Market Etiquette: Doing Pike Place Like A Local

Seattle’s ‘heart and soul’ – the Pike Place Market – is frequented by over ten-million visitors each year. Want to do the Market like a local? A few tips from me to you:

Another beautiful end of the day at Pike Place Market
Another beautiful end of the day at Pike Place Market

Say it right: It’s Pike Place Market – not ‘Pike’s Place’ or ‘Pike’s Peak’ market as you’ll hear some folks proclaim. And while it’s frequently called the ‘Fish Market’ from out-of-towners, they’re missing the boat: The Market is so much more than the four fish shops that are tucked within its 9-acre footprint. Call it ‘The Market’ and every local in the city will know what you’re referring to.

Leave your dog at home. Fido’s welcome in the city – of course – but a day in the Market is truly not for the dogs (service dogs excluded). With wall-to-wall visitors plying the many levels of the Market community, you’ll quickly see that it’s not a place where dogs flourish (and not the most hygienic thing to have wandering around amidst fresh fish and leg-lifting on blooming flowers). Bowser’s undoubtedly adorable, but he wants you to know that he’d rather stay home.

Nibble! Take advantage of the fresh fruits, succulent smoked salmons, and tasty treats from one of the market to the other. Many vendors love giving scintillating samples to lure you in. Those OMG peaches? One bite’ll lead to buying a bag – which goes far in supporting the farmers filling booths here each day. Common sense tip: Don’t take samples unless they’re clearly marked as such (or handed to you from a vendor). Just because food is sitting out on a table doesn’t mean it’s a sample. Be polite and ask if there’s any question.

Take home a fish. They'll pack 'em on ice and ship them home with you!
Take home a fish. They’ll pack ’em on ice and ship them home with you!

Don’t dawdle! See something you love? Don’t suddenly stop mid-stream in the middle of an aisle because something’s caught your eye. Saunter up to the side tables (i.e. get the heck out of the aisle) so you don’t hinder the flow of traffic. Although the market ‘shuffle’ may seem charming, it’s also frustrating for those trying to get from point A to point B. ‘Pulling off’ to chat with vendors is not only great etiquette, but it gives you a chance to leisurely enjoy talking to vendors and learning the story behind the makers.

Do not walk three-abreast through the Main Arcade. Sure, bring your friends and buddy up while in the Market. But don’t spread yourselves across the aisle so that nobody can pass. Want to chat? Stop at one of the many eateries and coffee shots that are sprinkled through the market to chat about the fabulous things you’re seeing. When you stop on a dime – all four of you in a row – you make me want to go beastmode and just elbow my way right past you. Let’s not let that happen. 😉

Support independent business! The “Meet The Producers” sign at the entrance is not just for show. Go a step beyond browsing and buy from the Market’s producers. Money spent in Pike Place not only supports local producers, but a portion of what you’re paying is returned to help support the various community organizations housed within the Market’s seven buildings including a food bank, child care center, health care center and low-income housing.

Flowers from one end of the other at Pike Place Market!
Flowers from one end of the other at Pike Place Market!

Haggle?  Please don’t! Negotiating with producers who’ve raised, grown and crafted from their heart may seem to be worth a try, but be gracious when they don’t engage. Likely prices are going to be higher than what you’d find in your neighborhood store. Most of the artisans and craftsfolk at Pike Place owe their livelihood to what they’re offering up to you. They work very hard to make their products and to keep their pricing as low as possible so that everybody (buyer and seller) gets a “good deal”. It’s not about “haggling” – it’s about making connections and learning the stories behind the art and the artists (and occasionally being offered a lower price when business is slow, when a great connection is made or when they know you’re on a budget). Embrace the fact that you’re buying directly from the producers – just as Seattleites have done for 109 consecutive years – directly from the source and that you’re supporting and encouraging local independent businesses.

Find the hidden gems! Tucked within the seven buildings that make up Pike Place Market are three breweries, dozens of restaurants, hundreds of arts, crafts and produce vendors and an array of everything funky and eclectic in-between. Find a quirkly balloon man. Tuck into the Pink Door. Add your mark to the gum wall. Try ginger beer.  Indulge in a pig-head feast. Take away one-of-a-kind art that’ll forever symbolize your trip to the Market forever.

Stay for lunch! With over sixty eateries with everything from grab-and go delis to full-service/sit-down style restaurants, the Market offers something for every palate. From French bakeries and restaurants to Northwest seafood and barbecue, there’s a restaurant for everyone here. Have a favorite? Please share!

Join the party! There’s music on nearly every corner at the Market. The buskers sprinkled throughout Pike Place offer everything from funky tunes to dreamy sonnets, while magicians and street performers dazzle onlookers and passers-by with talents from slight of hand to balloon-bending. Like what they’re doing? Show ’em your appreciation with a little monetary love. These guys aren’t just there to entertain – they’re making a living, too!

Want more? Try a tour! Savor Seattle Food Tours, Eat Seattle Food Tours and Taste Pike Place Food Tours all offer nibbles, bites and will take the place of lunch – with a big dose of personality, history and community. Do I have a favorite? Of course I do. Message me for my personal recommendations (and I’ll even tell you about the city’s best improv theatre tucked in the bowels of the Market!):

However you do it, enjoy Seattle’s greatest gem by exploring every corner, slipping down every stairway, and digging deeper at every opportunity.

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