Have you made it to the Amazon Spheres in Seattle yet? It’s quickly becoming a must-do thing when visiting. Even people in Seattle followed its construction eagerly, and lined up to visit—and we have a love/hate relationship with Amazon.
It was only last weekend when I finally made it to the Amazon Spheres. They host many tech groups, but I haven’t been able to make one of those events. I’m also in and out of Seattle so much that it never worked out to convince any Amazonian friends to invite me. So I signed up for a general public Amazon Spheres tour.
There’s some information about the tour and signing up on the Seattle Spheres website. It has the dates available, photo ID requirements, times, bag size limits, etc. Most of the information is there, but it isn’t the most obvious.
Here are the things you need to know before visiting the Amazon Spheres. If you have any other questions, please ask. Being a blogger, of course I wrote about my time there and took LOTS of photos. So many photos, in fact, that I had to separate the plants photos into their own post.
It’s not actually a tour
Looking back over the Seattle Spheres site, I don’t know how we ALL missed this one. One of my friends understood it to be a guided tour. In my mind it was a self-guided one. The Saturday tickets are for access into the Spheres that’s all. You enter at your pre-booked time and are welcome to stay until it closes. There’s no structure to your visit and minimal signage teaching you what’s in there. There are formal Amazon campus tours on Wednesdays.
The Understory is separate
All the knowledge and information about the Spheres is in the visitors center under the Spheres. It’s free and open to the public every day without tickets. However, there’s no entrance between The Understory and the Spheres. Plan your trip before or after your Spheres trip. If you choose after, there is a tiny pocket brochure you can grab as you enter the Spheres. I lost mine before reading it so I can’t say how useful it is.
If you can’t enter from The Understory, now do you enter? It is an Amazon workspace so there are several entrances. The entrance to use is off the grassed area between 6th and 7th Avenues, closer to 7th Ave. There’s no signage letting you know. We chose it as looking “more official”. You enter and have your tickets and ID checked at reception. The security turnstiles were open. If you’re not used to tech company security, they’ll be a novelty for you (and perhaps a bit of a shock).
Bring your ID
It states this on the website, but if you’re unfamiliar with tech company processes, then you may dismiss it. Don’t. All adults need ID to enter the building.
Book your tickets
Later you may be able to have a walk-in visit, but currently timed-entry is used to void crowds. I imagine it’s also to help with temperature control. I imagine it’s hard to maintain a consistent tropical temperature for the 40,000 plants. Having too many people in there could push it too high and destroy the plants. Oh, and if you’re an Amazon employee, don’t assume you can walk in. We saw security lecturing someone, but let them in because it was a quiet day.
Consider leaving the kids at home
I’m not anti-kid, but it would bore most kids. There’s a lot of seating and chatting space, but no running around space and definitely no playground. Unless your child has an unusually strong interest in horticulture, I’m not sure how much they would enjoy it. Prams are also banned from the wooden walkway. It’s made from a bendy wood, so prams probably wouldn’t run smoothly. I felt uncomfortable walking on it.
Also leave your coats
OK, it’s Seattle so leaving your coats at home isn’t feasible. There are advertised bag size limits, but I didn’t see a coat or bag check. We awkwardly tucked our jackets in the straps on our smaller bags. It’s 72ºF/22ºC with 60% humidity and about half that outside, so there’s no way you’ll be comfortable dressing for just one environment.
We didn’t think of doing this, but we also thought it was a formal tour. General Porpoise Doughnuts is the sole food provider inside the Spheres. If you’re not into expensive doughnuts and coffee (I’ve been told the General Porpoise store in Capitol Hill has more/better flavors), and you must eat, we did see a couple eating salads from Evergreen across the road. The Amazon Go store is just around the corner too and an experience in itself.
We started at the top and worked our way down. We saw security and cleaning staff on the way, but on the ground level we met volunteers who gave us tidbits about the plants.
Semisecret power outlets
We had time to kill, so sat at one of the booths to chat. Just before leaving we realized there was a perfectly positioned, but very discrete power outlet at each table. We should have expected it because it is a workplace, but still. It was useful to top up our phones.
Are you planning to visit the Amazon Spheres? What else do you want to know?
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