10/22/2010 09:53 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

A Foodie's Favorite: Pike Place Market

*See Slideshow Below*

Pike Place Market is my favorite festive place to visit in Seattle. When it's rainy and dreary, the
103-year old public market's organic stands burst with an array of colors. Stall after stall of the finest and freshest, locally grown produce lure customers with their perfectly arranged displays. Meat purveyors, fish mongers, buckets of fresh, big blooms, bakery delights, cheeses, herbs and spices along with handmade crafts cover nine acres.

With so much to see, set aside at least two hours to peruse the stands for samples, purchases and photos. For the least crowded conditions, visit on a weekday morning when it opens at 10:00. The busiest time of the year is summer when crowd battles begin. I find autumn and spring to be the most opportune time to visit. Winter can be ghost ridden sans tourists.

-Pike Place Market is open from 10:00am to 6:00pm daily. (Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day)
-For foodies and history buffs, engaging guided tours are available, and reservations are required. (Adults $10, Seniors and 18 & under $7) To register, call (206) 774-5249.
-Fish mongers sling salmon through the air; you might even catch one. This is as much a show as a great action photo op.
-Toss a coin in the life-sized bronze piggy bank named Rachel. She's the market's mascot and has collected more than $100,000 in donations since her arrival in 1986.
-If you purchase seafood, it will ship overnight to the east coast.
-Purchase an armload of fresh flowers for a mere $10-$15.
-The very first Starbucks, which opened in 1971, is located across the street from the market. Due to its historic district location, it retains its original look.
-For lunch, there are over 50 restaurants and take-out spots ranging from very casual to semi formal. On my last visit, I sat in a cozy booth at Etta's Restaurant and had their delicious signature crab cakes. Two thumb's up.

Where I Stayed:
Hotel Monaco (The lobby is whimsically elegant with painted porpoises gracing the walls. A separate private elevator leads to the hotel suites.) Its ideal location is close to Pike Place Market as well as the ferries to Vancouver Island and Vancouver.