There is so much to experience at Pike Place Market that it’s easy to see why it’s called “The Soul of Seattle”. When I arrived in the city, America’s premier farmers’ market was naturally my first stop. From unique shops, small family-owned restaurants, craft stalls, fresh produce stands, and beautiful flower shops — there’s a little something for everyone. Pike Place Market is truly an explosion of sound, color, and taste!
Founded in 1907, Pike Place Market is the oldest continually operating farmers’ market in the United States. Overlooking Elliott Bay, the nine-acre Market Historic District is a beloved city treasure that features one of the largest craft markets in the country, with all locally made handcrafted goods.
Even though I was only in Seattle for two days, I constantly found myself being led back to Pike Place Market. There seemed to be something new to discover each time I wandered through the Main Arcade, streets, and three floors of unique shops. Here are the top attractions of Pike Place Market that stuck out to me and that every visitor should make the time for.
Pike Place Market Sign
No visit to Pike Place Market would be complete without a photograph of the famous neon “Public Market Center” sign at the entrance of the Main Arcade on Pike Street. Don’t forget to capture your selfie with the sign to prove that you were actually there. And, for photographers, the sign is a stunning subject at dusk!
The Oldest Starbucks
Most people make the mistake of believing that this location is the original Starbucks (myself included), but it’s actually the oldest continuously operated Starbucks store. The original was located one block away, until the store moved to the current location in Pike Place Market in 1977. Be sure to pop in for a cup of coffee, grab a souvenir, and check out the original Starbucks logo — which was deemed a little too racy when the company spread nationally and eventually worldwide.
Rachel the Piggy Bank
Known as the Market’s unofficial mascot, Rachel is a 550 pound bronze statue that stands just beneath the “Public Market Center” sign. If you take a moment for a photo op with the Pike Place icon, don’t forget to drop some spare change into the slot on her back. Rachel helps raise $6,000+ a year to benefit the Market Foundation, a nonprofit that funds market social services.
Pike Place Fish Market
Perhaps the most quintessential sight to behold during a visit to Pike Place is that of the fish being tossed around by the guys at Pike Place Fish. In what has become a major attraction for really the whole city of Seattle, tourists can have the pleasure of watching three-foot salmon hurled back and forth between employees. The tradition started when the fishmongers got tired of having to walk out to the fish table to retrieve a salmon every time someone placed an order. Eventually, the owner realized it was easier to station an employee at the table and lob the fish over the counter. And so a Seattle tradition was born! If you’re lucky, from time to time, even a spectator is chosen to be a participant and catch one of the flying fish.
One of the most unique attractions at Pike Place Market has to be the Gum Wall. If you take a stroll down Post Alley, you won’t have any trouble finding the brick facade covered from top to bottom in chewing gum. The landmark was born out of a result of patrons not being allowed to chew gum inside the Market Theater; before entering they would remove their gum and stick it to the surface just beside the box office. After scraping off the gum several times, theater workers eventually gave up and the Gum Wall was considered a tourist attraction around 1999. I happened to overhear a tour guide mention that the Gum Wall is the second germiest tourist attraction in the world, right behind the Blarney Stone. Be sure to bring a few pieces of gum and add your own sticky design!
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Food & Dining
What would a farmer’s market be without food? Aside from the overwhelming amount of vendors offering everything from the brightly-colored fruits and vegetables, the freshest fish and seafood, spices, and cheese, there are more than 60 places to eat in the market. Even though there is a variety of cuisines to choose from, I had one mission in mind when it came to food — clam chowder! I decided on two places, Market Grill and the well-known Pike Place Chowder. I’m not sure how this will sit with the people of Seattle but, while both cups of clam chowder were delicious, I have to say that I enjoyed the atmosphere and taste of Market Grill just a wee bit more. But don’t let me decide for you, sample as many cups as you can and come to your own verdict!
Despite the fact that I only saw a handful of buskers in my two days, Pike Place Market has been known for street entertainers since the 1960’s. Every day, performers of all kinds take to the street and covered arcades of Pike Place for the enjoyment of hundreds of onlookers. Ukeleles, accordions, guitars, and a cappella gospel groups are all common sounds that add to the already exciting ambiance of the market. Make sure to offer them a tip!
For the lovers of street art, Pike Place does not disappoint! As you make your way down Post Alley towards the Gum Wall, it won’t take long for you to notice a plethora of event posters interspersed with an ever-changing gallery of street art. From cartoon dolphins to mustache wearing fish, Post Alley will provide an escape to a whimsical world that comes forth from the creative minds of these artists. The words on the paper lined walls cry out, “Love Art & Share It With The World.” And that is exactly what they do in Post Alley.
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