Amazon today.

Started in a 1,500 sq. ft. rental home, in Bellevue, Washington with his two-car garage being the first warehouse and office. The house is located within a five-minute drive of where Bill and Melinda Gates live on Lake Washington in Medina, Washington.

Jeff initially started with an investment of $10,000 in his company, but need to hire additional employees and programmers to get his business started; he had to ask for extra financial help. In 1995, his parents made an investment of $100,000 in his startup. Jeff told his parents there was the possibility of losing all of their money. He let his parents know what the risks were because he still wanted to come home for Thanksgiving if the company failed. His parents, however, were not betting on the business, but on Jeff.

In Late 1994, Jeff was brainstorming as he grabbed a dictionary, looking for other names that might be a better fit than the placeholder, A few days later he walked into his garage where he announced to his partners of the company new website name of and registered it on November 1st, 1994. Being that he wanted Amazon to be the biggest bookstore in the world, naming it after the largest river in the world made sense. (One note, on our tour we had talked about Jeff having to purchase from somebody else. But after further research, we discovered he was the original registrar of the domain)

Eventually, they outgrew the garage and located the business above a Color Tile in Seattle’s SoDo district and quickly outgrew that location and moved a few blocks North, across the Street from the Starbucks world headquarters is located today. This is where Pecos Pit BBQ is located.

Today the Amazon campus is a vibrant area of activity in downtown Seattle with over 30,000 employees and over 4,000 dogs coming to work with their owners every day.

Amazon Biospheres First Planting

Photo above is the first planting in the biosphere, courtesy of the City of Seattle.  

Amazon even has biosphere offices that will house over 400 species of plants and will have a controlled environment similar to that in Costa Rica. The Spheres will have space for about 800 employees with no enclosed offices or conference rooms. Instead, it will be wide open across the five different levels.

Fast forward to today and Amazon now employs over 340,000 people worldwide with revenue of over $130 billion. And to think it all started with a dream and beginning in his two-bedroom rented home.

If you’d like to learn more about Amazon and our great city, take a tour with us on your next visit to Seattle.

A Fascinating Look at the Life of Edward Curtis

Short Nights Shadow Catcher

At Shutter Tours, we read a lot of books. One can say that Half Price Books gets a lot of our money each year as we do frequent research on Seattle to continually improve our tours.

I recently came across a book about Photographer Edward Curtis that I was unable to put down, “Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher” by Timothy Egan.

Princess Angeline

Edward Curtis was a photographer that got his start in downtown Seattle in the late 1800’s and his photo of Chief Seattle’s daughter; Princess Angeline started him on a journey and an obsession to capture the Native American’s on film before they disappeared.

Edward S. Curtis self portrait 1899

Curtis spent the next three decades traveling throughout the west to document the stories and rituals of more than eighty North American tribes. Not only did he take over 200,000 photographs and copper gravure plates during this time. He painstakingly wrote down vocabularies and pronunciation guides for 75 languages and transcribed an enormous amount of myths, rituals and religious stories from oral history in his 20 volume set of books simply titled, “The North American Indian.”

This book takes you from the very beginning of his journey from becoming friends with Theodore Roosevelt to his meetings with J.P. Morgan who helped finance his expenses to travel the equivalent of over 27 times around the world.

edward curtis Canon de Chelly 1904

The book is very well researched using many many documents, letters, and photos from the Allen Library at the University of Washington as well as the Library of Congress Curtis Collection and many other sources including the Pierpont Morgan Library.

Chief Joseph of Nez Perce

A fascinating read that will often have you shaking your head at how Edward Curtis persevered to see this project to completion after 32 years. He endured sickness, financial hardship, divorce and the struggle to keep everyone on his team moving in the same direction.

Northwestern University has a digital copy of “The North American Indian,” with all 20 volumes scanned. For this project, the full twenty volumes of close to 5000 pages of narrative text were electronically scanned. With over 2200 scans of the photogravure plates, which in the original Curtis work include 1500 images bound in the volumes and the remainder as loose plates in twenty accompanying portfolios.

I will say this, read the book first and then check out the above electronic version of his work as you’ll appreciate it much more after finishing the book.

If you enjoy Native American history and photography as we do, this is a book not to be missed.



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