Visitor Info

General Info

We look forward to your visit! Below you will find information on how to get to campus, weather, nearby restaurants and accommodations, as well as fun sites around campus & near Seattle. You can also take a virtual tour of the city. Please click here for additional information for colloquium speakers.

The picturesque University of Washington is located on a spacious, park-like campus about 5 km from the downtown area and the Seattle Center. Bike trails lace the region. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer (one of the city’s online newspapers) has a helpful guide to neighborhoods in Seattle. Each neighborhood has a unique character, so you can match your living environment to your personality and interests. You may also be interested in looking at two of Seattle’s other newspapers for information about the city: the Seattle Times and the alternative weekly The Stranger.

Useful Information for Visitors

Weather & Geology

pnw_reliefThe geological variety of the region is illustrated by the relief map. Note Mt Rainier 100 km south of Seattle, Mt Baker 120 km north of Seattle, the Cascade Mountains east of Seattle, and the Olympic Range west of Seattle. Ferries connect the Seattle region with the San Juan Islands, the Olympic Peninsula, and Victoria, B.C. Whales abound in the spring, eagles in the summer, mushrooms in the fall, and salmon in the winter. Ducks, geese and slugs are permanent residents. Metropolitan Seattle is surrounded by water; lakes and the Puget Sound wind through the area.

Vectors (Directions)


  • The Physics/Astronomy Building is on the corner of N.E. Pacific and 15th Ave. N.E. Our offices are on the third floor. The office phone is 206-543-2888.
  • From I-5 take N.E. 45th Street (exit 169) and drive east for about a mile. Turn right on 15th Ave. N.E. and drive south to the last light (N.E. Pacific). It will help to print and bring the maps on this page.
  • If you arrive by air, the SeaTac Airport is served by all major carriers, with especially frequent service on United, Northwest, and Alaska airlines. The campus is about 20 miles north of the airport and five miles north of downtown. The arriving passenger has many choices of conveyance to downtown and UW. See this regional map for a layout of the metropolitan region. Click this airport map to see the various passenger pickup/dropoff modes and locations of service. The campus map will help you to locate our building, and our office finding chart will guide you to our offices, all of which are on the third floor of the Physics-Astronomy Building. A local hotel map and list can also be useful.
  • If you come by taxi or airport shuttle, tell the driver that our street address is 3910 15th Ave NE, at the NE corner of NE Pacific and 15th Ave NE. The cab fare to campus is about $50. Shuttles are less expensive ($25) but can add 30-60 minutes.
  • The Sound Transit Link Light Rail operates between Sea-Tac Airport and the downtown Seattle transit tunnel. You can then transfer to an express downtown-UW bus, numbers 71, 72, 73 (every 10 minutes during the daytime M-F).
  • Getting into the building from street (basement) level is tricky. Walk up a flight of outside stairs and find any doorway on the first floor (main campus level) of the B or C wings of the building.
  • If you need to park, there’s a large U.W. underground lot which is entered from the intersection of 15th N.E. and N.E. 41st St. Ask the attendant at the toll booth for a campus map. On-street parking is limited to 2 hours.
  • The loading dock entry is at 3910 15th N.E., immediately north of the building. Drive down the ramp on the east side of the street north of the bus stop and into the basement. (Parking regulations in this area are strictly enforced!)

Lunch Spots & Restaurants

This is not a complete list of area restaurants, by any means. And restaurants are Darwinian, with new ones coming and going all the time. This list was last updated in 2015.

Most of these restaurants are on “The Ave,” which is the local nickname for University Way NE (14th Avenue). Those on the Ave. cater to students and, hence, are on the inexpensive side. Even so, the food is generally good. Most remain open for dinner. On foot, head west to the edge of campus, which is 15th Ave NE, and then go one block farther west to University Way. 40th through 45th Streets are west of campus; the higher the number, the farther north. The University Bookstore is on The Ave between 43rd and 45th. It is open every day at lunch time and on Thursday evening.

To reach the last two restaurants, walk along Pacific eastward from the Physics-Astronomy Building. Agua Verde is a block south of the PAB, and Ivar’s is reachable along NE Pacific just beyond the I-5 bridge (perhaps 8 blocks west of the PAB).

The District (tapas, sandwiches, full meals):
ground floor of University Tower – Best Western Hotel
NW corner of NE 45th & Brooklyn NE
(free parking in hotel lot, ask for pass at restaurant)

Shultze’s (sausage and brat sandwiches)
4108 University Way

Big Time Brewery and Ale House (Sandwiches and local brew)
4133 University Way

Pizzeria Pagliacci (Pizza)
4529 University Way

Agua Verde (Mexican, very fresh, lots of seafood)
Boat Street at the end of 15th NE. 1 block south of the PAB.

Ivar’s Salmon House (fish)
On Lake Union just past the I-5 viaduct. Easy walk.


Hotels are listed alphabetically. Distances listed below are approximate walking distances to/from the Physics-Astronomy Building. Most hotels have private parking, and many have free shuttle service. All hotels have nearby restaurants and shopping. Current price information on individual hotels can be found in the Seattle-King County Lodging Guide, Seattle-North section.

