The INTA Annual Meeting 2018 is here: our unofficial guide to Seattle

Based on extensive first-hand experience, Seattle-based trademark experts – both working in corporate departments and at law firms – give us the inside track on what to do, see, eat and drink while visiting the Emerald City for this year’s INTA Annual Meeting. 

With the International Trademark Association (INTA) hosting its 140th Annual Meeting at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle over the next week, we reached out to counsel with knowledge of the city to give us tips on how attendees can make the most of their time there. For convenience, most of the links below are to Google Maps. Finally, for their excellent recommendations, special thanks to: Russell Jacobs at Starbucks, Dana Northcott at Amazon, Russ Pangborn at Seed IP, Michael G. Atkins at Atkins Intellectual Property and Erin Hennessy at Bracewell LLP

The one ‘must see’ while in Seattle

For many delegates, any ‘must see’ in Seattle will be seen through taxi windows or walking between meetings and receptions. But for those wanting to see what the city has to offer, our local experts had some recommendations. The first is to avoid the ‘must see’ that most people will suggest if asked where to get the best city views, specifically: “The common answer would be to enjoy the views from the Space Needle, but if you want the best views in town, go to the observation deck of the Columbia Tower. The building is nearly twice as tall as the Space Needle and on a clear day, the views are spectacular in every direction.”

For more breaktaking views, two of the experts suggested Kerry Park in the Queen Anne neighbourhood for its “iconic view of of the skyline” and another suggested the Palisade restaurant in Magnolia for a “great view of downtown Seattle’s skyline”. Elsewhere, the Pike Place Market – which is situated close to the convention centre – was highly recommended. “Be sure to go off the beaten path to find interesting food stalls and crafts and don’t miss the fish throwing fishmongers,” said one of our local experts, with another joking that the so-called ‘Gum Wall’ there “is a disgusting, colourful, and memorable landmark”.

The ‘must do’ while in Seattle

While spare time will be at a premium for many delegates, the inevitable ‘reception crawls’ will ensure that some of Seattle’s suggested ‘must do’s’ will, well, be done. For instance, one popular recommendation is Chihuly Garden and Glass, where a number of events - and the Grand Finale - take place. In fact, attending the finale will let you tick Chihuly Garden and Glass, the Museum of Pop Culture, and the Space Needle off your ‘must do’ list.

Similarly, Pike Place Market - recommended again by our local experts - is a popular pick and delegates will no doubt find their way there. However, head their at sunset to see it truly come to life. Perhaps after that, go for sunset cocktails on the pier at Aqua by El Gaucho.

For those with a little more time on their hands, taking a ferry to one of the islands is deemed to be a must (with one insider tip being the mussels at Penn Cove on Whidbey Island). Or, we are told, “for something different, take a sea-plane ride through Kenmore Air.  Planes take-off and land in both Lake Union and Lake Washington, which are quite close to the Washington Convention Center. If you have enough time for a quick course, you can even fly the plane yourself””.

Talking of planes, for the vast majority of delegates that will be the mode of transport for getting to Seattle. If you have some time on your hands and are looking for a suitable diversion (and don’t want to follow Chris McLeod’s suggestion of Sleepless in Seattle because, hey, we all will be soon enough) then one of our local residents notes: “The ‘most do’ before coming to Seattle is to watch Cameron Crowe’s Singles, his 1992 love-letter to our grunge scene with plenty of Seattle sights.” The author of this blog has already downloaded the soundtrack on Spotify and is ready go to back to the early nineties...

The hidden gems

While there are many fairly obvious picks that visitors to Seattle can see, our local guides also had some off-the-beaten track recommendations. The first, and arguably the most flexible, is to “take a ferry, to anywhere, then take it back to Seattle – the skyline sights from the ferry can’t be beaten”. For those wanting a less watery mode of transport, another expert suggested that delegates should take “a bike ride on the Burke Gilman Trail, with the destination being the wine country of Woodinville for food or a drink”.

In fact, another of our experts also had wine from Woodinville on their mind. “It’s just 40 minutes away from Seattle, and it’s where many of Washington’s vineyards have tasting rooms,” they said. “Be sure to stop by Novelty Hill where you can play bocce ball in their outdoor court and enjoy flatbread pizzas and Chateau Ste. Michelle which, as its name suggests, is an actual chateau.”

For those delegates who will be wanting to avoid wine – or any alcohol – after late night receptions, perhaps a “stroll through Olympic Sculpture Park on the waterfront” is a more relaxing option. Alternatively, another of the experts had a particularly seasonal recommendation, “the cherry blossoms at the University of Washington during this time of year”.

The overrated areas and attractions to avoid

While there’s plenty to see in Seattle, there are a couple of places that our local experts suggested are worth avoiding at certain times. On the face of it, the aforementioned ‘Gum Wall’ was shunned by a couple of locals, with one saying it’s “pretty disgusting, but seems to continually attract people”, and further advising delegates to “keep a safe distance from the gooey gum”. In that same area, Pike Place Market is advised to be avoided on weekends, while the top of the Space Needle is viewed as overrated – especially, unsurprisingly, on a cloudy day.

