It’s the home of flying salmon, Blues belting Buskers, and the original Starbucks Coffee shop. It’s Seattle’s Pike Place Public Market and one of the Northwest city’s most colorful and interesting free attractions.
In what began a little over 100 years ago as a way for people to buy fresh produce at a fair and reasonable price has turned into a top tourist destination for those visiting the city on scenic Elliott Bay.
Here, with the snow covered Olympic Mountains serving as a backdrop, (well, at least on a rain free day) you can still buy local produce as well as finding a wide assortment of arts and crafts, fresh cut flowers, and maybe a little of any and everything else in between in the nine acres and multi-leveled series of shops, stores, stalls, and tables in an arcade-like setting.
Famous for its fish mongers who don’t just call out daily specials but toss large salmon with remarkable distance and deftness over ice beds of mussels, clams, and Dungeness crabs to the delight of often surprised on-lookers.
“Is the salmon fresh?” asked one potential customer as one of the fish mongers called out a cry to his compatriots who echoed the coded call and soon sent a good sized fish flying towards her. The woman squealed with laughter as another fish monger caught it and held it up to within sniffing distance.
“You tell me?” said the employee as the woman nodded and laughed.
“Yes, it is!” she said still laughing as her husband and friends snapped quick pictures and she made arrangements to have the salmon shipped home.
“So is it over priced?” I asked while the husband shook his head.
“Are you kidding? For that show?” he said. “It’s well worth it.”
Wind your way through the crowd and you’ll find cafes and restaurants offering local and international cuisine as well as some talented or semi-talented musicians or street performers working various corners or open spaces.
Tap along to twelve bar Blues, original tunes, or other crowd pleasing pop favorites from the buskers who play for spare change and applause.
“I have CDs for sale,” said one of the musicians tuning his acoustic guitar in between performances while several women nod and inspect one from an open guitar case. “How much?” asks one of the women with a distinct foreign accent. “Where are you from?” “Hamburg, Germany,” replied the young woman.
“Eight dollars each or two for a thousand,” answered the busker with a wry smile. “Ah zo,” she said translating the humor and adding a punch line of her own. “Then, I will take one.”
At a neighboring stall another shopper was trying on sunglasses even as a dark rain squall was coming in from the Pacific. “Good price,” touted the vendor. “For fifty cents more I’ll install windshield wipers on them.”
Just below street level on one of the other floors of the Market complex that is protected historic district an employee in the magic shop entertained customers with slight-of-hand and humorous banter to the wide-eyed delight of a small audience. There is real magic to the Pike Place Market being performed on a daily basis. In addition to the shops and stalls the Pike Place Public Market houses a free health clinic, a child care center, low income housing and a senior center.