Holiday traditions are rooted in connections. Family and friends gathered together for meals, or doing holiday shopping. This year, those connections are taking on different shapes due to the coronavirus pandemic. Despite the challenges, shared experiences are still possible, and are at the top of many people’s wish lists.

Visiting a Seattle landmark like Pike Place Market offers a chance to keep many of those holiday traditions going, with a few modifications for safety. Upon arrival, you’ll notice 6-foot markers throughout the nine-acres of the Market to encourage social distancing, and all shoppers and employees are required to wear masks. Forgot your mask? There’s no need to turn around and head home — just go to the Information Booth and you’ll be provided with a free mask. High-touch surfaces now have an antimicrobial film, which prevents the transfer of germs, and additional handwashing stations have been installed throughout the Market.

Thanks to these safety measures, many shops and restaurants at Pike Place Market remain open for both in-person browsing and curbside pickup, so supporting local businesses remains an option. Business owners have gone to great lengths to ensure customers feel at ease and can embrace the holiday spirit during their visits. One thing we love about the Market is the diversity of shops — you can easily check off everyone on your list, from the art lovers to the foodies, and this year is no different.

Unique and artisan gifts

We all have at least one friend or family member who loves unique, one-of-a-kind gifts of the arts and crafts variety — and there’s an abundance of such shops at Pike Place Market in the open-air Crafts Market. Featuring handcrafted items from approximately 100 local and regional artisans and craftspeople, browse through the diverse array of art, jewelry, paintings, toys, pottery, and even body care products made from local ingredients. One major perk of the Crafts Market is that you can converse with the artisans and craftspeople about their artistic process and ask them questions about any products that catch your eye.

Local artisans are making the most of the current situation. Lauren Rudeck, owner of the gift shop Robot vs Sloth, says she decorated early this year. Rudeck, who is also the artist behind the shop’s products, hand-painted the windows and constructed a fireplace in the store. “I went all out this year and got a 10-foot tall tree for the shop and lots of garland and Christmas lights,” she says. Robot vs Sloth is carrying more handmade holiday ornaments this year than they have in the past, so if you spot an ornament you like on the tree, chances are you’ll be able to buy one as a gift (or for yourself!). Rudeck collaborates with a Portland-based artist to create the ornaments, many of which are Seattle-themed.

Because Robot vs Sloth currently only allows three customers inside at a time, there’s often a line — but don’t let that deter you. “I created a scratch-off card where [customers] get to scratch off three circles and underneath reveals a prize they’ll get with their purchase,” says Rudeck. “It’s a way to say ‘thank you’ for waiting.”

Specialty foods

Pike Place Market is famous for fish tossing, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to food. A visit to the Market wouldn’t be complete without visiting its myriad specialty food shops. The options are endless for the foodies and home chefs on your list, whether it’s spices imported from other continents, specialty olive oils, or sweet treats.

Like Rudeck, Kristi Drake, owner of the French bakery Le Panier, has also decked the halls of her shop for the holidays. Drake puts up a live Christmas tree every year, but this holiday season, she’s taking advantage of the extra space in the store created since closing the seating area. “We’re putting in a Christmas tree forest and we’re going to do some overhead decorations this year,” says Drake. “We just want to make it an enchanting experience.”

Specialty food shops have also found ways to continue tastings safely — and this is crucial because part of the Pike Place experience is trying new foods. For example, Rei Hanscomb, owner of Truffle Queen, says tastings are essential because many people who come into the shop have never tried truffles before. “A taste is worth a thousand words,” says Hanscomb. “We always want people to feel welcome and to feel comfortable asking questions and asking for suggestions.” In the interest of safety and following guidelines, shops like Truffle Queen do the tastings through Plexiglass with items individual packaged for single portions.

Although Truffle Queen’s most popular holiday items are traditional Italian cakes, Hanscomb’s collaboration with Market crafter Stephanie Shull of Pike Place Pigs is the perfect example of local business owners working together and helping one another during a time of need. Because Shull is not currently selling at the Market, her little ceramic pigs are available at Truffle Queen — so you can still support Pike Place Pigs even though the table itself isn’t open.

Takeout and outdoor dining

Food memories are an important part of the holiday season, whether that includes a nibble here and there while you shop or stopping for dinner, the Market has many ways to keep traditions alive. From open-air food stalls to patio dining and takeout, there are plenty of options for dining experiences.

Because indoor dining isn’t an option, restaurants have made an effort to ensure eating outdoors is a pleasant experience. Karl Sexton, owner of Virginia Inn, explains that they’ve set up a sidewalk cafe that seats 16 people, with a retractable awning overhead. Other restaurants including The Alibi Room, El Borracho, Maximilien Restaurant, Pike Place Chowder and Place Pigalle are also offering the option of outdoor dining. There are also numerous takeout options if you prefer to dine in the comfort of your own home. Just give your restaurant of choice a call in advance and then pick up your food when you’re done shopping. Despite our many modified holiday plans, restaurants are continuing to add seasonal dishes to their menus, so be sure to ask for the specials

Like everything else, the holidays are different this year — but luckily, we can still enjoy some of our favorite Seattle traditions and support local businesses along the way.

Pike Place Market is the best place to be this holiday season. Shop for the freshest ingredients at our open-air Market, discover hundreds of amazing handmade gifts you can’t find anywhere else, and pick up dinner all in one place!