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Where to stay when attending PNB performances

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I gave some advise to a forum member on where to stay in San Francisco, and now it's my turn to ask. ;)

What is a good hotel to stay at near McCaw Hall in Seattle? (Preferably within short walking distance, but taking a taxi is OK.)

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Do you have a general price range? When are you thinking of coming?

There are six hotels I know of within a 5-10 minute walk of Seattle Center, where McCaw Hall is located:

  • Mediterranean Inn, which is about four blocks away an on Queen Anne Avenue, which has a lot of inexpensive restaurants and a few nice ones within walking distance. I stay here if I can. The staff is great, and there are microwaves and small fridges in the rooms. Most of the rooms have ceiling fans, although a few have heater/air-conditioning units, and the windows open.
  • Inn at Queen Anne. This is usually the least expensive, and a block closer than the Mediterranean Inn. I've never stayed here.
  • Maxwell Hotel. One or two blocks away, on the other side of the parking garage across the street. If you get on their email list, they send out specials, like three nights for the price of two, or good discounts. I haven't stayed here yet.
  • MarQueen Hotel. I've stayed here and got upgraded, since it was a slow November weekend, and my room was like a movie set. About two blocks away.
  • Sheraton Four Points. I've stayed her once. I thought the staff was very nice and the room comfortable.
  • Best Western Executive Inn. I only know this hotel because one of the bus services between Seattle and Vancouver stops here. It's a slightly farther walk.

There are a lot of hotels downtown, and any of them within an easy walk to the Seattle Monorail will get you from downtown Westlake Center (4th or 5th and Pine) to the Seattle Center campus. Downtown hotels tend to be more expensive than the ones around Seattle Center anyway, because that's a more touristy and business-oriented place, unless you're trying to see the Seattle Ring. The Monorail runs until 11pm all week -- most PNB evening performances start at 7:30 and are over by 10:30 -- and it's about a 5-minute ride, with just the two end stops. There are also city buses that go downtown. Anything beyond the downtown core, though, especially on the weekends, is tricky, especially given the service cuts that happened in September.

Taxis are easy enough to arrange to get there, because the hotel will call, but getting back is a real pain. It's not like San Francisco where you can sign up for one at War Memorial and the taxis show up in droves, or like NYC where they're always there. There's no rank nearby -- there are only a handful in Seattle anywhere -- and while sometimes an occasional cab will drive by after a performance, you can't count on it. My car was stolen before the 2005 Seattle Ring, and I had my pre-arranged taxi take the first person who flagged it down several times, especially since it's not an easy place to connect to one. It's not worth it, in my opinion.

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Do you have a general price range? When are you thinking of coming?

Hi Helene - sorry, I should have mentioned that it shouldn't be too expensive, and this would be happening at the beginning of June. "...microwaves and small fridges in the rooms" would be a good thing. ;)

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June is the beginning of the worst time, because there are graduations and the weather is getting to be nice (or so the myth goes.) For example, for the first weekend in June (Friday 31 May-Sunday 2 June, 2 nights), Expedia shows (all before taxes) the Mediterranean Inn at $149/night, the Four Points at $139/night, the Maxwell at $159, the Best Western at $194, the MarQueen at $174. The cheapest is the Inn at Queen Anne @ $109. There's also the Hampton Inn, which I had forgotten, at $144 -- it get's very good ratings among Expedia reviewers.

Downtown prices aren't any better that weekend, so there's no advantage to staying there, unless you plan to shop, drop your stuff off at the hotel, and then head to Seattle Center. VRBO prices tend to be lower where the commute is more difficult -- Seattle does a horrific job of linking major neighborhoods by public transport, especially on the weekends -- and the prices in Belltown, a relatively easy commute and a longer walk to Seattle Center, depending on how far north the property is -- tend to be higher or comparable/night to the hotels above.

