Ah, the bounty of farmers market season!

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

The famous view of the entrance to the market! (Picture courtesy of Pike's Place)

The famous view of the entrance to the market! (Picture courtesy of Pike’s Place)

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.

A Pike's bouquet I couldn't help but treat myself to!

A Pike’s bouquet I couldn’t help but treat myself to!

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 closes off the main drag (Ballard Ave.) to cars so pedestrians have the run of the place!

The market closes off the main drag (Ballard Ave.) to cars so pedestrians have the run of the place! (Picture courtesy of Ballard Farmer’s Market)

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.

From kitsch to treasure! (Courtesy of the Fremont Sunday Market)

Kitsch or treasure? It’s all in the eye of the beholder. (Courtesy of the Fremont Sunday 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!).

Simply idyllic. View of Lake Union from the Burke Gilman bike trail near the Fremont Market. (Picture courtesy of Matt McGrath)

Simply idyllic. View of Lake Union from the Burke Gilman bike trail near the Fremont Market. (Picture courtesy of Matt McGrath)


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!


For your occasional swanky night out

About two weeks ago I had a bit of a hankering to hear some jazz and to get gussied up and go out; there’s only so much flannel and gore-tex a person can take. I know it can be hard to have that kind of evening without feeling extremely guilty about the cost of food, drinks, entertainment, etc., but that’s why Jazz Alley was perfect: it totally satisfied my desire for a classy evening without being a budget-buster. This is possible because for first sets (~7:30p) on Wednesdays and second sets (~9:30p if there is one) on Thursdays, tickets for students are 50% off! You do need reservations (make sure to tell them you’re a student), and you do need to bring your student ID, but then you’re all set. It really is that easy. It goes from being kind of pricey — often $20-30 per ticket — to totally reasonable! Another plus: they have a free parking lot! In downtown seattle! Amazing!

Onto the actual experience of Jazz Alley. First, a warning: finding Jazz Alley can be a little tricky if you don’t know what you’re looking for. It’s entrance is actually *in* an alley, and although its name is therefore quite apt, it means you have to know where you’re going. (Pro tip: it’s actually in the alley off of Lenora between 5th and 6th.)


Okay, so you’ve finally found the entrance. You walk into a small entryway where you are greeted and given your tickets. You can’t see any of the club from there because it is actually down one level; it’s almost as if you’re entering some secret speakeasy. Anyway, down the stairs you go and you enter a large, beautiful, dimly lit room, and are taken to your table. The people there for dinner get the best seats, but all of the seats are good seats. (Pro tip: don’t get dinner at Jazz Alley! It’s quite expensive, and it’s totally fine to go and not eat.)  The music was superb, and they have a whole variety of acts and types of music that come through.

photo 5


Drinks, as with the food, are a little pricey, with cocktails in the $10-12 range. Since it was my swanky night out and I had gotten such a great deal on the tickets, I splurged and got a drink. The dim lights were making me a tad sleepy so I treated myself to a kahlua & coffee, while my friend got a seattle sazarac. Both were quite tasty.

Jazz Alley is a great gem of a jazz club downtown that is surprisingly accessible for students. Their other offerings (food and drink) are certainly more expensive but as a special treat it’s a great option. Everyone, even forever-casual Seattleites, wants to have a nice night out every so often, right? This is definitely a great spot to do it.