Pike Place Market
The Space Needle might be Seattle’s iconographic symbol, but Pike Place Market (www.pikeplacemarket.org, 9 a.m.–6 p.m. Mon.–Sat., 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Sun.) is—as more than one writer has called it—the true heart and soul of Seattle, a sensory and social statement of why the city is such a livable place. Mingle with the locals here to buy the freshest fish and produce in town, listen to colorful street musicians, enjoy the parade of humanity, and explore a myriad of shops. It’s hard not to love it.
Initial appearances can be deceiving in Pike Place Market. It’s much larger than you might think, spreading over three levels in the Main Arcade, and up several blocks to include half a dozen other large buildings, each filled with additional shops. All told, the market contains more than 250 businesses covering nine acres. Early risers have the advantage; things are pretty slow early in the morning, giving you more time to explore without having to fight your way through the crowds.
The main focal point is beneath the famous "Public Market Center" neon sign. Enter here to meet Rachel, the fat bronze charity piggy bank that has been here since 1986.
Follow the throngs of tourists to Pike Place Fish (www.pikeplacefish.com), right behind Rachel. You can't miss the famous flying fish (watch your head!), the raucous repartee, and the clowning around. It helps to be part showman to work here. Despite a competitor’s complaint that "I can't see how throwing fish makes them taste any better," everything here is fresh.
Information and Services
For a market map and newsletter, head to the tiny Pike Place Information Booth (10 a.m.–6 p.m. daily) near the market entrance on the corner of Pike Street and 1st Avenue; you can also purchase half-price tickets here for concerts and plays on the day of the show.
In-depth Pike Place Market Heritage Tours (206/682-7453, www.pikeplacemarket.org, $10 adults, $5 seniors and kids) are offered Wednesday–Sunday. These three-hour traipses blend history with quirky anecdotes, led by knowledgeable insiders.
Getting to Pike Place Market
It’s nearly impossible to drive up Pike Place Street with lunch-hour pedestrians overflowing the sidewalks, and parking spaces are harder to find than a conservative Seattleite. Your best bet is to take the bus around town—it’s free throughout downtown Seattle—but you can always find parking in the Market Parking Garage downhill from Pike Place. Get your ticket validated at market merchants.
© Ericka Chickowski from Moon Washington, 8th edition