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Pike Place Market may be the most iconic Seattle destination of them all, next to the Space Needle anyway. This quintessential Pacific Northwest experience is one of the most exciting markets you'll find in America, offering not only what you'd probably expect, like fresh produce, flowers and seafood, but rows and rows of vendors selling unique and delicious foods, handmade arts and crafts, vintage goods, and a wide range of entertainment. It's not just tourists who enjoy the sights and sounds of street performers, the interesting and sometimes eccentric characters, and watching the fishmongers toss the fresh catch of the day. This is a local treasure, with many Seattleites who work downtown stopping in to pick up veggies for dinner or one of the many colorful bouquets of flowers.
Parking and public transportation
The market can be easily reached by public transport from Sea-Tac Airport as well as the surrounding neighborhoods. The Metro will drop you off near Pike Place Market at Pine Street or First Avenue, while the Westlake Sound Transit Light Rail Station is just four blocks away. Parking downtown can be challenging and expensive, but you'll almost always find inexpensive metered spaces available just below the market directly across from the Seattle Aquarium on the east side of the 1500 block of Alaskan Way.
Best and worst time to go to Pike Place Market
The very best time to go is early in the morning, just before 9:30 a.m. as the vendors are getting ready to start their day, whether you're here on a weekday or the weekend. Wait just a couple hours longer and you'll likely have to contend with hordes of tourists, making the overall experience not nearly as pleasant. This is especially true in June, July and August when cruise ships come into Elliott Bay, bringing thousands of tourists who spill out onto the streets of Seattle, and Pike Place Market.
Admission to Pike Place Market
There is no cost to get into Pike Place Market, although there are plenty of things to spend your money on if you want to, including dining at fantastic eateries and shopping for souvenirs. The great thing about the Market, is that there is also a ton to do for free for those who are on a tight budget, such as watching amazingly talented buskers like Carl, who balances a guitar on his chin while strumming another.
Must-Dos at Pike Place Market
Don't miss trying the incredible array of delicious food samples, especially the smoked salmon at Pure Food Fish Market. It's entirely possible to leave completely full just from those fantastic morsels. "Sleepless in Seattle" fans might want to enjoy a tasty meal along with magnificent Puget Sound views at the Athenian Inn, which made a brief but very memorable appearance in the 1993 romantic comedy. If you want to gaze upon something that most tourists miss, head to the Market Theater Gum Wall which has been collecting gum for more than two decades – this is an official attraction, both loathed and loved by Seattleites.
Other places to visit near Pike Place Market
While you're here, don't miss the chance to descend the steep stairway to the waterfront and take a ride on one of Seattle's newest attractions, the Seattle Great Wheel. This is one of the largest in the U.S., with riders treated to stunning views of the Sound and the Olympic Mountain Range. On a clear day, Mount Rainer and the surrounding peaks of the Cascades even come into view. The Seattle Aquarium, just a short stroll away, is home to a Giant Pacific Octopus, fur seals, harbor seals, sea otters and much more.
Insider tips for visitors to Pike Place Market
Pike Place Market is quite famously the home of the very first Starbucks. It's located about midway through the Market, just across from the Main Arcade, but there is really no reason to go here just to stand in line with a gazillion other tourists for the same cup of coffee you can get almost anywhere. Save your money, take a selfie in front of the sign and enjoy the random buskers entertaining the crowd.
Author's bio: K.C. Dermody is a travel writer living in the Seattle area with hundreds of travel articles both online and in print. She has traveled the world and is the author of 'Best Travel Guide for First Time Visitors to Ireland,' but especially loves showing off the beautiful region she resides in.