Sure, Pike Place Market is the soul of Seattle.
It’s also the epicenter of sensory overload.
The first time I went I felt like one of those fish thrown through the air, only I didn’t have a hunky fishmonger in orange waders to catch me and swaddle my gills.
So, for hours, I stayed adrift in the sea of noise, scents, colors and chaos.
That’s basically how I felt the next five times I went to Pike Place Market. Not that there’s anything bad about that. It was crazy, wild fun to peruse this waterfront bazaar of everything and then some.
It wasn’t until I took the Savor Seattle Tour that the mania of produce, crafts, flowers, fish and frolic started making sense.
The tour through the 105-year-old iconic market is as informative as it is filling.
A guide holding a pink umbrella ushered our group through the crowds and introduced the artisans behind the food. Having someone tell the story of the market while touring it in real time makes you feel tuned into that Seattle vibe.
Plus, you get to eat.
It’s a 10 mini-course meal of tea, coffee, chocolate, cheese, fruit, salmon, chowder, piroshky, crab cakes and hot doughnuts.
It’s also a crash course on Rachel the golden pig, the Gum Wall, how cheese is made and other market culture.
“It’s history plus a meal, all in one,” Savor Seattle Tour founder Angela Shen said.
Shen got into the tour biz in 2007 after moving to Seattle.
“I grew up in the restaurant industry. I thought it would be a great way to connect consumers with people behind the food,” she said. “We are so lucky to have a great food culture.”
She’s not the only gig in town at the market. Other competing tour companies cater to foodies as well as folklore. For example: Market Ghost Tour and Seattle Lust Tour.
With 10 million visitors a year at the market, there’s plenty of tour action to go around.
And plenty of fish.
Andrea Brown; 425-339-3443; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Savor Seattle Tour
When: Daily, up to six times. Frequency varies by season.
Where: Pike Place Market, First Avenue and Pike Street.
Duration: 2 hours
Stops: Daily Dozen Doughnuts, MarketSpice, Pike Place Fish, Frank’s Quality Produce, Pike Place Chowder, Chukar Cherries, Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, Piroshky-Piroshky and Etta’s Seafood Restaurant
Other market tours
Seattle Ghost Tour: www.seattleghost.com
Seattle Food Tours: www.seattlefoodtours.com
Public Market Tours: www.publicmarkettours.com
Pike Place tidbits
Pike Place Market was founded to give local farmers an opportunity to sell directly to the public. On opening day, Aug. 17, 1907, eight farmers with wagons of produce were overwhelmed by about 10,000 eager shoppers, most of whom went home empty-handed. By the end of 1907, the first market building opened, with every space filled.
The market is home to more than 200 year-round commercial businesses; 190 craftspeople and 100 farmers who rent table space by the day; 240 street performers and musicians; and more than 300 apartment units, mostly for low-income or elderly people.
There are 13 market sites for street performers. Painted musical notes mark the sidewalks where they stand. Horns, percussion and amplified music are not allowed.
The market is open 19½ hours a day, 362 days a year. Hours are from 6 a.m. breakfast to Last Call at 1:30 a.m.
To celebrate spring’s arrival, Pike Place Market community members will hand out 10,000 locally grown daffodils March 20.