10 Things to Do with Kids at the Pike Place Market
The Pike Place Market makes a great summer outing, offering up hundreds of sights, sounds, tastes and smells. The least busy time to visit is 9:30 to 11 a.m. if you want to avoid big tourist crowds. Here are 10 of my favorite places to stop with children.
- Walk the main concourse. Start at First Avenue and Pike Street by DeLaurenti’s, turn right under the clock (by the guys throwing fish – difficult for kids to see unless you put them on your shoulders) and wander north to Victor Steinbrueck Park at Pike Place and Virginia Street. Give your kids $10-$20 and let them pick their own vegetables, fruits or flowers. Stop to sample fruit slices, chocolate, pasta, jams, nuts and other goodies and to listen to the buskers. Be on the lookout for unusual sights – last week I saw a man with a gray parrot on his shoulder; the bird said “meow.”
- Feed Rachel. Plan ahead and collect pennies and dimes to put in the slot on the back of the Market’s famous 550-pound piggy bank, under the clock and main market sign. Hear the coins enter her belly with a satisfying ring and know you are supporting social service agencies at the market.
- Watch the donuts roll. Mini donuts slowly move along a conveyer belt and into the frying oil at the Daily Dozen Doughnut Company at the southern end of the main concourse (just like in Robert McCloskey’s classic Homer Price story.) $3.39-$4.66 per dozen.
- Play with wind-up toys. Just after the donut store, and before you come to Rachel, turn left into the Economy Market Atrium, with the giant squid sculpture on the ceiling. At the Great Wind-Up on the second floor, there’s a table where you can gently play with dozens of funky wind-up toys. (“Toy abuse is a crime.”) Can you find a lion on a raft, a doggie with a drum and a giant snail?
- See a magic trick. As you follow the main concourse, you’ll see three sets of arrows and stairs pointing “Down Under.” The Pike Place Magic Shop is on the first level down. Put in a couple of quarters to get your fortune told by the “lady” at the entrance; say the magic word (please) to see a card trick or magic demonstration. Little gifts like tiny fish that flop in the palm of your hand are only a few dollars. Can you find a rubber chicken, a bodiless head with a red hat, and a robot with orange eyes playing cards?
- Look at all the cute (stuffed) doggies and puddy-tats. Merry Tails, also on the first level “Down Under,” is a delight for younger children. There’s a stuffed animal “zoo” at the entrance; can you find a snowy owl, an emu and a raccoon? Inside, find stuffed versions of lots of different dog breeds at kid height, along with dozens of pet-humorous posters, books and signs.
- Enter an alternate universe. Golden Age Collectibles at the extreme south end of the first level “Down Under” is a magnet for pre-teens and teens. See life-size cardboard cutouts of movie characters, human and nonhuman, at the entrance, and browse through hundreds of comic books, postcards, games, posters and even movie scripts. Can you find the latest editions of Justice Society America, the Canterbury Cricket and The Mighty Thor, alongside Wonder Woman and Superman?
- Compare yourself to a giant. In the middle of the first level “Down Under,” find the Giant Shoe Museum. Stand next to a cut-out of Robert Wadlow, who was 8 feet, 11 inches tall; pay 25 cents to see his shoe – he had the biggest foot in history.
- Watch cheese churning. On the east side of Pike Place, across from the main concourse, find the Beecher Cheese Building just south of Stewart Street. Stand by the big windows to see huge vats of cream being slowly churned with giant blades. Step inside for small samples or to buy the ultimate grilled cheese sandwich ($5.91).
- Visit a bit of Mexico. From the east side of Pike Place, turn into Post Alley by the El Mercado Latino Market (with the hanging chains of colorful dried peppers and garlic). With its sidewalk cafes and flower boxes, this part of the alley feels like a European market. Step back into the labyrinth of shops in the Post Alley Market Building to see the psychedelically colorful Milagros Mexican Folk Art & Handicrafts store. Can you find a spotted bear with red toenails, a mask of a bull and a skeleton bride?