For much cheaper, you have to head out to the airport hotels or hotels north of Seattle, like in Everett, but for the northern hotels, you'd need a car. It is possible to commute to an airport hotel if they have a shuttle from the airport and save $$$, but it's a longish (1-hour, mimimum) commute and bit cumbersome: you'd take a bus or the Monorail downtown -- cheaper to take a bus, since you can transfer, where the Monorail is a separate charge -- and switch at Westlake Center for Light Rail, which would take you to the airport. Then you'd walk through the airport to the hotel shuttles, unless you were at one of the hotels within walking distance, and those tend to be in the same price range as the downtown and Seattle Center hotels.

On Expedia just now I found an $79/night non-refundable offer at the highly rated (Expedia and Trip Advisor) Courtyard by Marriott that is, according to Google Maps, a .4 mi walk from the Tukwila Station (light rail), which is one stop before the airport and a largish transit center (for Seattle). (The same price is available on the hotel website, for refundable, it's $99/night, and only a small savings compared to Inn at Queen Anne, when you include commuting costs.) The hotels in the $50-$61/range tend to be in the 2's and low 3's on a 1-5 scale in ratings. The shuttle listed is a by-request service from the airport, but we found during Skate America that many of the hotel shuttle services were pretty flexible, or you could go one more stop to the airport, and then take the shuttle from there.

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June is the beginning of the worst time, because there are graduations and the weather is getting to be nice (or so the myth goes.)

Yes, I'm realizing that this will be pricey, but there won't be a way around the timing. I may have to take a taxi and not worry about being particularly close to McCaw Hall. Thanks for all this great info!

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A word of caution about that Monorail. It's fine during the day, but dicey after a performance. Be sure to stay with a crowd of theater-goers walking to the station. At the other end at Westlake Center, surrounding blocks can be dark and a little unnerving. A taxi is worth the extra money.

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I've never had those experiences with the Monorail or around Westlake station, but it's not about the money in any case: it's the difficulty of getting a taxi after the performance. Some taxi drivers will say "no" to everyone but the designated passenger, but I once was within shouting distance of my taxi -- I knew from the number on the taxi -- when two people opened the door and got in (like you would in NYC), and he drove away with them. The problem is that they ask, "Are you [name]?" rather than "What is your name?," and people who want cabs will say "yes" no matter what. If there's an event a Key Arena, then that's a lot more competitive.

The best taxi strategy is to arrange a pickup at a restaurant or the Post Office a few blocks away, and then the taxi won't make it down Mercer Street.

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A word of caution about that Monorail. It's fine during the day, but dicey after a performance. Be sure to stay with a crowd of theater-goers walking to the station. At the other end at Westlake Center, surrounding blocks can be dark and a little unnerving. A taxi is worth the extra money.

The best taxi strategy is to arrange a pickup at a restaurant or the Post Office a few blocks away, and then the taxi won't make it down Mercer Street.

These are great things to know - thanks to you both. If I should end up with a rental car - what is the public parking like around the Hall?

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There's lots of it: a big garage across from McCaw Hall, one across the street from that, a lot in Metropolitan Market a few blocks away, and many surface lots within a 15-minute walk. If there's an event at Key Arena, parking fees can be in the $20 range, while it's usually closer to $12 if there isn't one. At least some of the machines at the surface lots with no attendants charge tax (~10%). The surface lots usually have two time slots a day that don't overlap, from early morning to 5pm and from 5pm to early morning. (I often parked at a cheaper surface lot on Republican, just past Roy Street. Republican is the southern border of Seattle Center at that corner of the campus, intersecting with Mercer, and Roy is one block North/parallel to Mercer, but there was no getting there at 3 and staying until 10. The parking building across McCaw Hall lets you stay there for 10 or 12 hours, but I've never had a problem staying a few hours longer.)

