Main Content

Beyond Seattle: The best things to do in Ballard

Ballard claimed independence until 1907, and would have remained so for longer had not the City of Seattle guzzled the water supply. Home to Nordic fishermen, car repair shops and light industry, the neighbourhood set up perfectly for the retro cool revolution. Here are a few of our favourite things to do in Ballard.

There may be farmers markets spread across every corner of Seattle, but Sundays around here aren’t complete without a trip to Old Ballard Avenue, site of the best travelling market in the city. Tin Pan Alley musicians pluck National Steel guitars from the sidewalks, grills fire up seasonal quesadillas and flowers spill from pickle buckets.

The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks (aka the “Ballard Locks”), home to crazy spawning salmon ladders, double as home to Ballard’s finest floral gardens. More aesthetics can be found at the Nordic Heritage Museum, which proudly displays some of Seattle’s most provocative artwork.

The magnitude of maritime lore here is best experienced from the water. Sign up with Evergreen Escapes for a kayaking tour from Lake Union to Shilshole Bay via the Ship Canal. Pause in Fremont for a Theo Chocolate tour, take in the crabbing boats if they’re in port, and then continue on through the Ballard Locks. Once back on dry land, stick around Golden Gardens for a picnic or weekend bonfire before the vista of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains.

Breweries have bloomed in Ballard like the roses at the nearby Woodlawn Park. Hale’s Ales provides a lovely deck, the expanded Maritime Pacific is a local legend (ask for the Jolly Roger by name), and Northwest Peaks Brewery provides a micro-view into microbrewing.

When sunny, Ballard’s boutiques spill out onto the sidewalk. Curate a walk through Lucca Great Finds, a “Left Bank” arcade filled with curios and scents, explore a salon of interior accents and beautiful threads at Jax Joon, and browse the Pacific Northwest couture at Horseshoe.

While Ballard’s abundant food scene is just coming into flower – try The Walrus and Carpenter and Staple & Fancy – Ballard has long held sway over Seattle nightlife. Fortunately, little has changed at dive bars like Hattie’s Hat or the Sunset Tavern. Just down the street, the Tractor Tavern’s set list of musical acts often anticipates future fame. Just check out the old concert posters on the walls.


Written by Crai Bower

Image credits:

Fremont Cut, Lake Union Ballard Locks, Gasworks Park, Olympic © iStock: SEASTOCK

Salmon Bay Bridge and Ballard Locks © istock: ABCRounds