These were my favorite spots to visit with my own children and friends, but the Market has loads more to offer. If you follow your own interests – and your nose – you’re sure to find your own special places.
If You Go...
Where: Main entrance at First Avenue and Pike Street
When: Open daily, Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Down Under stores open daily, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (some restaurants open earlier or later).
Parking: Public Market Garage, 1531 Western Ave. ($4 for one hour to $15 for four to 10 hours).
Summer Events: Meet the Producer farm table tours, Saturday and Sunday through Sept. 25, 1 p.m. at the Farm Information Tent at the north end of Pike Place; free, including samples. Farm Days on the Cobblestones with extra seasonal food stalls Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays through Sept. 28 on Pike Place; free cooking demonstrations Sundays, noon and 2 p.m. Fruit Festival with cherry pie eating contests, cucumber derby car races, kids’ crafts and activities and music July 24, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; free. Market Anniversary and Rachel’s 25th Birthday Aug. 17 – details to be announced.
Contact: 206-682-7453; www.pikeplacemarket.org.
Best Market Eats for Kids
The Market is brimming with places to eat. While major restaurants can be expensive (lunch entrees in the $10-$20 range), there are plenty of kids’ alternatives, take-out options and, of course, desserts and goodies. Graze at will.
At the main Pike Street and First Avenue entrance, step in to DeLaurenti’s Italian Grocery for big, square slices of pizza ($2.75-$3.50) and lots of salads and calzones; share the long board table or the counter overlooking First Avenue with other diners. Need dessert? Walk a few steps south along First Avenue, in the Economy Market Building, to find The Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory with 22 kinds of delectable candy apple varieties in the window, plus ice cream.
As you walk along the southern end of the main concourse, you’ll find fruits and vegetables to buy and take, along with reasonably-priced Mexican and Indian delis and a take-out sushi and teriyaki spot (and the Daily Dozen Doughnut Company.) Where to eat your take-out or brown-bag lunch? There are lots of tables and chairs on the lower level of the Sanitary Market Atrium, by the big carving of Bigfoot. Walk down the ramp just north of Pike Place Fish and Rachel to the Public Viewpoint, where there’s a long counter overlooking the waterfront with a few stools (you may have to stand).
Next to the Public Viewpoint is the Soundview Café with a $5 kids menu (buttered pasta, quesadillas and roasted turkey, grilled cheese or PB & J sandwiches) and a salad bar where kids can pick exactly what they want to eat, with no extras to waste. Good soups, too.
Except for samples and fruit stalls, you won’t find much to buy and take out on the north part of the main concourse. Down Under, on the first level down, there’s Pike Place Chinese Cuisine, a narrow, informal eatery that almost feels suspended over the water. It’s less crowded than upstairs restaurants, and $10 entrees are easy to split. On the same level is Sweetie’s Candy, noted for its huge swirly lollipops.
Cross over to the east side of Pike Place (away from the water) to find plenty of inexpensive take-out options and desserts. Walking south to north, you’ll find a great selection at Shy Giant Yogurt and Frozen Desserts in the Corner Market Building, next to the colorful Corner Produce. In the neighboring Sanitary Market Building, Three Girls Bakery sells big sandwiches on homemade bread along with dozens of baked goodies – cutest ones are pink-frosted ginger pigs. Further north in the Triangle Building, pick up lunch at Mr. D’s Greek Deli with a delicious range of soups and salads for $5-$7 or Mee Sum Pastry (Hom Baos for $2.29). And don’t forget the Pear Delicatessen and Shoppe in the Champion Building and Turkish Delight (kebabs, phyllo pastry and the delectable gel candies) in the Pike and Virginia Building. I’m just scratching the surface here – you’re sure to find your own favorite.
If you need ice cream or coffee or a place to sit and eat, you’ll find The Chocolate Factory in the Soames-Dunn Building. They’re not cheap (cones $3.18-$6.50), but there are plenty of ice cream flavors, along with traditional shakes, sodas, floats, sundaes and banana splits. If you need another place to take your brown-bag or take-out from the north end of the market, go to Victor Steinbrueck Park at Pike Place and Virginia Street.