A Seattlite’s Walking Guide to Pax Prime

27 Aug

Beyond PAX? Madness!

Hello, ASTRO Family,

If you’re attending PAX Prime this year and are not a native to the area, you might be a little at a loss of what surrounds the Convention Center.

As a former resident of Seattle, I want to pass on my wisdom* (*Random and often useless knowledge) about the area onto you. Since we’re family and all, it seems high time we start sharing some secrets.


The most important thing to remember about food in the area is that anything within visual gaze of the convention center is going to be overcrowded. The Cheesecake Factory across the street? Don’t even think about it. You could try to make a reservation, but my reasoning is, if you’re in a new city, avoid the chain restaurants as much as you can and take in the local flavor.

Breakfast/Coffee Shops –

Starbucks – Do you like how I made a point about taking in the local flavor and then immediately start giving advice on a coffee chain? This is for two reasons:

  1. Starbucks originated in Seattle. And yes, if you feel so inclined, you can visit the original store that first opened in 1971.
  2. Morning caffeine (especially during conventions) should never be messed with, and Starbucks is nothing if not consistent. This is the one case where I will advocate that if you have a routine, embrace it.

However the thing to remember (though it sounds cliche, there is truth in it) is that there is literally a Starbucks nearly on every corner. The closer you are to the convention center, the more crowded it will be. Also you will want to avoid moving closer towards Pike Place for your caffeine satisfaction because then you’ll also deal with end of the year tourists on top of the PAX crowds. My recommendation? If you take a walk down to Pacific Place just one block northwest of the convention center. On the corner of 7th and Pine you’ll find a Barnes and Noble and if you go down to the main level of the book store you’ll find their cafe which serves caffeine in the Starbucks way.

Cafe LadroIf you want that Seattle-coffee experience but a little less mainstream, there’s also a Cafe Ladro close by. Great coffee, and less likely to be overwhelmed by out of towners than any Starbucks you’ll see close by. Their baked goods do tend to be more on the side of sweet rather than savory, so if you plan on getting more than coffee, that’s something to keep in mind.

Top Pot Doughnuts11 minutes of walking to doughnuty heaven. Look, I’m not really a doughnut person. I’m just not. But I really miss Top Pot. Portlanders will rave about VooDoo Doughnuts, but I feel it’s more about kitsch than flavor, and I’ve seen people confess how they can go through Krispy Kremes like they’re air… But Top Pot just does doughnuts. A wide variety of carefully crafted gourmet doughnuts. And man, now I’m craving a Lemon Valley Girl Jelly-Filled doughnut. P.S. Their coffee is also fantastic.

Local 360 – If you’re looking for something more than a breakfast sandwich and a latte, this locally-sourced cafe is a well-worth 16 minute walk away. They are open all day (Breakfast, Lunch, or Dinner) and it’s all amazing, but I specifically recommend breakfast in this case because their cheesy grits are so tasty that I have risked the wrath of my own lactose intolerance in order to enjoy them.

Portage Bay Cafe – You’ll also have to mosey a bit to get here, but again, it’s a fairly easy walk in terms of terrain. A small Seattle-only chain with big flavor, this place is especially great if you’ve got a druid or anyone with a more sensitive stomach in your party. Catering to gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, vegan or meat-eaters who have no food restrictions other than “it must be delicious”, Portage Bay is a fantastic place to grab breakfast or brunch. Note: If it’s Saturday or Sunday, you must go before 10 to avoid giant brunch crowds. This place is popular among the locals for a reason.

Lunch/Dinner –

8oz Burger & Co – “Not all burgers are created equal” is their slogan and they aim to prove it. Just up the street from the Washington Convention center, you have to contend with a bit of an incline but for this tasty meal, you’ll be glad you did. Meat not your thing? Not to worry, Seattle is extremely dietary restriction friendly and their veggie burger is pretty epic (and I’m not even vegetarian!)–and they’ve got a vegan and gluten free option for the bun.

Cafe Yumm – Relatively new to the area, this chain cafe is completely contained within the state of Oregon save for this one location. Cafe Yumm serves up a very different kind of rice bowl, all complete with their very own “yumm sauce”. I can tell you right now this sauce is delicious, and addictive and I will be buying a bottle to sneak back with me down to San Francisco before the convention is over. Caters to carnivores, vegans, vegetarians and anyone avoiding gluten or dairy. Great spot to stop for lunch.

Dragonfish Asian Cafe – Amazing food, albeit a little pricer than other places I’ve mentioned, but if you sneak in during Happy Hour (3 – 6pm, 9 – 1am daily!), you can get some delicious sushi and small plates cheap. There’s something for everyone to enjoy in this restaraunt that prides itself on “award-winning Pan Asian cuisine [that] brings the entire East Asian region to Seattle.” They also serve their dinner menu until 1am, so if you’re leaving PAX (or a PAX party) late and need to find some grub, this is the place to go. Additionally, if you’re not leaving until Tuesday? You should know that they have a special Monday Happy Hour. Starts at 3 and doesn’t end until 1am, no breaks. Something to keep in mind if you need to decompress after a long weekend of gaming glory.

Dick’s Drive-In – Seattle’s semi equivalent to what In-And-Out used to be (before the secret menu). The menu is simple, and the fries are just the right combination of grease and salt. If you’ve been out all night at a PAX Party, this is the perfect place to sober up. In fact, I’d argue that’s the ideal way to experience a big ol’ bag of Dick’s–it’s even open until 2am for your partying convenience. Not super close to the convention center, but then again, neither are a few of the parties. Be safe out there.


Sights/Attractions – 

Pike Place Market / The PierYes, it’s very typical tourist, but if you’ve never been, you need to go. Get some amazing fruit from local farmers, watch fish get thrown around, and take a picture with the golden pig.

Places of Interest:

  • Golden Age Collectables – Hidden in the shops below the main street market, one of my favorite Seattle Haunts.
  • The Seattle Aquarium
  • Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe – With Mummies, Mermaids, two headed calves and delicious fudge all in one convenient location
  • The Seattle Wheel – It’s really just a big fancy Ferris Wheel but we’re proud of it.

The Seattle Center – You can take the monorail from Westlake Center to get here easily. A word of warning: This weekend is also Bumbershoot so this area will be a bit crazy.

  • The Space Needle (Because I feel like I’d be betraying my old hometown if I didn’t mention it at least)
  • The EMP (Experience Music Project), Music + Popular Culture Museum, including Fantasy, Sci-Fi and Horror exhibits.
  • The Pacific Science Center which currently has an exhibit on The Secret World of Espionage.

GameWorksNearly right across from the Convention center, this place gets crowded quickly, HOWEVER, if you are in town Thursday night from 5pm to close, $10 will get you unlimited play on all games (games that produce tickets, exempt). Make sure you bring your ID, however, because even if you aren’t drinking, everyone under 18 has to leave

The Seattle Underground/Underworld Tour – A 16 minute walk away, learn about Seattle’s odd and unconventional history. Including how no one died in the Seattle Fire but a number of people died from falling off the 30ft ladders leading from the sidewalk up to the street. Yes, at one point, Seattle’s streets were 30ft higher than the sidewalk. Want to find out why? You’ll have to check out the tour. If you’re 21 and over, you can check out the two late night tours which covers more of the history of Seattle’s underworld… and how it helped keep the city afloat.

Now of course there are a ton of parties and events actually related to PAX itself, and we wouldn’t dream of tempting you away, but if you decide you want a taste of the city, we hope this will prove helpful to you.

Just a few more days and we can’t wait to see you. Until then, be sure to follow us for all the latest updates:


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