A lot of the surface streets are restricted to residents at night. (This is on all of the signs.) There is mixed resident/non-resident parking north of Roy, but as On the Boards once put it, "In Lower Queen Anne, parking is a competitive sport." There aren't any physical meters: there are machines that take credit and debit cards and coins and spit out stickers to put on your car window, but besides being counter-intuitive and slow, they're not all programmed the same way. In many places parking is free on Sundays, but if you're in a paid zone with a machine, check the machine to be sure of the hours, and that you're not in a Sunday paid area.

The paid zones use to be only until 6pm, but the city has hiked the hourly rates and extended hours to 10pm, and with two-hour limits, it's not very practical to run back and forth at intermission to feed the meters.

If you rent a car or take a taxi, you can attend the post-performance Q&A's, and if you do, you can arrange for a taxi pick-up, and there won't be many people around to steal them out from under you, since usually, at most 100 people show up for them. Most will have driven, since it's a great strategy to stay to avoid sitting in a parking lot for at least half the length of a Q&A.

Parking isn't as tight as it is in NYC, but the problem is, people here are philosophically opposed to paying for parking. When I first moved to Seattle from NYC, where the lot around the block from my office was $15-$25, and I offered to pay the $3 for the parking lot that was right there, my friends would refuse on principle, and I would shake my head.

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If you rent a car or take a taxi, you can attend the post-performance Q&A's, and if you do, you can arrange for a taxi pick-up, and there won't be many people around to steal them out from under you, since usually, at most 100 people show up for them. Most will have driven, since it's a great strategy to stay to avoid sitting in a parking lot for at least half the length of a Q&A.

Post-performance Q&A? That seems a bit unusual. I thought those always preceded the performance. But if it means it is easier to arrange for a taxi, then maybe that is the way to go.

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If you rent a car or take a taxi, you can attend the post-performance Q&A's, and if you do, you can arrange for a taxi pick-up, and there won't be many people around to steal them out from under you, since usually, at most 100 people show up for them. Most will have driven, since it's a great strategy to stay to avoid sitting in a parking lot for at least half the length of a Q&A.

Absolutely. And oftentimes, you'll hear things at the Q/A that you wouldn't learn anywhere else.

Parking isn't as tight as it is in NYC, but the problem is, people here are philosophically opposed to paying for parking. When I first moved to Seattle from NYC, where the lot around the block from my office was $15-$25, and I offered to pay the $3 for the parking lot that was right there, my friends would refuse on principle, and I would shake my head.

I know people who absolutely will not park in a lot, and have all kinds of secret special places they park, which makes a trip to the theater with them into a bigger adventure than I sometimes want. I'm not so pure -- I often go alone and am happy to pay for parking near the theater so that I'm in the vicinity of other people when I make my way to the car.

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If you rent a car or take a taxi, you can attend the post-performance Q&A's, and if you do, you can arrange for a taxi pick-up, and there won't be many people around to steal them out from under you, since usually, at most 100 people show up for them. Most will have driven, since it's a great strategy to stay to avoid sitting in a parking lot for at least half the length of a Q&A.

Post-performance Q&A? That seems a bit unusual. I thought those always preceded the performance. But if it means it is easier to arrange for a taxi, then maybe that is the way to go.

There is always a pre-show talk, covering the work in the program and usually led by Doug Fullington. There is also often a post-show Q/A, usually led by Peter Boal and including one or two of the dancers from the production (once in awhile it's a choreographer or stager). They are both excellent programs. If you've not seen the company before, you might want to go to both -- the pre-show program is a great preparation (especially if you're not familiar with the work), and the post-show chat really is a chance to get questions answered.

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There is always a pre-show talk, covering the work in the program and usually led by Doug Fullington. There is also often a post-show Q/A, usually led by Peter Boal and including one or two of the dancers from the production (once in awhile it's a choreographer or stager). They are both excellent programs. If you've not seen the company before, you might want to go to both -- the pre-show program is a great preparation (especially if you're not familiar with the work), and the post-show chat really is a chance to get questions answered.

