This year around PAX I spent a bit of extra time exploring the Seattle area. It is not the first time I’ve taken some time, in fact last year I did the same thing and I have found it really helps the show feel like a full vacation. There are a lot of really cool things in Seattle and the nearby area but here are a few things I’ve found. Some are more touristy, and a few are a bit off the beaten path.
Pike Place Market
This is one of the more obvious/touristy destinations but with a bit of everything. You can get fresh fish, as well as see it thrown around a booth. There are TONS of flower vendors selling giant and gorgeously colorful bouquets for 10-15 bucks. There’s a tiny doughnut cart that has some of the best cinnamon doughnuts I have ever had that come fresh off the line and that they shake into the cinnamon and sugar as you order them. There is a hole in the wall tea and crumpet shop, though be warned it will probably have a line and is not open Monday’s and Tuesday’s. Plus there are the touristy but tasty options of pike place chowder and the first Starbucks, which are both surprisingly worth it for tourist traps.
My favorite part of the market though is just wandering and seeing all the small vendors and shops. It’s a haven for craft and boutique shopping. Just grab a cider from one of the fresh produce vendors and wander. You won’t regret it.
Another shopping-ish area in the city is Pioneer square. You can walk there from market, or if you aren’t up for a 15-20 min stroll it has a light rail station. There are a bunch of local shops, and it is the start of the underground tour (which I have yet to do but it is on my bucket list for the city). If you are there don’t miss the little cookie shop, because who doesn’t like a good chocolate chip cookie.
The Space Needle
Probably the most obvious tourist destination in the city but one of those attractions that is still fun to do. You can actually get there from the Westlake area (near the convention center and Pike Place) by hopping on the monorail that was built for the world’s fair. It’s a bit pricey to go up the needle (I think about $35?) but the views are pretty awesome. Plus while you are up there you can stop in the EMP experience or the Chiluly gardens which are both nifty options. EMP is a pop-culture museum, while Chiluly is a glass sculpture garden.
Home of the troll! Who you can actually walk right up to and visit. Plus, if you are in to cider I found a really awesome cider house with 32 different ciders on tap, and flights of 6 tasters for like 12 dollars that is worth the trip up.
Found this one by chance. It’s a small residential island in the sound between the city and the mainland, but its is a pretty place to drive around, and has a lot of hiking trails in the center of the island if you are looking for a place to walk and wander that is not urban.
Last PAX (back when it was still Prime) I took a trip to Redmond and the Microsoft campus. They hold events there the day before the show, but I actually went a few days prior to that and just wandered the campus and the store/museum in the main building. It is a really pretty place, feeling more like a college campus than a work place, and is kind of nifty to visit if you are any type of computer nerd.
Boeing in Everett Washington
Of all the cool things I have done in the Seattle area this one was the most time/logistics but also was one of the coolest. A friend of mine and I rented a car and drove up to the facility in Everett to do the tour. If you are planning to do this I recommend reserving the tour ahead of time, since it is a long ways out of the city and would suck to get there to find out they are full for the day etc.
The tour itself is extremely well put together and honestly worth it even just to get to experience the sheer size of the facility that they have built out there and to see how some of the giant planes like the Dreamliner are actually assembled. If you are like me and a science/engineering nerd than it’s really a don’t miss kind of thing.
The Bucket list
That being said there are still lots of things in and around the city I would still enjoy trying to see, though most of the things I have on the list are a day trip or longer from Seattle at this point. For example:
- Rainier and the surrounding parks
- Victoria (there is a ferry that goes straight from the city)
Either way, I have found that with any show I go to taking a day or two to actually get to experience the city can make the convention trip even more rewarding. It is fun to actually feel like you are experiencing a part of the city and not just the show.