No trip to Seattle is complete without a trip to The Pike Place Market, but please, get the name right. The market is located on a street named “Pike,” hence the name. People who haven’t lived here very long refer to it as “Pike Street Market” or the “Pike Market Place.” Don’t sound like a newbie, it’s “The Pike Place Market.”
I recommend you go there early in the morning for breakfast, before it gets unbearably crowded. The bonus is that you will see the vendors setting up their stalls. The best place for a sit down meal is Lowell’s. Located in the main building at the market, just past where they throw salmon (trust me, it isn’t hard to find), you’re presented with two service options: either stand in line to place your order and then grab a seat on the 1st or 3rd floor, or head straight up to the 2nd floor for table service. On the 2nd floor, you have the choice of water views or views of the inside of the market; you can’t go wrong.
You should also take the time to visit the recently opened MarketFront, the newest addition to the Pike Place Market, which was a 40-year-old dream made reality. This exciting $74 million project is the first addition to the market in the last 40 years!
Of course, when you are in Seattle, you must stop at the original Starbucks. It’s located across the street from the main market building toward the north end of the market. You can’t miss it, just look for the line. It really isn’t much different than other Starbucks in Seattle aside from the brown logo, not having tables, and constant musicians playing to the coffee-crazed visitors but, when in Rome… For another unique Starbucks experience, try the one on the 40th floor of the Columbia Tower (Washington’s tallest building), or, head up to Capitol Hill for a visit to The Roastery (see below for more information on that).
Browsing the vendor stalls is a wonderful way to pass the time. Be sure to see the local photography booths for nice souvenirs and don’t miss the lower levels where strange and mysterious items are on display and for sale. The Made in Washington Store is a great place to get a classy souvenir and Sur La Table is the best place to buy the high end cooking gadgets you had no idea you needed!
If you’re a turophile, stopping at Beecher’s Cheese is a must! Peer through the glass walls as they make their famous cheese or try some samples– indulge in a grilled cheese sandwich, mac & cheese, or just purchase a snack for later. If you miss Beecher’s at the market, you can stop by their kiosk in Terminal C at SeaTac – how convenient!
If you like ginger ale, stop by Rachel’s Ginger Beer for a sweet and spicy beverage (they have cocktails and milkshakes, too!).
My favorite thing at the market is the seafood. Of course, you have to watch them throw the fish, but also see if you can find someone selling geoducks (pronounced “gooey duck”). It is difficult to describe their appearance without being indelicate, so just ask around and see if you can find one. In my opinion, anyone traveling to Seattle should make it their personal mission to eat as much Dungeness crab as humanly possible, because it is that good! I don’t care where you are from, our crab is better. The very best crab cocktail can be found at Jack’s Fish Spot across the street from the main market building, right next to the Three Girls Bakery(another excellent place to graze). Order a crab cocktail at Jack’s and maybe some oysters, cioppino, and even some fish & chips, if you’re still hungry. The food is amazing and super cheap. If you really like it, they can pack up some crab for you to take home– or ship to you.
If the weather is nice and you are in the mood for al fresco dining, head to The Pink Door. Go north down Post Alley and look for the pink door (there is no sign to the restaurant). Just walk in the door like you own the place and pray for a spot on the deck. If you’re interested in an intimate evening dining experience, check their website for events such as aerial performances and book a reservation for their inside dining room.
If you’re anything like us, by now you’ve done a lot of eating, so you should probably start walking it off. Head down the ramp right below the fish throwers (apparently, all roads in the market lead to “where they throw the fish”) and look for The Gum Wall. That took away your appetite, didn’t it?! Don’t get too close. That stuff is real! They recently cleaned one of the “Top 5 germiest tourist attractions in the world,” in an attempt to squelch the sugar degradation of the bricks, but it did NOT last long! The gum chewing masses (locals and tourists alike) made sure of it.
After you’ve gotten your fill of our crazy-weird gum wall, head down to the waterfront’s Pier 57 and treat yourself to a ride on The Great Wheel. It has only been here a few years, but the city has embraced it and it’s definitely worth doing. Check the website for operating hours before heading down. The rest of the waterfront has some fun shops and restaurants but it’s pretty torn up due to construction, so I don’t recommend it at the moment. Just head down for a ride on the wheel (or to take a trip on the ferries or water taxi) and then head back up the hill to downtown.
On your way back to downtown, just across the street from the Great Wheel is the Copperworks Tasting Room & Distillery. Check out the copper stills, take a tour, and taste their locally made gin and vodka.
On your way back to your hotel, go up the steps toward the Four Seasons Hotel (this leads you to 1st & Union, or go up the Harbor Steps stairs at University Street) and turn the corner to Fran’s Chocolates (1325 1st Avenue). You will thank me for this. Be sure to try a sea salt caramel dipped in chocolate. You can buy a box to take home. If you have really strong willpower, you may actually still have some when you get home, although I doubt it!