Pike Place Market: 5 Things to Know Before You Go

When you think of the city of Seattle, a few images probably come to mind: the Space Needle, rain, Starbucks, and, of course, Pike Place Market. Pike Place Market is the most popular tourist attraction in Seattle, and one of the most popular in the entire world! Every year, more than 10 million visitors from all over the world come to Pike Place Market to experience this iconic place for themselves. Pike Place Market is one of the few tourist attractions in Seattle that I actually consider worth the hype, and I think everyone who finds themselves in Seattle should make time to stop by. If you’ve never visited, here are 5 things to know about Pike Place Market before you go.

Pike Place Market is one of the oldest continuously-operated farmer’s markets in the entire country! Pike Place Market has an incredibly rich history dating all the way back to 1907, when the market first opened. The market presents the amazing opportunity for visitors to experience a slice of Seattle history firsthand as they walk through the various levels consisting of local vendors, shops, and restaurants.

The unofficial mascot of Pike Place Market is Rachel, a bronze piggy bank statue! This isn’t your average childhood piggy bank, though: Rachel weighs 550 pounds and receives anywhere from $6,000-$9,000 every year in the form of all different kinds of currency. Rachel can be found under the “Public Market Center” sign where she was first placed in 1986.

Image courtesy of Pike Place Market Foundation

Inside the market you can find Pike Place Fish Market, which is world-famous for its fish-throwing fishmongers! The quirky tradition first began in 1980 when the former owner decided it would be more efficient to toss the seafood rather than walk it over to his employees on busy days. Since then, the fishmongers – who can be identified with their signture orange waders – have become known for this practice which they do when a fish is purchased, a donation is made, or randomly for tourists who may be watching.

Pictured is Jack’s Fish Spot, another fish vendor in Pike Place Market

Just across the street from the market is the “original” Starbucks. Technically, the first Starbucks originally opened in another location before moving to this storefront on Pike Place. There is almost always a massive line out the door of visitors who want to experience the original Starbucks for themselves. I’ll be honest – it’s not too special, and resembles pretty much any other Starbucks you can find in the country. If you’re a lover of Starbucks, I recommend visiting the Starbucks Reserve Roastery, which is right down the street, instead!

Pike Place Market is truly a cornerstone of the Seattle community. For years it has been a place where locals and tourists alike can gather to support the local economy by purchasing from small businesses. Pike Place Market has undergone a number of renovations and restorations over the years, but its original purpose has remained through it all. When you go to Pike Place Market you’re not just visiting any other tourist attraction: you’re supporting the community by putting money directly into the pockets of local business owners!

5 Seattle Tourist Traps to Avoid, and Where to Go Instead

Seattle has so many activities and attractions, it can be overwhelming to decide what to do and what to skip on your first visit. Here are my recommendations on five Seattle attractions to avoid, and five definitely worth the visit instead.

Skip: The Gum Wall

The Seattle Gum Wall is exactly what it sounds like: a wall. Covered in gum. If you happen to be walking in the area, it’s a fine stop to add to your route, but I wouldn’t go for the sole purpose of seeing it. Plus, the wall is frequently flooded with people wanting to take selfies or add their own chewed-up bubblegum.

Instead try… Pike Place Market

I know, I know – Pike Place Market is probably the quintessential tourist trap when it comes to Seattle. But I have to say, you should visit at least once. The market itself has a lot of interesting history, and I thoroughly enjoy walking through all the stalls and vendors. You can get some great views of the water, and there are lots of options for shopping, eating, and drinking. I would recommend trying to visit on a weekday or earlier in the morning/later in the evening to avoid the massive crowds that tend to form.

Skip: Original Starbucks

Fun fact: the “Original Starbucks” at Pike Place Market is actually considered the second Starbucks store, because the true first store was located in another location! Sure, it’s cool to walk by, but there are always extremely long lines and unfortunately, it is literally just another Starbucks store. Not worth the hype, in my opinion.

Instead try… The Starbucks Reserve Roastery

Of course, it wouldn’t be a trip to Seattle without paying homage to Starbucks in some way. The Starbucks Reserve Roastery is a really cool spot I’d recommend visiting. The building itself is historic with gorgeous architecture, and you can actually book tours to see how everything works. Plus, the menu has some unique items you won’t find at other Starbucks locations, like a flight of cold brew to sample three different flavors and ice cream/coffee concoctions.

Skip: Seattle Aquarium

Confession: I haven’t actually been to the Seattle Aquarium myself, but I don’t plan on visiting anytime soon either. I’ve heard mixed reviews on the aquarium, and pricing tends to be quite expensive, so I wouldn’t say you have to visit it while you’re in town. Of course, if you especially love aquariums you may have a good time, but there are so many other unique spots you could visit instead that the aquarium would be low on my list of must-visits.

Instead try… MoPop

MoPop, or The Museum of Pop Culture, is a really unique museum located in the heart of Seattle. MoPop features different exhibits on books, movies, bands, and pop culture movements. I’ve been twice now and thoroughly enjoyed each visit, especially the exhibits on Nirvana and the history of horror movies. Plus, the MoPop building itself has some interesting architecture, and is located right by the Space Needle which makes for good photo opps. I would recommend MoPop more for older crowds, as little kids may not be super interested in the types of exhibits they host.

Skip: The Seattle Great Wheel

The Seattle Great Wheel is a large Ferris wheel that will give you a birds-eye view of the downtown skyline. Unfortunately, tickets to the ferry will cost you $11-$16 a person, depending on age. I’d prefer to head somewhere else for free views of the skyline, and just admire the Ferris wheel from the ground. I will say that seeing the Ferris wheel lit up a night is a pretty sight, but again, I’d recommend enjoying it from the ground than paying for tickets to go up.

Instead try… Kerry Park

Kerry Park is a small park located in the historic Queen Anne neighborhood. The park offers sweeping views of the city, and is completely free! Sure, the view will be different than if you were in the Ferris wheel right downtown, but I personally prefer to see the city, water, and the mountains beyond all in one view. The Queen Anne neighborhood is a beautiful area to drive through as well, with lots of older homes and mansions.

Skip: Alki Beach

Alki Beach is a strip of sand that runs along Elliot Bay. You’ll get some decent views of the skyline, but given the beach is only about 2.5 miles long, it can get overcrowded and kind of dirty. If you’re looking for a quick stroll through the sand, Alki Beach will do just fine, but it isn’t a must-see in my opinion.

Instead try… Discovery Park

Discovery Park is a large public park located right in Seattle, with 10+ miles of walking trails through forests, bluffs, and along sandy beaches. I highly recommend the Lighthouse Loop Trail which will take you to West Point Lighthouse. Discovery Park is a great area for hiking, wildlife-watching, and photography. Because some of the areas within the park are protected, the trails and facilities are well-kept and you’ll really feel like you’ve stepped into another world. As a bonus, the park is completely free to visit!