Gone are the days when farmers markets were simply about picking up locally grown fruits and veggies.
If you’ve been to a market in the Seattle area recently, you know that they are stepping up their game, big time – live music, stationary bike stations where you can pedal to blend your own fruit smoothies. chef demos, zucchini car races and more.
Add in the fact that many farmers markets are situated near a park or beach, and your family outing is complete. Here are some of our favorite markets for combining produce-picking with playtime.
Columbia City Farmers Market, Seattle (Wednesday)
The Columbia City Farmers Market, located in one of the most vibrant, diverse neighborhoods in Seattle, is a must-see for any market-goer, and is easily accessible by the light rail. The winner of Seattle Weekly’s Best Seattle Farmers Market of 2012, the market hosts produce-centric events, kids’ activities, cooking demos and more. More than 40 Washington State farmers and local food artisans pack the market with their cheese, fruits, honeys, ciders, pasture-raised meats and poultry and more. Another plus? Complimentary red shopping wagons make produce shopping more doable (especially for parents toting kids). Before or after shopping, head to Rainier Playfield.
Find it: S. Edmunds Street and 37th Ave. S., Seattle
Shop: Wednesdays, 3–7 p.m., May 7 through Oct. 16
Wallingford Farmers Market, Seattle (Wednesday)
Fresh, local produce, mouth-watering goodies and a lovely park setting made this market the Farmers Market of the Year for Washington State in 2012. Located in the middle of Meridian Park, a shady, pesticide-free park, the Wallingford Market is a not-to-miss neighborhood favorite.
You can sharpen your cooking skills with weekly cooking demonstrations from local chefs. Kiddos can burn off extra energy at the playground. And if you're a gardener, don't forget to wander the Seattle Tilth community gardens, right next door.
Find it: Meridian Park, 4649 Sunnyside Avenue N. Seattle
Shop: Wednesdays, 3:30 p.m.–7 p.m., May 28 through September 24.
Lake City Farmers Market, Seattle (Thursday)
Stop by this smaller, locally beloved market in downtown Lake City for high-quality fruits and veggies, bread and pastries, jams and jellies and gorgeous flowers. The market is busy — hosting live music, events and activities for kids (often provided by a local co-op preschool) — but is low-key enough that you can wander without losing your kids. Just up the steps from the market you’ll find a park with a small play area and grassy lawns; a perfect place to picnic on market-fresh goodies while your kids climb. There's usually a smoothie seller that offers the option to pedal your way to deliciousness.
As with most markets, bring cash. Don't forget to bring your overdue library books by the Lake City Library, next door to the market and open until 8 p.m. on Thursdays.
Find it: N.E. 125th and 28th Ave. N.E., Seattle
Shop: Thursdays, 2:30–7:30 p.m., June 12 through Oct. 2
Phinney Farmers Market, Seattle (Friday)
This small market, located in the upper parking lot of the Phinney Neighborhood Center in North Seattle, is a favorite Friday stop for North Seattle families for fresh dinner ingredients -- or dinner. Pick up farmstead cheeses, summer squashes, berries, veggies and more.
Parking is convenient (just head to the lower lot), and the little playground within the market is perfect for after-shopping playtime. Don't miss the loooong metal slides.
Find it: Phinney Neighborhood Center parking lot, Phinney Avenue North at 67th, Seattle
Shop: Fridays, 3–7 p.m., June 6 through Oct. 3
Bothell Farmers Market (Friday)
Set in the charming Country Village, the Bothell Farmers Market on Fridays offers farm-fresh produce, homemade pies, NW native plants, crafts form local artisans and bunches of those famous market flowers. Each week you’ll find local musicians, family entertainment and kid-friendly activities.
Stay for the afternoon and take advantage of all that Country Village has to offer; from train rides to pony rides and, of course, rooster-viewing!
Find it: 23718 Bothell Everett Highway, Bothell
Shop: Fridays, noon–6 p.m., June 6 through Oct. 3
Juanita Friday Night Market (Friday)
Practically on the shores of Lake Washington, at popular Juanita Beach Park, this Juanita neighborhood market is an Eastside gem. The market is quaint, boasting baked goods, local produce, wood-fired pizzas, crepes and to-die-for tacos.
Many families grab dinner from the market and set up a picnic on the sand or watch a little league baseball game at one of two fields across the street. There’s also a playground for kiddos who are in need of more action, and parking is plentiful (always a plus!).
Find it: 9703 N.E. Juanita Dr., Kirkland
Shop: Fridays, 3–7 p.m., through Oct. 4
Kirkland Wednesday Market
Marinas and markets go hand in hand, and the Kirkland Wednesday Market proves this point. Families shop local produce, couples mingle and kiddos play in the sand, all to the backdrop of the gorgeous Kirkland Marina. You’ll find market favorites like Smith Brothers Farms and Collins Family Orchard plus art booths and story time (unconfirmed for this year). Parking can be tough (there is a lot that can fill quickly or street parking along side streets). As always, bring cash. And all of downtown Kirkland is at your fingertips.
Find it: Downtown Kirkland Marina Park, 25 Lake Shore Drive
Shop: Wednesdays, 2–7 p.m., June 6 through Sept. 26
Tacoma Broadway Market (Thursday)
Located in downtown Tacoma, the Broadway Farmers Market is the city’s longest-standing market, providing locals high quality produce, specialties and crafts since 1990. Come for the produce and stay for the chef demonstrations, gardening clinics and live entertainment. Take a stroll to nearby Frost Park for playtime.
Find it: S. Ninth St. & Broadway, Tacoma
Shop: Thursdays, 10 a.m.–3 p.m., May 1 through October
Ballard Farmers Market (Sunday)
Buskers, food stalls, face-painters, jugglers, puppies, strollers: This market is busy, busy, busy all year round in the heart of historic downtown Ballard. For small kids, it might be a little too hectic, but the good news is that you can pick up your produce from the unbelievable variety of vendors and then head to nearby Ballard Commons Park for skateboard-watching or splashing in the fountains; or try out a board game or two at Card Kingdom (5105 Leary Ave. N.W.), with next-door Café Mox providing treats and table space.
Find it: On historic Ballard Avenue NW, between Vernon Place N.W. and 22nd Ave. N.W.
Shop: Sundays, 10 a.m.–3 p.m., year round
Photo credits: All photos by the author, with the exception of the Lake City Farmers Market (by Elisa Murray), Wallingford Market (from the market's website) and Country Village (from the market's website.)