Chances are if you’ve brought the kids to Pike Place Market, you’ve snapped a photo with Rachel the Pig and said “Ew!” to the gum wall. Jenise Silva recommends plunging further into its labyrinthine depths. For more than a decade, Silva has explored the Market from toddler height as a volunteer with the Pike Market Child Care and Preschool. She also authored the 2016 edition of The Hunt Seattle, a guide to the city’s gems.
“The Market in general just explodes kids’ heads,” she says, as they’re handed apples, candy and other samples. But her first piece of advice is as much for the adults as the kids: find the rooftop garden. Even when the main arcades are jam-packed, the garden, which opened in 2013, remains remarkably peaceful and families can rest on the benches, draw on a chalk wall and take in spectacular views. “Nobody seems to know it’s there,” she marvels. To find it, squeeze past the crowd watching the fish sellers, follow a hallway between Don & Joe’s butcher counter and MarketSpice, pass under the neon Maximilien sign and then take a left down another hallway (there should be an Urban Garden sign).
Next, find the Giant Shoe Museum: “It’s beautiful and kind of magical,” she says of the old-timey, peepshow-style storefront, which is located on the Down Under level, below the Market entrance sign. Pop in a quarter and peer at a variety of — you guessed it — bizarrely oversized footwear. Then head to Rummage Around, which contains, as Silva puts it, “a big mess in the best kind of way.” Inside, you may find books, games and puppets or, for a quarter, let kids dig around in the big containers in the hallways for their own personal treasure.
She also recommends Bella Umbrella for big, bright umbrellas, and Metsker Maps, because it’s not fussy and kids can touch the globes and maps. There isn’t a toy store in the Market these days, but Silva points out that Oriental Mart has toy-like trinkets, Lion Heart has a good selection of kids’ books, and Golden Age Collectables has a giant inflatable Superman hanging from the ceiling. “Most of the visual stuff isn’t for sale,” she says of the comic book-themed shop, “So it’s OK for kids to go in and look.” And because no trip to the Market is complete without food, she recommends the giant meatball sandwich at LoPriore Bros., followed by the new retro-cool soda fountain and ice cream parlor, Shug’s.