One of the “must visit” places in Seattle is the famous Pike Place Market. Pike Place Market is a public market overlooking the Elliott Bay waterfront. The Market opened in 1907, and is one of the oldest continually operated public farmers’ markets in the United States. It is a place of business for many small farmers, craftspeople and merchants. Named after the central street, Pike Place. The Market is built on the edge of a steep hill, and consists of several lower levels located below the main level. Each features a variety of unique shops such as antique dealers, comic book and collectible shops, and small family-owned restaurants. The upper street level contains fishmongers, fresh produce stands and craft stalls operating in the covered arcades. Local farmers and craftspeople sell year-round in the arcades from tables they rent from the Market on a daily basis, in accordance with the Market’s mission and founding goal: allowing consumers to “Meet the Producer”.
Much of Seattle is set on a steep hillside and makes you feel like you are visiting San Francisco. We parked miles away and walked along the harbor. It was then a steep climb up a number of flights of steps to reach the market on the hill.
At the top of the stairs we stopped to look at one of the more unusual scenes in Seattle. The Market Theater Gum Wall is a local landmark in Post Alley under Pike Place Market. The Gum Wall is a brick alleyway wall now covered in used chewing gum. Parts of the wall are covered several inches thick, 15 feet high for 50 feet. The wall is by the box office for the Market Theater, and the tradition began around 1993 when patrons of Unexpected Productions’ Seattle Theatresports stuck gum to the wall and placed coins in the gum blobs. Theater workers scraped the gum away twice, but eventually gave up after market officials deemed the gum wall a tourist attraction in around 1999. Some people create small works of art out of gum. It was named one of the top 5 germiest tourist attractions in 2009, second to the Blarney Stone.
Since we are in high tourist season the market was very crowded. In fact, at times there were literally traffic jams and in some cases movement stopped because of the crowds.
There are also vendors located across the street, where the walkway is covered with colorful flower displays.
One of the shoppers (shown below) was not satisfied with the freshness of some of the vegetables.
So the vendor escorted her to the storage cooler for a look at some fresher vegetables.
The most famous vendor in the market is the Pike Place Fish Company. It is known for their tradition of throwing fish that customers have purchased, before they are wrapped. After nearing bankruptcy in 1986, the fish market owner and employees decided to become “world famous”, changing their way of doing business by introducing their flying fish, games, and customer performances. Four years later, they were featured repeatedly in the national media and television shows. The store is now a popular tourist destination in Seattle, attracting up to 10,000 daily visitors, and is often billed as world-famous. We first saw them when a corporate training video, called FISH! Philosophy, featuring them was use in area school districts as a way to make the workplace a more pleasant place to be. This group took something as mundane as selling fish and made it fun and entertaining.
When someone makes an order it is announced loudly by the vendor. The fish is then thrown from the ice tray to the vendor and shown to the buyer. It is quite entertaining.
Since we hadn’t had lunch, we decided to splurge and purchase some danish from a nearby bakery stand. The choices were overwhelming.
Since the market was so crowded, we decided to take our decadent purchase elsewhere. Seattle has a few thousand coffee shops so we looked around for one where we could sit and enjoy a brew with our pastry. Well, what do you know. We found one that was vaguely familiar to us, so we went in and enjoyed a few minutes eating, drinking, and watching the strange mix of people walking the street outside the shop.
Later, someone remembered that Starbucks had recently opened two new stores in the U.S. called “Evolution Fresh” after purchasing the juice bar company last year. Since one of them was only a few blocks away, off we went.
After enjoying the second drink, we boarded the monorail for a mile ride to Seattle Center, where the famous Space Needle is located, and where we parked the car.
We intended to take the elevator in the Space Needle to the observation deck but, since the line went all the way to Portland, OR, that will have to wait for another visit. Our next activity involves a hike on a very high mountain. More on that later . . .