Yes, could be very worthwhile - thanks Sandik

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Oh, definitely see Doug's presentations before the show -- they're a real highlight. They start one hour before the show and last 30 minutes. They are held in the Nesholm Family Lecture Hall. I don't think you can go directly into the lecture hall from the outside entrance; I think you have to go into McCaw Hall, have your ticket scanned, and then walk straight under the balcony and take an immediate left down the stairs and then take the left or right doors into the lecture hall.

There are also tons of affordable restaurants within three or four blocks of McCall Hall. There are good Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese vegetarian (with soy-based "pork," "chicken," "shelfish," etc. food, and a pub with solid pub food, McMennamin's. Any where from five to ten minutes farther and you can have your pick of more Thai, more pub (TS McHugh's), Indian, Greek, Mexican, small plates, good and really good (but pricy) sushi, pizza, etc. The PNB ticket envelope has a discount offer for entrees at Ten Mercer, which is the fanciest place around with excellent food.

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Helene and sandik have given you excellent input. Allow me to add one small "BTW"....if you're in Seattle in June, with a little luck, you can experience a spring day (most gorgeous). If so, be sure to walk around Seattle Center a bit before the performance or at intermission. You might catch a whiff of why we all love it here so much (altho you're more likely to get gray and rain laugh.png) .

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Thanks Sandy, I will most likely stay in the vicinity of Seattle Center if everything works out.

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One of the good things about being in the Seattle Center area is that it's one of the few areas within public transport striking distance of many major areas:

Belltown--lot's of restaurants, the neighborhood just north of downtown

Downtown--Pike Place Market, and just south of that, Pioneer Square

International District--great Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants in general, and one of the best Japanese restaurants

Ballard--good restaurants, at the western end, the Locks

Capitol Hill--A single bus goes from the Seattle Center area

Bus service can vary depending on the time of day, especially on the weekends. If you have a car, I wouldn't suggest driving it downtown -- you can take the Monorail there -- because parking isn't easy and you have to go way downtown to make a left turn on many streets, and it can be a warren down there -- but Ballard and Capitol Hill are great places if you have wheels, too.

From Seattle Center to downtown or lower Belltown, the monorail from Seattle Center is fast and efficient: it goes over the city, and you can wave to traffic.

Oh, and if people refer to the "Center House," they're talking about the building through which you can get to the Monorail,has now reverted back to "The Armory."

In 1941, Duke Ellington played on stage for the University of Washington's Junior Prom.

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  • MarQueen Hotel. I've stayed here and got upgraded, since it was a slow November weekend, and my room was like a movie set. About two blocks away.

Taxis are easy enough to arrange to get there, because the hotel will call, but getting back is a real pain. It's not like San Francisco where you can sign up for one at War Memorial and the taxis show up in droves, or like NYC where they're always there. There's no rank nearby -- there are only a handful in Seattle anywhere -- and while sometimes an occasional cab will drive by after a performance, you can't count on it. My car was stolen before the 2005 Seattle Ring, and I had my pre-arranged taxi take the first person who flagged it down several times, especially since it's not an easy place to connect to one. It's not worth it, in my opinion.

FYI: I decided upon the MarQueen - very close to McCaw Hall, and since they have refrigeration in the rooms, I can always bring food to the room, which I like. They also have a new Tin Lizzie lounge which provides food most of the day.

I decided to make a mini-vacation out of it (since I'm going to the trouble of flying to Seattle). I'm going to take the ferry to Victoria and spend a couple of days there as well. Is a taxi the best way to go getting from SEA-TAC to the MarQueen?

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The MarQueen is within two blocks of one of the best supermarkets in Seattle, Metropolitan Market, and there's also a Safeway about three blocks away in the opposite direction. Plus the kitchens are good if you eat out and need to reheat the leftovers. It's within half a block of a slew of restaurants of every price range, but most of them affordable.

