Beyond Seattle: The Best Things to do in Ballard

By: Crai S Bower

March 18, 2015

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 in every Seattle nook and cranny, 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.

Top Things to do in Ballard
Flowers spill from pickle buckets every Sunday © Crai S Bower

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.

Top Things to do in Ballard
The Ballard Locks connect Puget Sound with Lake Union © Crai S Bower

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 land, stick around Golden Gardens for a picnic or weekend bonfire before the vista of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains.

Top Things to do in Ballard
Curated movie props set the tone at Trouvaille Lucky Find © Crai S Bower

Breweries have bloomed in Ballard like the roses at the nearby Woodlawn Park Zoo. 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.

Top Things to do in Ballard
Oysters runneth over at The Walrus and The Carpenter © Crai S Bower

When sunny, the 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; browse the Pacific Northwest couture aesthetic at Horseshoe and harvest the best mined materials from (and for) the film set at Trouvaille Lucky Find.

Top Things to do in Ballard
Chef extraordinaire Ethan Stowell’s Staple & Fancy © Crai S Bower

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.

Header Image: Ballard Locks © Jeff Gunn/Flickr

Booking a trip to Seattle? Our codeshare arrangement with Delta makes it simple for you to travel all over North America.

What are your favourite things to do in Ballard? Let us know in the comments section below.

Written by Crai Bower

Crai S Bower

Award winning travel writer, photographer and broadcaster Crai S Bower contributes scores of articles annually to more than 25 publications and online outlets including National Geographic Traveler, Journey, American Way magazines and T+L Digital.

Categories: Our Places