You'll have to excuse me if there's just a bit more content leading up to this specific game than normal. Back when I lived in LA, I had the Syracuse at USC game circled on my calendar* for years, not only as a chance to see SU play but also to organize the biggest gathering of lunatics this side of the Juggalos.
*Truth be told, I don't have a calendar, let alone one that allows me to circle dates. I apologize for any harm this has caused you or loved ones.
So when I decided to move to Seattle, you can imagine my delight in knowing that the festivities schedule had been pushed up a year. Besides, by the time Syracuse plays USC next year, that game will probably have been moved to the New Meadowlands as well. We're going to play all our out-of-conference games there soon enough.
So for those of you who are coming to Seattle for the game or are thinking of coming to Seattle for the game, this is the first in a series of posts that, hopefully, make your planning a little easier. I've gotten a lot of emails about the best times to come in, where to stay, what to do, etc. and I figured I'd do my best to help out.
Speaking of where to stay, I've got some help in that department. GameDay Housing, which helps sports fans find a place to stay when traveling to other cities, wants to help Syracuse fans who don't want to do the hotel experience. Got a group of friends that want to stay together? GDH is offering $200 off of a house rental the weekend of the SU-UW game. At the moment they have two properties listed (and expect to add more), and if you split the difference on either of them with other people, it's a pretty solid deal.
To win the $200 off, email me with the subject line: SU-UW Contest and I'll automatically enter you in the drawing. Since time is of the essence for your planning, we'll pull a winner in one week (July 30th). My only request is that you enter the contest only if you truly intend to use the prize or know someone who will. Good luck!
So the two big pre-planning questions I've been getting are, "Where should I stay?" and "What day should I come in?" Let's tackle each one on their own, shall we?
Where Should I Stay?
Well, you've got the aforementioned GameDay Housing option now. But let's say you've got your heart set on a hotel near the game or city. First things first, make sure you have a basic idea of the neighborhoods.
See Lake Union right in the middle? Consider that the center of the wheel. From there, you can move in any direction and hit the major areas of Seattle. To the northeast, you'll see the University District, where Husky Stadium is located. To the southeast, you'll head past Capitol Hill (Seattle's Brooklyn) and head downtown (Pike's Market, Pioneer Square, Qwest Field, SafeCo Field). Go southwest and that will take to toward Queen Anne (residential neighborhood) and the Space Needle. Finally head northwest and you'll head towards Fremont & Ballard, two quirky, eclectic neighborhoods.
Honestly, that's all you really need to know. Anything outside those areas are probably not where you want to be. Especially when it comes to hotels.
Your instinct might be to stay near the University and there's nothing intrinsically wrong with that. The U-District has a couple decent hotels and a walkable "downtown" area. However considering you're here for 2-3 days and want to do more than just attend a football game (I assume), you probably would like something a little more "in the action." The bus system is just fine for getting around town, but the best option remains walking. And there's only so much in walking distance. (We'll get to Seattle's weird, separated public transportation system in the next post...)
The Space Needle! You definitely want to see that while you're in town, right? It's in Seattle Center and there's a lot of affordable hotel options in that vicinity. Holiday Inn, Best Western, etc. There's a monorail there that provides easy access to downtown as well. Two issues, though. Number one, you're far away from any of the University-area activities you might want to be a part of (though not THAT far). Number two, Seattle Center isn't all that nice. Take away the Needle and the Experience Music Project and it's a kinda-rundown neighborhood and certainly not the kind you want to be walking around in late at night. If you stay around there, you'll want to stay indoors after a certain hour.
How bout a hotel near SeaTac Airport? It'll make life so much easier when I head back and there's a train that runs directly from the Airport to Downtown. Well, there's a reason that train is there. It's far. About a half hour car-ride away, assuming there's no traffic. And there's always traffic. Any money you save staying near there will be spent on travel costs and then some. Don't do it.
Finally, there's Downtown, and if I were coming into town and looking for the best spot to stay, this would be it. You're not in walking distance to the stadium but there's plenty of ways to get to the game easily (including buses and the unfortunately-named South Lake Union Train a.k.a. S.L.U.T.) Plus, it's easy-access to all of the other things you came here to see (Pike's Market, Puget Sound, Pioneer Square, The Waterfront, etc.). Especially if you're going to want to kill time, want to walk around and have bars/restaurants nearby at all times, it makes too much sense to try for a spot around here. Of course the downside is that all the expensive hotels are in this area as well.
So in conclusion, here's the general neighborhood list for hotels. #1, Downtown. #2, Seattle Center. #3, U-District. If you decide you want to go the house/apartment rental route, I'd try to stick to Downtown, Capitol Hill, Queen Anne, South Lake Union, U-District, Wallingford and Fremont. Anything else will be a little too far, me thinks.
What Day Should I Arrive?
If you're Doctor Moneybags or looking to turn this into a vacation, I guess it doesn't matter which day you came in. But if you're just coming for the game, I suppose you have a choice to make. Thursday or Friday.
The Case For Thursday - If you want to turn this into Super Sports Weekend Festival Du Jour, well then you probably want to get here early on Thursday. Check in at your hotel, drop off the bags and start painting your face green. The Seattle Sounders are in town, hosting Real Salt Lake FC. And let me assure you, Seattle likes it's soccer. I mean, even before the World Cup people were decked out in scarves and jerseys and like-minded bright-green items. Sounders games are a notoriously tough ticket so you'll probably want to try and get seats now or be ready to deal with scalpers/sellers that day.
The Mariners aren't in town that weekend and that's probably for the best. Oh and the Sonics aren't playing...as you know.
They will almost certainly be some kind of sanctioned SU-related event on Thursday night. Worst case, all the SU folks in town can find a spot to gather in I'm sure. Consider a Thursday arrival a chance to enjoy the quiet before the storm. Plus, you can get up bright and early and do all your sight-seeing Friday. You'll have everything done in time for Friday night's festivities.
The Case For Friday - You can here to chew bubblegum and watch Syracuse kick ass and you're all out of bubblegum, right? So screw all that sight-seeing. Most of it is a waste of time anyway, right? Get here, drop the bags off at the hotel and make your way out to the Friday night festivities. At the end of the night, head back, sleep, get up early Saturday for some pre-game, tailgate, watch Syracuse kick ass, party some more, go to sleep, wake up Sunday and get out of town. Efficient, effective and endorphin-jarring.
Part II next week will delve more into what else you do with your time here, what to bring with you, whether or not it really will rain the whole time and if everyone still wears flannel. Thanks again to GameDay Housing and please email me your entry if you want a chance to win that $200 off. Winner will be announced and notified July 30th.