Seattle, WA: Doing the Touristy Stuff

Pike Place Seattle, WAIf you’ve never been to Seattle, you must see some of the iconic places on the tourist maps first hand, especially the Pike Place Public Market (Fish Market) and the Space Needle (Seattle Center). Not only have these two destinations helped to put Seattle on the map, they have inspired artists of all kinds including painters, photographers, writers, and major motion picture film producers! I stop at the famous Pike Place Market a few times a year, especially if I am showing out-of-town visitors around.

He's going to toss it folks!

He’s going to toss it, folks!

Seattle’s Public Market is also known as Pike Place Market or “the soul of Seattle”. It all began in 1906-07 when produce shoppers were outraged at the prices for onions and other such goods being provided by middle-men who collected the goods from the farmers and sold them at top dollar. The consumers of this era found a powerful ally in Seattle’s City Councilman Thomas Revelle. Revelle suggested that a public market be created to connect the farmers and producers to the buying public directly, which is still the mission of the market today.

Flowers at Pike Place in Seattle, WAOn August 17th, 1907, the market was born. On the very first day, more than 10,000 shoppers arrived to purchase goods from the farmers. With only eight farmers and all the goods they could carry in their wagons, they were understandably overwhelmed by the demand. They sold out by 11am, but the chaos of what transpired that day held promise despite the disappointment of thousands of empty-handed people. By the end of that year, the first building was created and there wasn’t an empty slot in the place.

A century later, Pike Place Market is internationally recognized as America’s premier farmers’ market and is home to more than 200 year-round commercial businesses; 190 craftspeople and approximately 100 farmers who rent table space by the day; 240 street performers and musicians; and more than 300 apartment units, most of which provide housing for low-income elderly people. “The Market,” as the locals affectionately say, attracts 10 million visitors a year, making it one of Washington state’s most frequently visited destinations. – Public Market/Pike Place

Original Starbucks Coffee House

Original Starbucks Coffee House

Although at times the crowds can be overwhelming, I feel that is one of the most important parts of experiencing the market the way it has always been. Catching a glimpse of the fish market guys throwing the fish to customers, listening to the street performers, and fighting the crowds are all part of it. I have seen the creative talents of some of Washington’s most skilled craftsmen here as well, alongside some of the finest flowers and produce grown in the country. Just across the street from the market is the oldest operational location of Starbucks Coffee House. It almost always has a long line, but it’s worth a photo or maybe even some of your time to socialize with fellow tourists as you wait to place your order. They often have musicians playing to entertain you while you wait.

5th Ave and Pine Monorail entrance

5th Ave and Pine Monorail entrance

After a few hours browsing in the market, one could be looking to get a bird’s-eye view of the city, some fresh air, and possibly to get away from the grand-sized crowds. After a short walk east along Pike Street, a left onto 5th Avenue, and one block to the corner of Pine Street, you will see the monorail track above you. This is the Seattle Monorail‘s beginning, or end, depending on which way you’re going. It’s the fast-track between the Space Needle and the downtown “amenities” of the city (Westlake Center Mall). It’s a 2.4-mile trip with trains leaving about every 10 minutes. There’s only one stop to serve Seattle Center: Pacific Science Center, Hendrix Music Experience, Sci-Fi Museum, Space Needle, and more.

Originally, the monorail was created for the 1962 Worlds Fair at a cost of over $3.5 million. Amazingly, more than 8 million people rode the tracks during the 6-month fair. Before the fair’s end, the monorail was all paid for and was making a profit for Alweg Rapid Transit Systems, who won the construction bid because they offered to underwrite the entire cost of its construction. Today, the Seattle Monorail transports about 2 million riders each day and is one of the few self-sufficient public rail systems in the nation.

The Space Needle in Seattle, WAOnce you exit the monorail, you can’t miss the towering Space Needle’s silhouette. You can see this icon from just about anywhere in the city, much like the Eiffel Tower in Paris or the Chrysler Building in NYC, but the view from below might just make you dizzy.

The grounds of the 1962 World’s Fair surround you here and many of the destinations within the Seattle Center are worth a look, but the Needle is where I recommend that you start. If you want to go all out, consider dining in the five-star restaurant at the top of the Space Needle. The dining experience isn’t just about the food: the entire restaurant slowly turns so that you have a chance at views of all sides throughout your meal. However, for a much quicker journey to the top, buy a ticket for the viewing area. You can snack, wander around all sides, and take in the beautiful views of the Puget Sound, the City’s skyscrapers, and the lakes and hills all around Seattle’s metro area. The visitors’ store on the lower level has memorabilia and souvenirs to buy. You can even flatten a penny for good luck.

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I hope you have enjoyed this post. Here are some extras that will help you along the way.

General Info:

Monorail Information: Visit their website at
Open Monday-Friday: 7:30AM
Open Saturday-Sunday: 8:30AM
Closed Sunday-Thursday: 9:00PM
Closed Friday-Saturday: 11:00PM

TICKET PRICES: All prices are one-way:
$2.25 for Adults
$1.00 for Youth ages 5-12
$1.00 for Reduced Rate (Seniors 65+, disabled, persons with Medicare cards, & active duty U.S. military)
Children 4 and under ride free


Interactive map of the Pike Place Market: All the buildings in green are a part of the Market, too much to explore in just one day! Click in the image to explore your options.

Map of Pike Place Market

Monorail Map:


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