Hotel Deca (formerly University Tower Hotel)
4507 Brooklyn Ave NE
206-634-2000 (toll free: 1-800-899-0251)
Distance: 0.8 mile
Price class: moderate
Comment: The most glamorous hotel in the area, Modest rates and the only hotel with a nice restaurant for dinner.
Silver Cloud Inn
5036 25th Ave NE
206-526-5200 (toll free: 1-800-205-6940)
Price class: moderate. Includes continental breakfast
Distance: 1.25 miles
Comment: The newest and spiffiest hotel in the area. Every room has a microwave and refrigerator.
University Inn
4140 Roosevelt Way NE
206-632-5055 (toll free: 1-800-733-3855)
Price class: moderate
Distance: 0.5 mile
Watertown Hotel (New hotel; co-owned with the University Inn which is located a block south)
4242 Roosevelt Way NE
206-826-4242 (toll free: 1-866-944-4242)
Price class: moderate
Distance: 0.5 mile
College Inn Guest House
4000 University Way NE
Price class: inexpensive. Includes breakfast
Distance: 0.2 miles – closest to our building
Comment: European-style bed & breakfast, in renovated Tudor building with no in-room TVs. Friendly people. Bathrooms are down the hall. Arrive before 11 P.M. Request quiet room. No off-street parking, and local streets have parking meters.
University Motel
4731 12th Ave NE
Price class: inexpensive
Distance: 1.0 mile
Comment: Some rooms are actually large suites containing a bedroom, sitting room, and kitchen. Fills up fast.
University Travelodge
4725 25th Ave NE
Price: inexpensive
Distance: 1.25 miles
Comment: No frills, newly renovated, and comfortable.


Chambered Nautilus
5005 22nd Ave NE
Seattle, WA 98105
206-522-2536 (toll free: 1-800-545-8459)
Fax: 206-528-0898
Price class: moderate. Includes full breakfast.
Distance: about 1.3 miles, and a pleasant walk. Comment: A Bed and Breakfast in a quiet area.


Exit Interstate 5 at NE 45th Street, a few miles north of downtown Seattle. Go east — you will soon cross Roosevelt (which would be 10th Avenue if it had a street number), 12th, Brooklyn (13th), and University (14th). If your hotel is on one of these avenues, turn left if the number is greater than 4500, right if less. For the Travelodge and Silver Cloud, continue along 45th past the University of Washington, down the viaduct, and make a 270-degree right turn back under the viaduct so that you’re heading north on 25th Avenue. The Travelodge is across from the University Village shopping center on the left, and Silver Cloud is just past the shopping center on the right.

Attractions / Fun Sites

The information in this section is authored by Prof. Bruce Balick.


Hotels: Click for a Fodor’s list of hotels. The Ramada Seattle Downtown (2200 5th Ave.), the Belltown Inn (2301 3rd Ave.), and the King’s Inn (2106 5th Ave.) are often a good values (best to check)! Prices drop with distance, but this has to be weighed against the hassle of getting into the city. Parking can be an issue.

Sites: The downtown area is extremely lively and relatively safe region, especially during the day. An essential tool for city tourists is this commercial detailed tourist site map which has locations, descriptions, and links to all major sites of interest. A paper version is available at information kiosks at the airport and elsewhere. The City of Seattle has these useful tips for visitors.


  • Seattle’s public “Metro” buses within the downtown zone are absolutely free from 6 A.M. to 7 P.M.!
  • There are over 150 coffee bars within downtown, many of them in bookstores. (They are good places to find public rest rooms.)
  • The views and attendant costs of real estate are highest in the Downtown — University — Queen Anne area and adjacent hills, much like San Francisco and Vancouver B.C.
  • Crime is low for U.S. cities; nonetheless, the relatively pedestrian areas beyond to the south and north ends of the commercial region should be avoided after 9 P.M. Don’t make eye contact with the panhandlers. See this article.
  • The international headquarters of Starbucks, Nordstroms, Costco, and Amazon are downtown or nearby. Starbucks’ first cafe is in the Pike Place Market. Boeing and Microsoft are largely in the ‘burbs. The tour of the Boeing assembly plant near Mukulteo and Everett is quite impressive (25 miles north on I-5 to exit 189/route 526, then 2 miles west).

The University District

uw_gugHotels in the University District are often less expensive and offer much more convenient parking than those downtown. The U District has many inexpensive and moderate restaurants. Access to highways and freeways is easy, and there are many city buses to downtown (71,72,73) and elsewhere around town. Another advantage is that most of the tourists from the massive cruise ships are elsewhere.

The University of Washington one of the loveliest campuses in the U.S. Here’s a virtual picture tour. More campus walk information is given here; of special note are the Burke Museum, the campus tree tour, the medicinal herb garden, the waterfronts and marshes that define the south and east borders of the campus, and the Washington Park Arboretum, all of which are a pleasure in spring and summer. You can rent bikes and explore the Ship Canal along the Burke-Gilmann bike trail (next section). Another very popular place to visit is the vast faculty/student-owned cooperative bookstore, the U Bookstore on University Ave. near NE 45th St.


