Going to PAX 2009 or Bumbershoot in Seattle? Check out my helpful hints

pax-09.jpgGoing to PAX this year in Seattle, or perhaps catching a few acts at Bumbershoot 2009 (maybe both)?  It seems from what I read on Twitter that we will have a number of people visiting the fair Emerald City for this weekend’s festivities: from what I’ve read, about 75,000 people are expected to attend the Penny Arcade Expo starting tomorrow through Sunday at the Washington State Convention Centre.

(BTW, both PAX and Bumbershoot are sold out so if you don’t have tickets already, try your expensive luck on Craig’s List or eBay…)

Per my tweet tonite, to aid in your visit to the fair city by the Sound, I’ve posted here a few hints along the lines of my notes from Surviving CES in Las Vegas. Using that post as a template, here are a couple of resources for you – I will add to the page later as I have time.

Flight and Hotel: Given the event is sold out, if you don’t already have either of these, good luck.  Checking Bing travel or your favourite travel site may help you find a flight in and out or a place to stay.

Weather? Oh, yes. But pack light and bring a jacket.  Keep in mind that it is cool in the Puget Sound area this time of year (high 60s to low 70s), and the weather will be in the low 50s at night, and a few showers are expected .  Check the weather report for Seattle here. 

Dress in comfortable clothes and wear great, comfortable shoes.  And don’t bring the stylish shoes, go for comfort as you will be standing and walking.  A lot.  My pick: your favourite sneakers (perhaps a cool new pair of Vans), anything from Ecco, Rockport or New Balance. And see also a few travel recommendations from Colin Cowie on packing.

BTW, nix the umbrella: unless it’s winter and it’s coming down in buckets, this is a sure-fire way to telegraph that you’re a tourist. But do bring a jacket (something in a natural toned Goretex a la the grunge scene), as it’ll make you fit right in.

Also, bring a shoulder bag (a messenger bag works well) for hauling around all the schwag you’ll likely pick up and for toting your phone, mini notebook, digital camera, and other essentials: a bottle of water or juice, snack bars and fruit… oh, sorry, I mean Red Bull and Jolt, family sized Hershey’s and a package of gummies.

Plan ahead on paces to see: Before you arrive, check out the site where you’ll find plenty of information on what to do and see around town (a nice touch is the interactive visitors’ guide), There’s also a good list of the “10 Things You MUST See & Do in Seattle…” including a trip up to The Space Needle, Pike Place Market for all sorts of goodies to eat and local souvenirs, the Seattle Aquarium (ok, that’s our kid’s favourite), and the freaky Underground Tour.

Close to the Space Needle and the Pacific Science Center is the Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame. Where else are you going to find more on Jimi Hendrix, Captain Kirk’s chair from the Enterprise (TOS) and the original teddy bear from Steven Spielberg’s A.I.? Only in Seattle. Excellent restaurants are in close range, like the delightful Zeke’s Pizza.

Getting from the airport to anywhere: Remember, if you need to get a taxi cab at the airport, look to the departures area where people are exiting the taxi.  (Just a suggestion, not an endorsement.)  You’ll receive a number of suggested modes of transportation, but always good to pair up (or three or four) with folks going to the same hotel and split the $25-30 taxi fare into town. There are plenty of rental car agencies, airport shuttles (more info here), private transportation and more: be sure to check out the SETAC airport ground transportation page, with more info on public transit options here. (It will be a breeze once the new light rail service between SeaTac/Airport Station and Downtown Seattle starts running in late 2009, just in time for the 2010 Olympics.)

Getting around town: the local Sound Transit system is an easy way to connect around downtown and the surrounding area.  Taxis are readily available from most major hotels, and likely there are a number of places to see within a short walking distance from your downtown hotel. 

If you arrive into SETAC with other folks on the same flight, consider renting a limo or get together an impromptu set of people going to roughly the same hotel into downtown: that way you’ll pay one limo fee, which runs about $35-40 plus tip.  Do NOT pick up just any limo at the airport: as Forrest Gump said, “You never know what you’re going to get.”

Last, unless you plan on traveling outside of downtown, don’t rent a car (take a cab) unless you enjoy paying daily hotel parking rates akin to what you would pay for a flat in SoHo.