If you're traveling light and have the time, you can take light rail from the airport to the other end stop at Westlake Center in downtown Seattle, and either take the Monorail to Seattle Center and walk 10 minutes through the Center to the MarQueen, or you can transfer to one of the buses that goes from 3rd Avenue to Seattle Center West to Mercer Street and walk around the corner to the Marqueen. (It would be the stop on Mercer Street after Republican, which is by the Key Arena.)

If you take a taxi from the airport -- somewhere between $40-$50 with tip -- unless the driver objects because there's construction (probably on 99), have him (most likely) or her take 509 to 518 to 99 (Aurora) instead of I-5. I used to live ten minutes north of Seattle Center, and taking that route, I'd made it to Seatac in less than 30 minutes.

There isn't a ferry directly from Seattle to Victoria, but there is the Victoria Clipper which runs from from downtown Seattle to downtown Victoria. From the MarQueen, it's a short (10-15) minute taxi ride or a short bus ride plus a two block walk downhill from the MarQueen. After clearing customs at the Clipper terminal in Victoria, you'd be a five-minute walk from at least a dozen hotels and a 10-minute walk from the heart of downtown (the Empress Hotel, BC Legislature, BC Museum, etc.). The Butchart Gardens is the biggest draw in all of Victoria. You can get there as part of a tour, by taxi (it's a 25-minute ride from downtown), or by city bus (about 45-50 minutes). Coming back to Seattle, it would be a short bus or taxi ride from the Clipper terminal (after passing customs) to Westlake to catch light rail to the airport, unless you want to take a taxi.

The ferry itself leaves from Anacortes, WA -- a 1.5-2 hour car ride from Seattle or 2.75-3 hours by shuttle bus (in good traffic) -- and sails to to Sidney, BC, about 45 minutes north of Victoria. I looked up shuttle info from downtown Seattle to Anacortes, and found one company with rates of $29OW/$50.50 RT (or $29 from downtown Seattle to Anacortes plus $31 from Anacortes to Seatac airport if you're heading directly home), plus $18 each way for the ferry, plus $5.00RT if you take the public bus from Sidney, BC to downtown Victoria, but you can get an discounted 7-day advance purchase ticket on the Clipper for $146 (non-weekend trip from May until the third week of June). It's 40% more expensive, but it takes about half the amount of time. The Clipper takes about three hours. The shuttle is 2 hours 45 minutes to Anacortes, the ferry ride itself is 2 hours 20 minutes, and then it's another 45 minutes from Sidney to Victoria, not including waiting times in between.

During winter hours, the only ferry from Anacortes to Sidney leave at 8:30am, and the early (6:25am) shuttle doesn't get to Anacortes until 8:45am, after the daily ferry leaves. (The spring/summer schedule from WA State Ferries might not be up for a few months.) There may be at least one other ferry during summer hours from Anacortes to Sidney, but chances are, you'd end up on a shuttle that got you there with a few hours to kill before the next ferry left for BC. The only other option without a car rental would be to shuttle up to Anacortes the night before taking the ferry, staying there overnight, and then getting from town to the ferry terminal, by taxi or shuttle.

The downside of the Victoria Clipper is that they hawk their food (breakfast baskets), duty free, souvenirs, and tours during the entire trip. It's good to have headphones. During the summer, they tend to be full, and it's easier to find some quiet space on the big ferries. But with just a few days, I'm not sure you'd want to chance the traffic and spend so much time in transit to save ~$50, and headphones help, especially the noise canceling kinds. You're going to need that time to stand on line at Red Fish-Blue Fish to get the best fish and chips and fish tacos around (unless you don't like fish).

Victoria rocks: most of what is there to see is within a reasonable walk, with the exception of the Gardens. I used to go a few times a year when I lived in Seattle. It's the number one place that people who visit me in either Seattle or Vancouver want to see. I even like it in winter, and plan to head there in January.

