Local’s Guide to the Pike Place Market: 15 Market Things Every Visitor Should Do

By Jessica Voelker May 20, 2011

Giant Shoe Museum

Image: Young Lee


Plan a Market staycation: Book a night at the Inn at the Market and spend sunset with a bottle of wine on its roof, which boasts a Sound view and is open only to overnight guests. (PS: Sorry we used the word staycation.)


Enter the grilled cheese contest: Every spring, the Seattle Cheese Festival—held at the Market—holds a contest to see who can craft the most creative grilled cheese in town. Professional chefs always enter, but lay cooks often win.


Take a picture with Billie the Pig: Everyone takes pictures with Market mascot Rachel, only hardcore Market rats have photos with her recumbent cousin Billie, who sits, teats up, on Western Avenue by the Pike Place Hillclimb.


Take someone you love—or hate—to the Gum Wall: There’s no room for ambivalence, every Seattleite must have a clear position on the wall of chewed-up Bubble Yum spanning Post Alley. And we thought the Viaduct was divisive.


Drink beer, eat chocolate: Every year Pike Brewing invites local chocolatiers to show off their sweets at Chocofest, which also includes all the beer you can drink for $25.


Stop by the Waterfront Viewpoint (at the back of the Arcade next to the Soundview Cafe) to peek at the curious back decks of the Western Ave residences immediately across. You should spot: a life-size red alien sculpture, an antique surfboard, and a jungly roof-deck arboretum.


Self-guided cheese tour! Sample one piece at each of these purveyors: DeLaurenti, Beecher’s, Paris Grocery,Pike Place Creamery, the Spanish Table, Quality Cheese.


Visit the Giant Shoe Museum: See a shoe worn by the world’s tallest man, Robert Wadlow (1918–40), who was over eight feet tall. This minimuseum in the Arcade Downunder is owned and operated by Old Seattle Paperworks next door.


Offer a fish: Next time you go to a friend’s house, buy a fish from one of the Arcade vendors and bring it to your host as a gift, it’s a traditional symbol of gratitude among Market folk.


Buy someone a bouquet in the Arcade. Nothing beats the feeling of walking around with a big paper-wrapped bundle of tulips…except the one when you hand it over to someone you’re crushing on.


Buy a string of chili peppers from Mick’s Peppourri in the Arcade. Come on, you know you’ve always wanted one.


Sample the smoked salmon at Pure Food Fish. Seriously, you have to try it.


Buy the fixings for the perfect Pike Place Bloody Mary: tomato juice and celery bitters at DeLaurenti, pickled asparagus from Woodring Northwest, sea salt at Market­Spice …the vodka you’ll have to pick up elsewhere.


Have a picnic in Steinbrueck Park—the lawn is lovely, though not without the sort of small excitements that involve police officers. There are people selling herbs out here, too, just not the legal kind.


Get to know the merchants. Dainty crystal expert Jim Eagan at Gem Heaven, opera-singing David ­Ghoddousi at Lionheart Books, coin-collecting expert Darrell Strand (did you know they called it “the hobby of kings”?) at Market Coins …some of our city’s most colorful characters are lurking in the underbelly of the Arcade. Go say hello.

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