24 Hours In the Ballard Neighborhood of Seattle

To add a Scandinavian flavor to your Seattle visit, head five miles north of downtown to the city's Ballard neighborhood. It's easily accessible in about 30 minutes by bus on the RapidRide D Line or in about 15 minutes by car (assuming you avoid rush hours).


Start with breakfast at the Morsel, a local favorite for biscuits and coffee. Then head over to the Nordic Heritage Museum to learn all about the history of the neighborhood. Immigrants mostly from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden originally settled Ballard, which was its own city until annexed by Seattle in 1907.

After you leave the museum, swing by the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks (locals call it the Ballard Locks). Operators adjust water levels in the large mechanical locks to let boats pass between Puget Sound's salt water and the fresh water of Lake Union without mixing the two types of water. From a viewing room below the water line, you can watch fish (mostly salmon) pass between the fresh and salt water using a fish ladder. For plant-lovers, adjacent to the grounds around the locks is the Carl S. English, Jr. Botanical Garden.


For lunch go to downtown Ballard for lots of choices on NW Market Street and Ballard Avenue. Cafes abound. You can also find restaurants offering Thai food, Puerto Rican food, and more.

To satisfy your sweet tooth, head to the Hot Cakes Molten Chocolate Cakery on Ballard Avenue. Choose from a selection that ranges from hot chocolate drinks to molten lava cakes to other chocolaty delicious bakery items. Or enjoy a cupcake and coffee at Cupcake Royale on Market Street.


Now that you're in downtown Ballard, take a walking tour of the area. Get a map from the Ballard Historical Society. It includes a brief history of 20 buildings constructed between 1890 and 1923. If the history doesn't interest you, those historic buildings now contain plenty of local shops.

If you want to get away from the historical district, you have a couple of options. You could take a short drive south across the Ballard Bridge and west on West Emerson Street to Fisherman's Terminal, the base of much of the North Pacific and Puget Sound fishing fleet. Most piers are open to the public, although Fisherman's Terminal is a working dock.

Or you could head about 2.5 miles north on Seaview Ave NW to Golden Gardens Park. This Puget Sound beach has swimming, picnic areas, and magnificent views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. It's a summer favorite among locals.


Back in downtown Ballard, you have plenty of bars and taverns to choose from for a bit of the nightlife. If you want to take in a movie, head to Ballard's only movie theater, the refurbished Majestic Bay. To spend the night in downtown Ballard, your two luxury boutique options are the Hotel Ballard and the Ballard Inn.

Enjoy your visit!

Carol Wiley is a freelance writer in Seattle. She writes about travel, business, and health and wellness, and works with businesses to create content for content marketing.