Along the Ship Canal & Beyond

fremont_trollStrung out west to east near the Lake Washington Ship Canal that bisects Seattle are

These and other interesting places are connected by the 20-mile Burke-Gilman Bike Trail, which is part of Seattle-King County’s park system. You can walk or rent a bike if the weather is nice (closest rentals: Recycled Cycles and Ti Cycles). Seattle’s Golden Gardens Park and the Puget Sound lie at the west end. Wineries are found near the east end. Alternatively, you might want to take a bus tour of these and other sites. Here’s a finding chart of Seattle’s many city parks, gardens, and trails.

Seattle Center & Space Needle

The Seatttle Center is located on the grounds of the famous 1962 World’s Fair north of downtown. The Center is a 20-square-block Seattle City park with a wide variety of attractions for children and adults alike. Downtown is a 25-minute walk or 10-mimute ride on the famous Monorail from the Seattle Center’s Center House. This is another area with some good bargains on rooms, but nearby hotels can be crowded in the summer so reserve early. You’ll find many decent restaurants and interesting places to go within an easy walk.

Many of the city’s most interesting, if not unusual, musea and attractions and events are here. We particularly recommend Experience Music Project & Science Fiction Museum, funded by Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen. The EMP is an eclectic tribute to 25 years of popular music that culminated with Jimi Hendrix. The controversial building is an eyepopping rendering of a smashed guitar designed by Frank Gehry (Bilbao MoMA). Also of interest are the Pacific Science Center (in the former U.S Pavillion of the 1962 fair), the Seattle Repertory Theater, the Intiman Theater, Seattle Opera, and the Space Needle.

National Parks, Puget Sound, and Other Places to Visit in the Region

mapWAwestA huge variety of other attractions lie within an easy drive of Seattle. Taking a few days to do one or two of them will make your visit much more memorable. Here’s a short list of regional scenic parks:

North Cascades National Park
Mt. Rainier National Park
Mt. St. Helens National Monument
Olympic National Park
Mt. Baker/Heather Meadows Visitor Center & Climbing
Washington State Parks
Mount Baker Wilderness
Glacier Peak Wilderness
Wild Sky Wilderness
Other nearby wilderness areas

Here’s a short list of more populated places:

San Juan Island:
Yakima region wineries:
Washington State Bed & Breakfast Guide:
Vancouver B.C. tourism:
Victoria B.C. tourism:

Canada, Eh?

The boundary between Canada and the U.W. wasn’t settled until the Pig War ended on San Juan Island WA in 1872. Queues at Customs have pointed the way to the border ever since. Vancouver (150 miles north of Seattle) and Victoria (about 100 miles and a ferry ride) are well worth the effort. (Note: B.C. Ferries are your best bet. They take car reservations. WA State ferry service from Anacortes WA and Victoria BC may be discontinued soon. Check carefully.) STARTING JUNE 1 2009 YOU MUST HAVE A VALID PASSPORT TO ENTER THE U.S. FROM CANADA. DON’T LEAVE THE U.S. WITHOUT ONE! A driver’s license, proof of voter registration or a copy of a birth certificate are not accepted.

VICTORIA The garden-crazed town of Victoria B.C., home of Butchart Gardens and the spectacular Provincial Museum (now called the Royal BC Museum). It’s easy to imagine that you are in England as you stroll the city’s Inner Harbour. High tea at the Empress Hotel is a religious ritual at 4 P.M. — and a major source of tourist income!

  • By car: Although the driving time is 2-3 hours, you must add to the time to catch a ferry: 100 minutes sailing time plus queues. Plan a 5-hour trip. If you’re driving from the U.S. you should have proof of auto insurance, which most rental car companies will provide on short notice.
  • By ferry: From Seattle drive I-5 to Canadian customs and follow Rte 99 to the signs to the Tsawassen ferry terminal. For ferry information and schedules:
  • By high-speed boat: A 2-hour ride from Seattle’s downtown Pier 69 on the Victoria Clipper. Scenic in good summer weather; however, seas can be choppy in storms. $149 round trip in July, though cheaper advance-purchase round trip fares are available. Choose one-day round trip or various overnight packages. For schedules and fares see

VANCOUVER Many say that Vancouver the nicest city in the Americas, more scenic than San Francisco, and more diverse too. Chinatown thrives, as do many other strong ethnic neighborhoods that remain culturally distinct and vigorous. The combination of mountains and bays that define the city’s limits are spectacular.

  • By car: It’s a simple 3-hour 150-mile drive up I-5, through Canadian customs, along BC Rte 99, into downtown Vancouver. Once you cross the Granville Bridge drive westbound along any of 4th, 10th, 16th, or 41st Avenues into Southwest Marine Drive and thence to UBC at the western tip of the peninsula. If you’re driving from the U.S. you should have proof of auto insurance, which most rental car companies will provide on short notice.
  • By train: Take the Amtrak Cascades from King Street Station to downtown Vancouver by way of the Puget Sound coastline. Three express trains or locals daily. For train information and schedules: