There are a couple new features at this year’s show, which runs Friday, Jan. 23 through Saturday, Jan. 31 (its original end on Sunday, Feb. 1 is canceled due to the Seahawks playing in the Super Bowl), that you’ll want to know about. So here are a few things you need to know to maximize your show experience. If you have others, post them in the comments section below.
Score free tickets. Many marinas, boatyards, brokerages and other businesses give away free show tickets. It’s worth checking with your friends in the industry to see if they might toss a few your way. If you’re lucky, they might even have tickets for the Uncorked wine-tasting event on opening night or the Sails and Ales beer-tasting event on the second Friday of the show, Jan. 30. Tickets are normally $27 and include show admission, a glass and six tasting tokens.
And if that doesn’t work, score some free tickets anyway. Any poor sap who doesn’t own a boat can get into the show for free from Monday through Thursday after 5 p.m. Just show up at any of the entrances, tell the entry staff about how meaningless your life is without a boat and bingo, you’re in! You’ll also get a brochure with information about show exhibitors who can tell you just how to part with most of your disposable income and free weekends via the joy of boat ownership. The hope is that you’ll remedy your tragic existence by actually buying a boat during the show, but you’re not obligated to.
If you are serious, go on a weekday. If you’re considering buying a boat, making a major gear investment or planning a major upgrade or project, it’d be best to go to the show on a weekday, when the crowds of looky-loos and tire-kickers aren’t there. Exhibitors will have more time to talk with you, and you’ll get more personalized attention. The 10-day show is a long haul for exhibitors, so you’ll also be helping them break up the weekday monotony.
Wear slip-on shoes. Regardless how you feel about clogs, flip flops or Birkenstocks, any of them would be an ideal footwear choice for the show. If you plan to check out any boats, be advised that you’ll be required to remove your shoes before stepping aboard. Laces are not your friend here. (And if you’re wearing shoes sans socks, you might want to schedule that pedi you’re been meaning to get. Or at least trim your toenails.)
Get a boat’s-eye view of the boats afloat. You don’t need to shiver your way around the docks to check out the boats on display at the outdoor part of the show. Instead, you can check out the boats during a free guided tour on a Duffy electric boat. The 21-foot boats are enclosed and heated, and the 20-minute tours will include facts about Lake Union and details on the boats for sale. Boats will run on weekdays from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and on weekends from 10:30 to 4:30. And there’s a free shuttle every 30 minutes between CenturyLink and the lake, making it easy to take in both parts of the show.
Ask exhibitors to match prices. There’s no official show policy that requires exhibitors to engage in price-matching. But for most of them, the show is the year’s biggest marketing event, and they’re very interested in making sales. Many offer deals during the show, whether that’s a free haulout with a bottom paint job or a discounted dinghy. It’s worth shopping around to see what various exhibitors are offering and at what prices, and seeing if their competitors will meet or beat.
Carpool and save a few bucks. Last year there was no free parking offered with ticket purchases, but this year it’s back. If you buy four or more adult tickets online, you get free parking in the CenturyLink Field Event Center parking garage (which will save you around $12, depending what the cost is this year; that’s enough for a couple of beers). Buying tickets online also gets you a free cup of chowder at nearby FX McRory’s restaurant and a year’s subscription to Sea or Boating World magazine. Check out the various ticket options and packages here.
Take in some seminars. Many people go to the Seattle Boat Show for its wide range of (free) 45-minute seminars every day of the show. There are more than 200 of them on a broad array of topics, from cruising destinations to fishing tips. And this year organizers have added 35 new seminars, as well as a fourth stage on weekends. New topics include drones and aerial photography on boats, using smartphone apps and tablets underway, and outfitting and provisioning your gourmet galley. A full seminar schedule is available here.
Enter to win Seahawks season tickets. If you don’t already have Seahawks tickets for 2015, you’re SOL — there are reportedly around 12,000 people on a wait list for them. But anyone who goes to the boat show can enter to win a pair of season tickets, with the option to buy playoff tickets following the 2015 season. And if you have season tickets, you can enter a later draw to win Super Bowl tickets. The season ticket winner will be announced Saturday, January 31st at the BoatUS display, West Hall Booth 78.
Take your appetite afield. If you’re looking for something other than the usual boat show fare, consider venturing out into the surrounding neighborhoods for a post-show lunch or dinner. Pioneer Square, just north of CenturyLink, is enjoying a renaissance as the city’s new culinary hotspot, with some of Seattle’s most renowned restaurateurs opening stylish bars and eateries in beautiful old historic buildings. And there are plenty of good Pioneer Square stalwarts to check out as well. The International District, just across the parking lot on the north end of the site, has scores of Asian restaurants where you can indulge your cravings for anything from sushi to Szechuan.