Conventional Wisdom – Washington State Convention Center (WSCC)
While I’ve attended a few conventions by now, the only show of it’s kind I’ve attended with heavy frequency has been PAX West. To that end, as a follow-up to my last article, I’m going to offer some tips on the WSCC, or Washington State Convention Center. It hosts PAX West, Sakura-Con and Emerald City ComiCon, just to name a few big events. If you’re going to a convention in Seattle that’s big, odds are it’ll be at the WSCC.
The WSCC is located in Seattle, Washington, right off of Interstate 5, or the I-5, with the main entrance on Pike Street. It’s situated near quite a few notable Seattle landmarks, the biggest being the Space Needle (just over twenty minutes away on foot) and Pike Place Market (around eleven minutes away on foot). It’s a dense area with a lot of busy intersections and one way streets, but the monorail also has a stop nearby and there’s plenty of public transit.
Also features a cafeteria next to a multi-level urban park. So modern!
The WSCC is, quite frankly, kind of an awkward building. The ground floor is mostly retail, and then the second and third floors offer mostly smaller side rooms, with the fourth and sixth floors being where the main expo space is. You may have noticed I didn’t mention the fifth floor… the fifth floor is, as near as I can tell, all conference rooms and barely exists, no doubt to allow for more ceiling space on the fourth floor. Additionally, there’s the WSCC, and then there’s the Washington State Convention Annex, which is across the road but, if the show is big enough, may also be a part of it. A sky-bridge on the fourth floor connects the Annex and Centre together. There’s parking inside the WSCC which is kind of pricey, but overall not too bad (only consider if staying too far away to walk as the parking will be full).
Three main escalators: one to go up, one to go down, and one to never go the direction you want it to.
I mentioned above that the WSCC does have parking, but it’s also got its main entrance on Pike Street. This is a problem, since Pike Street is one way, heading north-east. Union Street, which is ‘behind’ the WSCC, goes south-west, so looping around is possible, but in general traffic in the area can be rough. Average parking in the area is, as of writing this article, roughly $36 dollars for overnight, though day parking can easily run cheaper than that. However, it’s been my experience that basically all Seattle hotels charge for parking, so if paying more doesn’t appeal, Seattle does have a few options. Seattle Central Link light rail stops right near Benaroya Hall, which is around five blocks from the WSCC. The Seattle Monorail also has a stop about two blocks away, but it basically only goes between that location and the Space Needle. There’s various bus stops located nearby, as well as a designated area for hailing cabs right out from of the WSCC.
Some people prefer to instread ride in… what’s the opposite of style?
Where to Eat
In this non-paid endorsement section, I’ll plug a few places I recommend eating at in the neighbourhood. These are all sit-down dining experiences, as those can be harder to gauge in terms of quality than fast food.
Daawat Grill & Bar is right next to the Annex building and offers a $13 buffet Monday through Saturday, which includes a nice salad bar and usually at least five kinds of curry, plus of course naan, rice and dessert. So long as you like Indian food this place is great. They do also have some non-Indian dishes and you can order online. I’ve never seen the place full.
The Daily Grill is the Sheraton Hotel’s restaurant, which is one street over from the WSCC. It tends to be crowded, but it has a nice waiting area and both the service and food quality are quite good. Prices can go a little high, so not the most affordable place, but comfortable and the wait, in my experience, has usually been fifteen minutes or less.
Blue C Sushi is one block away, attached to the Grand Hyatt Hotel, and while usually crowded (if not full), it does boast a cheap novelty: conveyor belt sushi. I’m not sure how common the practice is elsewhere but it’s a fun novelty for me, with plates of food passing by on a conveyor belt so you can just grab what you like. The plates are colour-coded to let you know how much the food is, and you can probably leave after spending $15 or less.
New Saigon is a hole-in-the-ground Vietnamese restaurant about two blocks away from the WSCC. You go down some stairs, so it’s not wheelchair friendly, but it usually isn’t full and has very quick service. It’s pure Vietnamese food but most menu items don’t go over $10 so you can get a fairly cheap and delicious meal if that’s your kind of fare.
Fast food is an option, just be wary of sign-based sexual harrassment.
Where to Stay
I’ll now talk about a few hotels I’ve stayed at in the area. It should be emphasized that these are places I’ve stayed at, so I won’t be speaking for some other close hotels I have not stayed at. Not included are a couple of hotels I stayed at far in the past and whose names I can’t recall, so as a result this will be a short list.
Sheraton Seattle Hotel
In general I kind of love this place. It’s literally across the street from the WSCC, has a decent restaurant for breakfast, and a pool on the top floor (interior) so you can swim off some exhaustion. The rooms are nice-enough and fairly modern. The main thing I dislike is the parking. Valet at the Sheraton is some of the most expensive in Seattle, and their nearby non-Valet garage is a bit of a pain to reach (though not impossible, a buddy of mine didn’t have too much trouble with it). Still, even non-Valet will run you $30 a night, but sadly that’s the price for parking in downtown Seattle.
Hilton Seattle Hotel
Located about three blocks away from the WSCC, this hotel is pretty solid. Parking’s a bit cheaper, with the garage actually taking up around 12 floors of the hotel itself (that way the Lobby is actually the 13th floor). The hotel breakfast area is decent, though they do stop serving fairly early (10:30 AM last I checked). The rooms are absolutely fine, about on par with the Sheraton. The main issues with the Hilton are that the elevators are pretty small (or at least some of them are), and that the place is uphill from the WSCC. The appeal of places like the Sheraton and the Grand Hyatt for me is that it’s super easy to drop stuff off in your room during the day, but while the Hilton’s still fairly close, the climb can make it annoying.
Travelodge Seattle by the Space Needle
Within walking distance though not an easy commute, the Travelodge is about a five minute walk from the Space Needle and about fifteen from the WSCC. The rooms are fine, but the cheaper the hotel usually means the lousier the soundproofing. Wi-Fi is complimentary, beds are fine, there’s an included breakfast, and the parking fee is pretty low. There’s even a seasonal pool, with a hot tub no less. The main downside, besides the distance from the WSCC, is parking. The parking is fee itself is cheap, and there’s a decent amount of space, but it’s outdoor parking and they will not let you leave your car there until later in the day, unlike the previous hotels I mentioned. If you’re staying until the day after your con that’s no problem, but if you’re leaving the second the con is over, this can be an inconvenience.
La Quinta Inn & Suites Seattle Downtown
Basically right next to the Travelodge, with mostly the same advantages and disadvantages. Big points against are no pool and less parking (price is about the same at least), but points in favour are a better quality breakfast and microwaves in most rooms. Wi-Fi is also complimentary, and they will make you move your car, plus the soundproofing still isn’t great.
Just make sure you can actually sleep on your bed.
Assuming you’re near the WSCC, the most convenient two locations to visit are the Bartell Drugs on 5th Street and the Kress IGA on 3rd. The IGA has the added fun of being an underground grocery store, so it can be a fun experience just to visit due to the novelty. The Bartell is, of course, a pharmacy first, but there’s enough convience items there to help with anything you’re lacking. If you want quality, however, the Pike Place Market itself is roughly seven blocks away (there’s a mini half-block in there) and is fairly iconic for the region.
The local tea selection is good, but maybe don’t pack your fancy pot?