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All great info, Helene. I am taking the Victoria Clipper - they have good hotel rates in the package deals, better than Orbitz actually. And it appears that they get a block of rooms set aside for them so it is a way to get into a hotel that is otherwise unavailable (as I discovered). I'll be going in early June, so I'm sure the ferry will be packed, but I just want a good view of the channel, and a reasonably fast journey. I'll definitely have earplugs with me - it's the only way to travel!

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I second Helene's opinion -- the Clipper is fast and simple from Seattle -- the only downside is that you leave pretty early in the morning. I also love Victoria, very walkable and friendly to tourists. In June there will likely be street entertainers along the pier in the Inner Harbor (at night they sometimes have fire jugglers). The Royal BC Museum is absolutely worth the admission, even if they don't have a special exhibit on.

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I second Helene's opinion -- the Clipper is fast and simple from Seattle -- the only downside is that you leave pretty early in the morning. I also love Victoria, very walkable and friendly to tourists. In June there will likely be street entertainers along the pier in the Inner Harbor (at night they sometimes have fire jugglers). The Royal BC Museum is absolutely worth the admission, even if they don't have a special exhibit on.

I was actually able to get 3pm departures on the Clipper, so perhaps they've changed their departure time options recently. I prefer the leisurely departure myself - gives me extra time for a nice lunch in Seattle. ;)

I'll most probably take in the BC Museum while in Victoria.

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I'm glad you found the Clipper packages -- they have lots of good summer deals. During the summer months, they have extra boats, and your 3pm boat might be less crowded, since a lot of people do a day trip or an overnight and try to maximize their time by taking the early boat in and the last boat (early evening) home.

The BC Museum is one of my favorite places in Victoria. There are also free tours of the legislature. You can pick up a ticket from an outdoor desk to the left of the stairs, and the tour is less than an hour.

I'm a softy for Miniature World, with its displays of the railroad and the settling of the western part of Canada. It's right by the Empress Hotel.

A warning about High Tea at the Empress: it's a big room, pretty noisy unless it's late lunch on a rainy winter day and there aren't many people. I'd call it "Corporate Tea." (The version at the Fairmont in Ottawa is a lot cosier.) We didn't try tea at Butchart Gardens, because it was too late, but another one that came highly recommended was the White Heather Tea Room, which looks like a bit of a hike from downtown, but when I looked at the menu, a nice long walk after the meal might be in order. We were going to go, but just couldn't fit it into the rest of our day, since by the time we called (a few days before for the weekend), there was only one time slot left.

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I'm a softy for Miniature World, with its displays of the railroad and the settling of the western part of Canada. It's right by the Empress Hotel.

A warning about High Tea at the Empress: it's a big room, pretty noisy unless it's late lunch on a rainy winter day and there aren't many people. I'd call it "Corporate Tea." (The version at the Fairmont in Ottawa is a lot cosier.) We didn't try tea at Butchart Gardens, because it was too late, but another one that came highly recommended was the White Heather Tea Room, which looks like a bit of a hike from downtown, but when I looked at the menu, a nice long walk after the meal might be in order. We were going to go, but just couldn't fit it into the rest of our day, since by the time we called (a few days before for the weekend), there was only one time slot left.

Miniature World sounds great! I could go for that too. I had thought of Tea at the Empress, actually, but I'm not sure if I want to brave the big crowds by myself. That will be a 'wait and see' idea...

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FYI if you're staying at the MarQueen, you are right next door to a bus stop for the RapidRide bus. It costs $2.25 - 2.50 each ride, and takes you directly downtown with fewer stops than regular buses. The line that goes from downtown Seattle through Queen Anne and on to Ballard is called the "D" line. During the day it runs every 10-20 minutes. Save a little money and use it on a nice restaurant. :)

Most of the restaurants are pretty good in Lower Queen Anne, but there are a couple to avoid. I'll make a list for you tomorrow when I have a little more time.

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