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The Syracuse vs. Washington Experience: Being A Lazy Tourist

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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 second 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. 

Part I: Where To Stay

Part II: Being A Lazy Tourist

Part III: Being An Awesome Tourist

Part IV: Cuse Fan Festivities

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.

(The one on 68th street that sleeps seven people could be yours for the weekend for $300 after the special offer.  Not only is that a ridiculous deal, $43 per person, but the location is pretty great for traveling to and from the game as well)


To win the $200 off, email me with the subject line: SU-UW Contest and I'll automatically enter you in the drawing  Time is of the essence so let me know ASAP.  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!

With that out of the way, it's time to figure out what the hell you're going to do with yourself Friday, Saturday morning and Sunday.  They're not going to let you hang out in the Husky Stadium parking lot the whole time.  I'm pretty sure of that.  So you're going to have to stay busy.  Here's some options for you, assuming you're as lazy as I think you are.

Quick, what's the first three things you think of when you think of Seattle?  Space Needle, Pike's Place Market and the Puget Sound Waterfront, right?  I know you're going to visit these three things.  There's no stopping you the same way there was no stopping me the first time I came here.  The truth is, you're going to check out these three things, you're going to be mildly entertaining by the sights, mildly aggravated by the crowds and mostly underwhelmed by the whole experience.  We'll get to the things you should do instead next time but since you're not going to budge on this, let's at least do these things correctly.

Tourist Trap: The Space Needle

What Is It?  You know the Needle, it's basically the Seattle city logo.  It was built for the 1962 World's Fair and it's 605 feet tall.

When To Go: Never? early as humanly possible.  Doors open at 9am ($18/adult) and I suggest that's when you get there.  Otherwise you'll be standing in line way longer than you need to.  When you finally do get up to the top, it's cool-ish.  You've been atop tall buildings before, right?  Same thing.

If You Go, Don't Forget: To also visit EMP (below) and take a look at nearby Key Arena.  According to legend, something called the SuperSonics used to play basketball there. According to even greater legend, something called the Storm still plays basketball there.

If You Go, Feel Free To Forget: The restaurant at the top.  Never been but I think we can make an honest guess that it's overpriced. Besides, plenty of great places on Seattle ground level to eat.

Instead, Go To: See that large hill next to the Space Needle?  That's the Queen Anne neighborhood.  Get some serious exercise and book it up to the Kerry Park at the top of the hill for some great views.  Plus, your photo op just got even nicer because now the Space Needle's in it as well as the Seattle Skyline and Mt. Rainier. 

Tourist Trap: Experience Music Project (EMP) & Sci-Fi Museum

What Is It?: When you visit the Space Needle and see that wacked-out, weird-looking building that looks like it's going to come alive and eat your family...that's EMP/Sci-Fi Museum.  It was founded by Paul Allen in 2000 as a kind of music museum.  The Sci-Fi museum was added a little later.

When To Go: The earlier the better, though it's not as crowded or crazy as the Needle. The less people, the more likely you'll be able to enjoy the hands-on parts of the museum, like playing instruments and listening to interviews with famous musicians.  Most of the museum is exhibits, like the history of Northwest Music, a Jimi Hendrix retrospective and some other rotating exhibits.  The Sci-Fi Museum is basically the basement of the building and it's full of memorabilia...that's about it. It's basically a couple hallways with some costumes in them.  Doors open at 10am and $15 gets you into both museums.  That's a fair price...a couple of the exhibits are interesting but you'll be surprised with how quickly you're in and out of there.

If You Go, Don't Forget: To check out the Sound and Vision stories room.  Strap on some headphones and listen to your favorite musicians, actors, producers and filmmakers talk about their work.  Actually kinda cool.

If You Go, Feel Free To Forget: The Sci-Fi Museum.  And that's saying something.  This place should be my bread and butter but its just not big enough and doesn't contain enough cool stuff to be all that worthwhile.  Where's the reconstructed Millennium Falcon cockpit?  Where's the Star Trek Enterprise bridge replica?  Where's the interactive Avatar exhibits?  Instead its a lot of books in glass cases.

