Pike Place Fish Market: An Insider’s Guide

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Whether you’re entertaining out of town visitors or you’re just looking for a city adventure with the fam, hit the Market for a fun-filled excursion.  Pike Place Fish Market is do-able and actually fun with kids.  The fish market offers people watching, shopping, and entertainment.  Weekend mornings are a great time to see the hustle and bustle of the market with kids and without the throngs of tourists crowding to see Pike Place’s fresh fish. Besides, junior is up at the crack of dawn, so why not get out and enjoy the day?

First stop, Le Panier for a pain au chocolat and café au lait (that’s a latte to us in Seattle).  This French bakery is the real deal and it’s so authentic, it just feels like you should be ordering in French.  Pick up a sandwich and a pain au chocolat (if you dare…the kids will be begging you for a return visit).  If you’re a true Seattleite, head to the first Starbucks a few doors down for your cuppa joe.

With a coffee in hand, it’s time to explore Pike Place Fish Market.  There is a fabulous children’s store, Boston Street, in Post alley.  They offer Cotton Caboodle, French favorite Petit Bateau, Little Giraffe, as well as many trendy brands (think onesies with “Baby Got Barack” or “ipood” on them).  They frequently have $5, $10, $15 racks outside.  Next door is Antiques at Pike Place where you’re sure to find a treasure with a good story.  This cavernous store doesn’t seem to end and carries everything from furniture to jewelry to clothing.  Sur La Table, the cooking megastore is smack dab in the middle of the fish market’s Post Alley and offers up a myriad of cooking items.  It’s best navigated with a backpack or by holding a hand.  The aisles can be narrow and full.

Leave your mark at the “Gum Wall”

Along your trek, be sure to stop and appreciate all of the Market street performers (from bands to balloon artists, to a cat hypnotist).  They’ll keep the kids entertained.  Don’t forget to tip the pig across from the Flying Fish Market and take the obligatory Pike Place Market photo with kids atop.  To end your tour, head down Post Alley by Theater Sports, for a photo at the infamous (and disgusting) gum wall where the kids will want to add their mark. You may want to pack some double-bubble (don’t forget the Purell).

If you’re hungry after all of those stops, head to Café Campagne, which offers pommes frites: a meal that should keep any American child quiet for a long time.  They serve a delicious brunch and lunch and if you go on the slightly off times, there won’t be a wait.  Additionally, there are a ton of restaurants of every ethnicity (Greek, Asian, Russian, seafood, more French, etc) along your walk offering “to go” items.  Beechers Handmade Cheese is across the street from the fish market and offers delicious cheeses, mac-n-cheese, and other natural foods as well as the opportunity to show junior how cheese is made.

Insider Tips:

  • A baby carrier or backpack is preferable as the foot traffic is heavy here.  A single stroller would be your next choice.  Avoid a double stroller. Boston Street on Post Alley rents single strollers by the hour for travelers (or local parents who find themselves with a weary kid and no back-up).
  • If you happen to be a lucky Tiny Tot’s subscriber, you can leave your car in the lot and walk the three blocks up to the fish market after the show.
  • Other great parking options are Pacific Place (about a 5 block walk, but rates are far more reasonable on the weekends and evenings). If you don’t mind stairs, park under the Alaskan Way viaduct and take the Pike Place Stairclimb. Or if you’re so lucky, try street parking (Sunday’s are free and the earlier the easier it is to find!).
  • If you park under the Alaskan Way Viaduct and have energy to spare, consider hitting the aquarium or walking along the waterfront for fish & chips or more Seattle sightseeing. You can also visit the Seattle Bug Safari located on the Pike Place Stairclimb.
  • If you have a child who is easily scared, be wary of the main fish market across from the pig.  There is a Monk Fish with it’s mouth propped open and it’s attached to a string.  The fish throwers love to scare people who walk by with it.  Stand back a little and watch the show-it’s worth it!
  • Most places accept cards now, but cash is usually a good idea if you want to buy flowers or other items in the market.
  • Got an early riser? Most market vendors are open by 8 am and mornings are always the least crowded.
  • The actual market is the hardest to navigate with kids.  It’s packed, so get a firm grasp on your child’s hand (or put them on your shoulders) and stay to one side.  Go slowly and appreciate all the market has to offer.  Or, walk on the street outside the Pike fish market and duck in at the openings to specific areas you’d like to see (produce, fish, flowers are all easily accessed from these access points).  The outside street offers many items now as well (produce, chili peppers, smoothies, etc).
  • Prepare your little one for all the fun at the Pike Place market with this board book titled A Day At the Market by Sara Anderson.

-Joia Poort

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