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The MIHS Islander

The Student News Site of Mercer Island High School

The MIHS Islander

The Student News Site of Mercer Island High School

The MIHS Islander

Pike Place Debate

Barbie Hull Photography

Known for being the home to the flagship Starbucks and Beecher’s stores, as well as landmarks from Sleepless in Seattle, “the Market” has been an iconic PNW destination since 1907.

In August, USA Today released a list of the World’s Worst Tourist Attractions. And there in 10th place came Seattle’s Pike Place Market.  

Sam: Market Lover

Despite living on MI for the majority of my life, I consider myself a Seattleite. Hearing that people consider the market one of the worst tourist traps worldwide was an atrocity in my book. I will use any excuse to go to Pike Place Market. I grew up getting brunch on Sundays at Lowell’s, cheeses and cured meats from DiLaurenti, and begging my mom for Beecher’s mac and cheese (it is truly the world’s best). I love Pike Place. 

There are definitely certain tourist traps at the market, but you’d find that in any downtown of any metropolitan city. There are overpriced souvenir shops and the OG Starbucks, which are on the more commercialized side of the market. However, the market itself “only allows vendors that […] qualify as a local farmer, processor, or artisan/crafter as defined by the WSFMA Roots Guidelines,” according to the Pike Place website. So, what confuses me is how an organization whose charter actively preaches the value of local businesses is ranked as a worse tourist trap than freaking Times Square, which came in 43rd place. 

Also, after the closing of Seattle institution MacPherson’s Fruit & Produce, the city is running out of places to find exceptional produce and groceries. While you may not be getting the cheapest products, the selection of produce at Sosio’s Produce in the heart of Pike Place is unmatched. The experience of choosing fruits and vegetables from an array of knowledgeable employees is not something you find at QFC. Hearing the origins and stories behind the fruit you’re eating is a special experience, and the fruit is marginally better. 

Pike Place is the destination for a perfect outing at any point of the year. While the crowd sizes aren’t small during the holidays, if you know where you’re going, there won’t be outrageous wait times. There’s nothing better than a cup of Beecher’s mac and cheese or clam chowder on a typical rainy day, or alternatively, a cup of fresh ginger beer on a July day. With the scenery of ferries and the east Puget Sound, it truly is unique to Seattle. 

Of course, the idea of an outdoor market is not something completely revolutionary, but it is nonetheless valuable to have so close by. If all you care about is convenience, Pike Place will seem unnecessary to you. But if you want to find specialty groceries, have a fun meal, or just enjoy the view–it’s the right place to be. The market is a focal point of the city; deeming it a tourist trap is a disgrace to our community. 

Richard: Average Market That Can Be Found in Most Major Cities

Pike Place Market is, at best, average. I moved to Seattle five years ago from Boulder, Colorado, and the first few times I went to the market I thought that it was a wonderful and unique place that is like no other. However, as I have aged, I have come to the realization that Pike Place is really just an average tourist destination, with crowds of people wandering through the densely populated walkways looking at all the “unique” things that you can only find in the PNW or Amazon.

For those of you who think Pike Place Market is different and special to Seattle, it’s really not that different from what other cities in the U.S. have. Every major city has an average place that they call exclusive, with each one of them having their own “unique” shops that are specific to the group or culture of people that live there, and with the “freshest” produce in the whole city. Every one of those special places has good restaurants, with people walking by the masses and pondering whether they should get the “freshest” produce in the whole city, or if they should buy this interesting piece of art that is claiming that you can only get the “authentic” ones here. 

Admittedly, there are some good things about the market, like Beecher’s and the fish throwing, but those only take 10-30 minutes at the most to see or do, which is not really worth driving around 20 minutes to get there (excluding traffic, then looking for parking, then walking your way through all of the tourists wandering through all the little shops). Doing all that takes in total around one hour and 30 minutes, if you’re being efficient with your time, which is fine to do once every year, but not on a regular basis. For example, it is like visiting Times Square in New York: you might visit it every once in a blue moon. 

Pike Place’s cleanliness is comparable to that of Times Square’s. Both are absolutely disgusting. Both have rat infestation, people spitting, coughing and dropping food on the ground (I could not find any source whatsoever about how often Pike Place is cleaned). One of Pike Place’s main attractions is the gum wall, which probably has more germs than the New York city sewers, and is probably the next breeding ground for another COVID-19 pandemic. The foot traffic is also another thing that makes the market below average, because it can take you up to five minutes just to walk 100 feet, simply because some random tourists are too busy gawking at the original Starbucks that is really just a normal Starbucks serving below-average burnt coffee. At the end of the day, Pike Place is an unclean and below-average tourist attraction, with crowds of people making it hard to walk anywhere looking at all the little “unique” shops that you can find everywhere else. In other words, Pike Place is not special, and every big city in the US has their own Pike Place that they call “special.”

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About the Contributor
Sam Pelter
Sam Pelter, Social Media Team
Sam is a Junior and this is her third year on the Islander staff. Last year, she was on the Social Media team, and the year prior she was a staff writer. Outside of Journalism, Sam is a coxswain for Mt Baker Crew and enjoys playing her guitar. Sam’s guilty pleasure is Greys Anatomy and eating Nutella by the spoonful. 

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    Paelun BMar 13, 2024 at 1:40 pm

    Great article! While I definitely think more could be done to increase the uniqueness of the Market, I do think it has a great atmosphere and is a good tourist attraction. The only thing I don’t like is that gum wall, it’s so gross lol. But that fact that this is the best Washington State can offer is kind of sad.

    Having moved here from Northern Virginia and having spent an ungodly amount of time in Washington DC as a kid, I definitely have a pretty high standard for public works, but Seattle has objectively failed to really put in the effort to create unique social areas in the city. This is why I support Pike’s Place, because along with the Space Needle it is basically the only unique and culturally notable center in the entirety of Washington State. In reference to Richard’s argument, I really don’t think the point is to have better products than online vendors, as I don’t think that would ever be possible in the modern day. When you compare why European malls have continued to thrive while American malls failed, the underlying source of the disparity is that American malls were created purely for commerce which became outpaced by online shipping, whereas European malls were and have continued to primarily be constructed as social spaces.