Seattle’s hip, thriving Seattle waterfront neighborhood of Ballard is home to landmarks such as the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks (commonly known as the Ballard Locks), Golden Gardens Park, the Nordic Heritage Museum, and the Shilsole Bay Marina. It also boasts some of Seattle’s best restaurants, pubs, shops, spas, and parks.
Since 1853, this historic Scandinavian neighborhood, also known as Snoose Junction, has been cultivating its fashionable image—and now you can walk Ballard’s busy tree-lined streets and see how all the hard work has paid off. Most Seattle highlights tours include a stop at the impressive Ballard Locks and a stroll through this bustling neighborhood. Watch the Ballard Locks open and allow ships through, explore the Nordic Heritage Museum, shop the ever-popular Market Street, or enjoy the eclectic restaurants and pubs on Ballard Avenue. Golden Gardens’ sandy beach, along the Puget Sound, is a great place for kids to run around and wade. Look out for unique curio shops and try to catch the Ballard Farmers Market, a Seattle staple.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Ballard has become known as a foodie hot spot, so a restaurant stop is a must—with reservations, of course.
- If cycling—a popular pastime in Seattle—you can pass over the ship canal between Ballard and Magnolia.
How to Get There
To get to Ballard from downtown Seattle, drive north on 1st Avenue, veer left at the foot of Queen Anne Hill, then continue northward until you cross the Ballard Bridge. Turn left onto NW Market Street.
When to Get There
Seattle’s rain-soaked reputation is mostly valid, but not from June through September, which are the best months to visit. In Ballard, ships pass through the locks year-round, regardless of weather. Be prepared to wait in line for brunch when the farmers market, open 10am to 3pm on Sundays, draws crowds to the neighborhood.
The Ballard Locks
The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, also known simply as the Ballard Locks, are one of the neighborhood’s top draws. The locks allow boats of all sizes to pass between Lake Union and the Puget Sound. Between each step of the locks, the water level drops as much as 26 feet (eight meters) and exchanges salt water with fresh water. The passage is also important to the area’s fish populations, including salmon and steelhead trout; there is a fish ladder and an observation window where visitors can watch the fish passing through.