Where to head for a hearty pre-conference breakfast

When a convention centre breakfast of two bananas and a mediocre coffee just won’t do, our local experts had suggestions for a more fulfilling first meal of the day. The 5 Spot restaurant is “a local favourite”, said one, and its “two eggs any style with choice of Lan-Roc ham steak, house made sausage patty, bacon, grilled pork chop or tempeh bacon” sounds just the ticket after a few drinks the night before.

If you want breakfast at any hour, the 24-hour  Beth’s Cafe on Aurora is recommended. A look at its menu presents a challenge for delegates: can you eat their “legendary” 12 egg omelette with “all you can eat hash browns” and manage to make it back to the convention centre without a nap in-between? As the menu states: “Sorry there is no prize for finishing a 12 egg omelette other than the knowledge of a job well done!” Challenge accepted!

For a hearty but more refined breakfast, Toulouse Petit may be the answer. It is described as a “hip Cajun-Creole spot with a cozy, New Orleans–influenced dining room”, and the menu reflects this: fried oysters, crab, rustic duck, creole crawfish, beef tournedos… it’s a far cry from the slap-up, greasy fry-ups us Brits are used to. Also in the finer side of things are any of the three Portage Bay cafes, which serve up organic breakfast favourites; one particularly hearty-sounding option on the brunch menu is the “two organic scrambled eggs, hill’s pepper bacon, house-made bourbon fig jam, organic arugula, mount townsend creamery new moon jack cheese on house-made potato bread”.

For those with a sweet tooth, The Crumpet Shop at Pike’s Market could be just what you’re looking for. “It’s not a hearty breakfast but it’s a yummy one,” remarked our local expert. After we’ve had our 12-egg omelette, we don’t think we’ll have room for a crumpet…

Best place for a great coffee and catch up on emails

Seattle is known, of course, for its coffee. And INTA delegates are known for drinking lots of coffee in a bid to keep fuelled up for the constant flow of meetings, sessions and receptions. In that regard, Seattle is the perfect Annual Meeting destination. So where do the locals recommend for caffeine-needy trademark professionals?

Café Vita (with multiple spots around town), Storyville and Café Press in Capitol Hill get the thumbs up. If you are seeking a French pastry to accompany your beverage, we are told that Belle Epicurean is the place to go – it has one small shop downtown and another in Madison Park. We are also told that, “while Seattle has plenty of cafes, you can also duck into the iconic Rem Koolhaas-designed Seattle Public Library; it’s free, central, and semi-hip.”. Finally, one of our local experts – who may or may not work for the company – also recommended the Starbucks Reserve® roastery, which is just three blocks from the convention center. Given that Seattle is where the Starbucks story started nearly 50 years ago, it makes for a natural pit-stop for brand-interested professionals.

Restaurants recommended above all others

For many, dinner plans have long been made. However, we thought it would be useful to ask our local experts for some prime dining spots. Mashiko, a sustainable sushi restaurant, and Sushi Kashiba near Pike Place, are high on the list, while Shucker’s Oyster Bar in the Fairmont Olympic Hotel has “some of the best seafood, which in Seattle is saying a lot”. Staying with seafood, another recommendation is Matt’s in the Market, which is again located in Pike’s Market, where one guide says “they incorporate whatever is fresh in the market that morning!”.

Another of our panel of experts suggests that delegates head to any of local chef Ethan Stowell’s restaurants. “My favorites are Tavolota in Bell Town, How to Cook a Wolf in Queen Anne and Staple & Fancy in Ballard,“ they noted. And if small, local restaurants are more your thing, “one particular favorite is The Harvest Vine – it serves delightful Basque style small plates with a great wine list”.

Where to go to get away from the conference bustle and relax

When asked for recommendations for those much-needed quiet moments, the Arboretum is most cited, with its offering of gardens, trails and kayaking providing something for everyone. For those that fancy a stroll, Green Lake is another ‘go to’ place. 

Meanwhile, Alki Beach in West Seattle is within easy reach. In fact, as one expert noted, “you can take the Alki water taxi from downtown, which is also a great way to enjoy views of the Seattle skyline, possibly see some harbour seals and on the very rare occasion, migrating orcas!”

Elsewhere, the wine tasting in Woodinville was suggested once again. And for those whose only prospect of quiet time is a quick drink between meetings near the convention centre, we were promised: “There are some hidden bars and restaurants in the Pike Place Market that will be mostly free of INTAers.”

The best post-reception, late-night drinking spots

After reception hopping, sometimes a final drink or two to round off the night is just the ticket. But where to head? As well as the Café Presse in Capitol Hill, the Frolik rooftop bar on the fifth floor of the Motif hotel is identified as a hidden gem. Additionally, we were told, “if the weather cooperates, drinks at The Nest (atop the Thompson Seattle hotel) is a fabulous setting, with great views over the top of the Pike Place Market to the Puget Sound.  Another great spot is the Rhein Haus, a big German beer hall that boasts a fire pit, bocce courts, and multiple bars keeping the beer flowing.” And if midnight ice-cream is more your thing, head over to Salt & Straw.

Safe travels

For those reading this before they jet off to Seattle, have safe, comfortable travels. If there are any other hidden (or not-so-hidden) gems you know about or find during the next week, plus do let us know in the comment below. Finally, don’t forget you can keep up-to-date with the latest INTA Annual Meeting news and insights on our Twitter feed.

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