Sleepless? There’s free Wireless in Seattle: Oh, you bet there is. First off, you’ll get free wireless at the Seattle Public Library… if all the branches weren’t closed through Sunday, Sept. 6 due to citywide budget cuts. So check out your hotel, the PAX site and check out this link on for a list of over 200 free wireless hotspots in and around Seattle.

Say hello your new best friend: the hotel concierge.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it here, too: the concierge is your connection when you don’t have connections in town.  When you arrive at the hotel with a concierge on staff, introduce yourself and hand them a business card.  That one move may come in hand later more than you know.  See ‘dinner’ and ‘getting to the airport’ for starters.  If your hotel doesn’t have a concierge, ask the doorman or front desk manager.

As Cowie notes, “ask your concierge to make some reservations for you now at top restaurants so you don’t find that you can’t get in when you arrive there in peak season. Tip the concierge the moment you arrive…”  See, you can learn helpful travel hints from a man that you thought only had great party design sense. 😉

Eating out: You’ll no doubt have some free time one or two nights, and Seattle is a wonderful place. You’ll find plenty of good suggestions via Urban Spoon’s Seattle listings (see their 100 Best Seattle restaurants list), with favourites like the I Love New York Deli, Uli’s Famous Sausage (for hot dogs near Pike Place Market), Bayou on First, Cafe Nordstrom (seriously, the food is very good)…

My personal favourite for a quick lunch: MOD Super Fast Pizza. These pies are awesome and wicked fast.

Best breakfasts: See these suggestions on urbanspoon for breakfast and brunch if you don’t have a complimentary breakfast in your hotel, and if you’re game, check out my favourites La Crêperie Voilà, Dahlia Bakery and the BOKA Kitchen + Bar.

Lunch and Dinner: Around town: Check out the MSN MSN City Guide for Seattle here, as well as their restaurant guide and list of cheap Seattle eats. Also, my favourite web spot for ratings and information is Zagat’s, with links to a few of my favourites. You can also get good customer reviews from OpenTable book many of these restaurants for free via

For a nice evening out, check out Purple Cafe & Wine Bar, Shuckers at the Fairmont Olympic, Tulio Ristorante for good Italian, the incomparable Tom Douglas’ Palace Kitchen, the always good Capital Grille and our favourite Thai fusion at Wild Ginger (ooh, it’s good

A note on booking tables… Consider booking your table through your hotel concierge as noted above: if you haven’t called them in advance, ask for their help in booking a table (tip, please) and get their business card with their phone number after you check in… and give them a tip if they offer a direct dial number.  A good concierge may be able to score a reservation to a hard-to-book place: I have found that your best bet is a well-connected hotel concierge if a direct call to the restaurant doesn’t pan out.  Also, look to your credit card company (many offer a concierge service) or try your hand (or mouse) booking a table at Many of the restaurants still show availability on OpenTable as of today, so book early.

Stuff to see: Always a good reference for the best restaurants, clubs and activities in Atlanta, see lists for Seattle.  I’m guessing that with everything going on at PAX nearly 24 hrs a day you’ll be seeing the convention centre and (maybe) your hotel room for a few hours of shut eye. I’ll add more and any suggestions.


Getting to the airport.  Finding a cab on the last day of PAX or any large event in the city is like finding a fishmonger that doesn’t throw fish.  Arrange a car in advance through your concierge for more than one traveler.  Or that concierge you tipped earlier just may have arranged a shuttle for a small group that has an opening.

Have fun.

Added 090409: You can also follow Ann – aka SeattleMaven – on Twitter to get more insight on the info appearing on the site. Follow her for Seattle expertise, tips & hints!

Bumberdetails: How to navigate Seattle’s music and arts festival, with info on how to get tickets, where to park, what to bring and other information, courtesy of the Seattle Times.

Added 012010: Thanks to Stephen Rose for the link to the guide to Bellevue, adding here for MVP 10 attendees: for more on restaurants, events, happy hour, nightlife and more. 

Tags: Microsoft, Seattle, BellevuePAXMVPtravel tips.

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