Visitors can reach the top of the Space Needle by elevators that travel at 10 mph (16 km/h). The trip takes 41 seconds. On windy days, the elevators slow to 5 mph (8.0 km/h). On April 19, 1999, the city's Landmarks Preservation Board designated it a historic landmark.
In September 2017, the restaurant was temporarily closed as part of a US$100 million renovation. The renovation included the installation of a new rotation motor and see-through glass floors in the restaurant, as well as the replacement of the observation deck's wire enclosure with glass panels.
In August 2018, it unveiled its latest addition: the world's first and only revolving glass floor, known as "The Loupe." Standing 500 feet -- or 50 stories -- above street level, the observation deck's new see-through floor offers 360-degree views of the large city. The floor is powered by 12 motors and is constructed of 10 layers of tightly bonded glass to ensure safety. 
The architecture of the Space Needle is the result of a compromise between the designs of two men, Edward E. Carlson and John Graham, Jr. The two leading ideas for the World Fair involved businessman Edward E. Carlson's sketch of a giant balloon tethered to the ground (see the gently sloping base) and architect John Graham's concept of a flying saucer (see the halo that houses the restaurant and observation deck).Victor Steinbrueck introduced the hourglass profile of the tower. The Space Needle was built to withstand wind speeds of 200 mph (320 km/h), double the requirements in the building code of 1962. The 6.8 MwNisqually earthquake jolted the Needle enough in 2001 for water to slosh out of the toilets in the restrooms. The Space Needle will not sustain serious structural damage during earthquakes of magnitudes below 9.1. Also made to withstand Category 5 hurricane-force winds, the Space Needle sways only 1 in (25 mm) per 10 mph (16 km/h) of wind speed.
For decades, the hovering disk of the Space Needle was home to two restaurants 500 ft (150 m) above the ground: the Space Needle Restaurant, which was originally named Eye of the Needle, and Emerald Suite. These were closed in 2000 to make way for SkyCity, a larger restaurant that features Pacific Northwest cuisine. It rotates 360 degrees in exactly forty-seven minutes. In 1993, the elevators were replaced with new computerized versions. The new elevators descend at a rate of 10 mph (16 km/h).
On December 31, 1999, a powerful beam of light was unveiled for the first time. Called the Legacy Light or Skybeam, it is powered by lamps that total 85 million candela shining skyward from the top of the Space Needle to honor national holidays and special occasions in Seattle. The concept of this beam was derived from the official 1962 World's Fair poster, which depicted such a light source although none was incorporated into the original design. It is somewhat controversial because of the light pollution it creates. Originally planned to be turned on 75 nights per year, it has generally been used fewer than a dozen times per year. It did remain lit for eleven days in a row from September 11, 2001, to September 22, 2001, in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks.
A 1962 Seattle World's Fair poster showed a grand spiral entryway leading to the elevator that was ultimately omitted from final building plans. The stairway was eventually added as part of the Pavilion and Spacebase remodel in June 2000. The main stairwell has 848 steps from the basement to the top of the observation deck.
At approximately 605 ft (184 m), the Space Needle was the tallest building west of the Mississippi River at the time it was built by Howard S. Wright Construction Co., but is now dwarfed by other structures along the Seattle skyline, among them the Columbia Center, at 967 ft (295 m). Unlike many other similar structures, such as the CN Tower in Toronto, the Space Needle is not used for broadcasting purposes.