(Some) Things to Do in Seattle When You are Here: A First Look

Maureen Murphy Nutting, October 2004

The Local Arrangements Committee (LAC) is busy gearing up for the AHA's 119th annual meeting in Seattle, which runs January 6–9, 2005. To take full advantage of everything the meeting has to offer and still have time to explore our region, we encourage you to extend your Pacific Northwest travel at either or both ends of the meeting. With the affordable rates the AHA has secured for you in first-class downtown hotels, extending your stay before or after the meeting may be a great thing to do before heading back to the classroom, the museum, or the office.

Greater Seattle is a vibrant metropolis with a stunning natural setting and thriving cultural and arts institutions. The home of Boeing, Immunex, Microsoft, Nordstrom, PACCAR, Starbucks, UPS, and Weyerhaeuser, not to mention a world-class symphony, opera, ballet company, theaters, and art museum, the Puget Sound region has something to offer historians and everyone else. To ensure that you make the most of your time in Seattle, a very enthusiastic and hard-working committee is putting together free and low-cost local tours; assembling information on events, excursions, and side-trips; and securing discounts for you to take advantage of while you are here. Our goal is to make the Seattle meeting a great one, and to entice you to come back here in the summer when the days are long and wonderful, and there is so much to see and do.

Before you come, we recommend that you plan your visit carefully, and make reservations early. Perspectives articles from now to December (available online at www.historians.org/Perspectives), will present information about specific places, events, and activities, and provide web links to sites that will allow you to learn more, make reservations, and so forth. Through the AHA's annual meeting page (www.historians.org/annual), you can access other portals, including Seattle's Convention and Visitors Bureau site (www.seeseattle.org), which will provide specific weather, travel, and updated events information as well as links for AHA visitors before and during the conference. To get a good sense of Seattle's history and its neighborhoods before you visit, Walt Crowley's HistoryLink site (www.historylink.org), provides some 4,000 original, sourced essays on Seattle and Washington State history, special features such as an illustrated "10 Minute History of Seattle," and interactive "Cybertours" of Pioneer Square, Pike Place Market, downtown Tacoma, and other historic districts. As we get closer to the meeting this site will post special content to further inform and assist convention-goers.

Arriving

There are three alternatives to taxis ($40 and up!) and limo services for the trip from SeaTac airport to your hotel. Shuttle Express takes passengers directly to their destinations and charges $21.25 for one rider, and discounted rates for additional passengers. Gray Line Airporter buses stop at several downtown hotels, and charge $8.25 per person. The cheapest option, Metro bus 294, departs from SeaTac's Bay 2 (exit baggage claim and walk to the right until you see the bus stop), takes the express lanes to Seattle, and makes stops in the downtown bus tunnel. Ask the driver where to exit for a specific hotel. Rush hour fares cost $2.00, and off-peak fares are $1.25. Current Metro postings say this ride takes 21 minutes.

Those driving to Seattle should park outside of downtown and rely on buses, cabs, and ferries while in town. Cabs aren't cheap, but garage fees are very expensive. If you are flying into SeaTac and plan to go skiing or to visit other communities, we recommend that you rent a car for only those days when you are venturing well beyond city limits.

Those arriving in Seattle on Amtrak can hail a cab or walk north and east from the station to the 4th Avenue bus stop just north of South Jackson Street, and ride for free to their hotels during Free Zone hours.

Tours

The LAC is arranging a number of interesting low-cost and no-cost city and neighborhood tours that will run intermittently from January 5 through 9. Each tour has a different focus, and several will run during lunch breaks on meeting days. If you are interested in downtown Seattle, the waterfront, Pike Place Market, Pioneer Square, the International District, the Klondike Gold Rush, and/or lesbian and gay Seattle, sign up for these walking tours.

The LAC is also arranging a Duwamish River boat trip (on an enclosed boat for the weather-wary) for those who want to learn more about Indian and environmental issues in the region. For detailed information about these tours, please check the program and connecting web sites. We advise you to sign up early for these tours, as space will be limited.

Museums

Seattle has a lively arts scene, and provides first Thursday free admissions to many local galleries and museums, including the Seattle Art Museum, the Seattle Asian Art Museum, the Museum of History and Industry, the Wing Luke Asian Museum, and the Boeing Museum of Flight. The Seattle Asian Art Museum also grants free admission to everyone on first Saturdays, and to senior citizens on first Fridays.

A Walking City

Seattle is a place to walk around on your own, and walking less than a mile in different directions from the Convention Center will take you to some great destinations:

  • North—past the renovated Paramount Theatre and the brand new Federal Courthouse, through the vibrant "edge" Belltown neighborhood to the Space Needle and the Seattle Center, home to the 1962 World's Fair and today's Seattle's Science Center, new Opera House, Repertory Theatre, Children's Theatre, the Arena (home of the Seattle Supersonics), and Frank Gehry's Experience Music Project (EMP) Museum, and its new Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame.

  • Northeast—to Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen's new biotech corridor and to REI's flagship store, where you can test ride bikes, try out rain gear and hiking shoes, scale a climbing wall, or outfit yourself for your next ascent of K2—and a few more blocks will take you to the Wooden Boat Center, the south shore of Lake Union, and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

  • East (and uphill)—to Seattle's kinetic Capitol Hill, where gays, Goths, and many other diverse populations mingle; where you can salsa or tango the night away.

  • Southeast (and uphill)—to First (Pill) Hill, home to several hospitals, Town Hall, St. James Cathedral, and the free and unique Frye Art Museum.

  • West (and downhill)—to the Pike Place Market and waterfront, Seattle Aquarium, and Odyssey Maritime Museum, several landmark theatres, major stores, and shopping centers.

  • Southwest—past the Seattle Art Museum and galleries, to the Washington State Ferry terminal, Pioneer Square, the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park museum, historic Union and King Street railroad stations, the Underground Tour, the Mariners Stadium, and the new Seahawks Stadium.

  • South—past the spectacular new Rem Koolhaas-designed Seattle Public Library, the old federal courthouse, and on to the Chinatown-International District and Wing Luke Museum.

Before exploring these destinations on your own, be sure to consult one of the many downtown maps that will be available to you at the convention and via the web, talk to local staff at the AHA information booths, or take one of the LAC-sponsored walking tours to get your bearings in the city.

If walking distances or (possibly) inclement skies deter you, remember that from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. you can ride free on the downtown Metro from the waterfront to 6th Avenue and from South Jackson Street to Battery Street. You can also hop on any coach for free in the downtown transit tunnel, which runs from the Convention Center to the International District beneath 3rd Avenue, between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. (when it closes). After the "ride free" hours and beyond the "ride free" zone, city fares cost $1.50 in peak time and $1.25 at other times. If you plan to ride the bus often beyond the free zone, you can purchase a one-day visitor's pass for $5 (see http://transit.metrokc.gov/). With any luck, the Monorail, which is currently being repaired, will be up and running again between Westlake Center and Seattle Center ($1.25 one way).
Whether you prefer museums or mountains, steak or sushi, warm firesides or ultimate snowboarding, microbrews or fine wine, Seattle offers great choices and memorable experiences that extend beyond the annual meeting. So, join us in January. We look forward to seeing you here.

Maureen Murphy Nutting (North Seattle Community Coll.) is a co-chair of the Local Arrangements Committee for the 2005 annual meeting.