A true rite of passage into springtime is upon us: the beginning of farmers’ market season! Now, don’t get me wrong, there are plenty (PLENTY!) of markets in Seattle that go year-round, but springtime brings us the right feel for the market. Wandering leisurely imagining all the delicious things you could make with the fresh veggies, drooling over that vanilla lavender scone, scoping out an amazing locally-made cheese, and generally enjoying the musicians busking and people watching as the sun shines upon you. Not to mention, we can finally move on from those root vegetables! (I actually don’t have anything against root vegetables.) The point is that farmers markets just feel right in the spring. And although the products can be a bit pricey if you do all of your shopping there, wandering the market to get inspired, see the sights, and eat some free samples is a perfect way to enjoy it.
As I always seem inclined to do, below you’ll find a little list of some of my favorite markets in the Seattle area:
The mother of all markets: Pike’s Place Market
Pike’s Place is the most famous of all Seattle markets. They boast being open 19 1/2 hours a day, 362 days a year. There are all sorts of crafts, foods, flowers, and restaurants to wander through, and on clear days it gives you one heck of an incredible view of the Olympic Mountains! There are many levels of shops in the market, and as you go farther into the market, you’re transported into new worlds of knick-knacks and collectables. Right at the entrance are the famous fishmongers. They really do throw the fish! You’ll also find the very first Starbucks right nearby if that’s your style. Another famous (perhaps, notorious) landmark is the gum wall (I’ll let you find that one for yourselves!). Also, it’s worth noting that the areas surrounding Seattle are famous for producing incredibly beautiful flowers, and amazing bouquets can be purchased at Pike’s for $5 or $10 dollars.
Find it downtown. On Pike St (not a coincidence, of course), right on the water.
My local market: The Ballard Farmers Market
I’m a little biased in favor of this market. It’s not so big as to be overwhelming or overcrowded, but just the right size to host a great number of vendors and entertainment. The Ballard Market is known for its musicians as well as its food! There are buskers (people who play music on the street) there regularly, often playing bluegrass and folk, providing the perfect soundtrack for wandering through the heart of Ballard.
The market runs year-round on Sundays from 10-3p. There are plenty of free samples and friendliness to be had here, and some great brunch spots if you work up an appetite (try Hattie’s Hat, Senor Moose, or Salmon Bay Cafe). Another sweet (literally) highlight: the mini donuts at the north end of the market. For $3/a half dozen, you don’t end up with too much guilt and it’s easy on the wallet. (And of course it’s insanely tasty!)
Find it in downtown Ballard (on Ballard Ave.), right off the 40, 44, and near the 15 bus lines (among others).
The Fremont Market is like the eclectic aunt of markets. It’s been a mainstay of the Seattle scene since 1990, and is equal parts flea and farmers’ market.
The Fremont market runs year-round from 10a-4p on Sundays, right by the canal in downtown Fremont. On sunny days, the views of the canal and the entrance to Lake Union under the Aurora Bridge are pure magic. Plenty of great restaurants and cafes line the nearby streets, perfect for recharging after wandering through the sizable market (up to 150 vendors each Sunday!).
There are plenty of other fantastic markets in the Seattle area (the University District has a great one on Saturdays, the Broadway market in Capitol Hill on Sundays…), the list could go on. I maintain that farmers’ markets are not just a way to get high quality, organic, local (etc. etc.) food. They give you a window into the vibrant culture in Seattle: live music, people watching, products that Seattleites are proud of…. Plus, what a great opportunity to explore new neighborhoods and eat all kinds of delicious free samples (seriously, I sample that Mt. Townsend Creamery Seastack cheese every single time). Yum!