Instead, Go To: Need a music fix?  Go check out a live band instead.  The Triple Door, Neumos, Nectar and The Showbox are known for their live music.  Need a sci-fi fix?  Go see a movie at the Majestic Bay Theatre in Ballard, Guild Theatre in Wallingford or The Harvard Exit Theatre in Capital Hill, three very cool arthouse/independent theaters in the area.

Tourist Trap: Pike's Place Market

What Is It?: It's a public market full of every kind of food and tchotchke stand you could think of.  It encompasses 8 buildings, multiple levels and multiple blocks. It's large.

When To Go: As early as you humanly can and be gone by 10am.  And don't even think about going on Saturday or Sunday.  When it's empty, the market is a delightful, calm stroll full of exciting foods, products and sights that takes you to a simpler time and place.  When it's packed, it's a tourist deathtrap that makes Times Square look rural.  And from about 10am until the end of the business day, it is packed.  You're not there to buy produce so do yourself a favor and get there just as it opens in the morning.  And try to go Thursday or Friday if at all possible.

If You Go, Don't Forget: Make a pit-stop at Beecher's.  You can't miss the giant cheese-making trough in their window.  If you only eat one thing at the market, make it their Mac and Cheese.  If you can eat a piping-hot cup of this manna and tell me you've had better, I will make you prove it.  Also, check out The Pink Door for great drinks, good food and a cool vibe (it's the one with the pink door...duh).

If You Go, Feel Free To Forget: Most of the restaurants inside the actual Market.  You'd think, being they're inside a farmer's market, that the food would be good.  Go figure.

Instead, Go To: One of the great local Farmer's Markets all over Seattle.  Top picks include the Fremont Farmer's Market (Sunday), Ballard Farmer's Market (Sunday) or the brand-new Olympic Park Farmer's Market (Thursday).  And for the love of God, try the wood-oven pizza if you do.  

Tourist Trap: Seattle/Puget Sound Waterfront

What Is It?: Imagine if someone took the Jersey Shore, removed the beach, dropped the temperature about 25 degrees, shipped out the Staten Island guidos and put a highway right on top of it...that's the Seattle Waterfront.  Once much more of a maritime hub, it's now full of restaurants, ferries and other tourist traps.

When To Go: Anytime is fine.  Of course staying off peak hours means you don't have to weave in and out of crowds as much.  My suggestion would be to start on the Eastern tip of the waterfront and head west.  Maybe you even want to kick it off with a close-up look of Qwest Field and SafeCo Field, but don't get lost...neighborhood gets weird quick.  Head east, stopping at your leisure on the many piers.  There's the Seattle Aquarium if you want to kill some time. If you're in the mood for seafood, Ivar's is the "traditional" place to go though Elliot's Oyster House was recently named "Best Oyster Happy Hour" by the Seattle Weekly.  End the walk at Olympic Sculpture Park and check out the art scattered throughout the grounds (not to mention the view), which includes weird stuff like this.

If You Go, Don't Forget: To check out the ferry schedule.  There's a lot of islands and cool places all around Puget Sound.  The easiest excursion is to Bainbridge Island.  A 30 minute ferry ride will get you there.  Mom will love it for the trinket shops and small-town feel.  You'll like the non-strenuous hikes along the water and trees.  If you do go, explore past the main street. Lots of farms, shoreline and cool spots to find (that's advice for myself as well).

If You Go, Feel Free To Forget: The Aquarium.  It's nothing special.  And really, you shouldn't be wasting your time in an aquarium anyway.

Instead, Go To: Want the waterfront without the insane crowds and touristy bulls**t?  Three options for you.  First, the Chittenden Locks. Northwest of the city, this is the place where Puget Sound meets Lake Union (that giant lake in the middle of the city).  It's free, you might get there just as a boat is going through the canal system which is semi-interesting and you can watch salmon jump up the fish ladder which is way more fun that it should be.  Second, there's Green Lake.  It's a big lake surrounded by trails, sports fields and it's a perfect location for people-watching, bird-watching, running, impromptu games of flag football and swimming.  Finally, there's Gas Works Park.  At the northern tip of Lake Union, you'll find this former coal gasification plant turned public park.  It's one of the best views in Seattle and an awesome place to just chill the F out.  My favorite place in the city.

Stay tuned for Part III of the series...Being An Awesome Tourist, showcasing the places to go and things to do if you want to be a little adventurous during your time here in Seattle.