15 Best Things to Do in Ballard, Seattle

Ballard, Seattle
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Treat yourself to one of Washington State's trendiest areas by trying the best things to do in Ballard, Seattle.

Seattle's oldest neighborhood is a terrific spot to get a flavor of the city's unique culture, both old and modern.

Back then, Ballard was an entirely separate town, with a population composed chiefly of Scandinavian immigrants.

Its prosperous shingle mills and fishing industry drew a considerable influx of Norwegians and Swedes in the 1890s.

Ballard became a city in 1889.

However, in 1907, most Ballard inhabitants voted in favor of annexation to Seattle.

They understood that local resources were insufficient to deal with their problems.

Ballard is now a thriving maritime neighborhood with many attractions and activities.

If you've got some downtime, discover the best things to do in Ballard, Seattle.

Explore the Artistry of Dale Chihuly at Chihuly Studio

Daytime view of Chihuly Studio
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Dale Chihuly is one of Seattle's most recognized artists.

See neatly organized and color-arranged glass rods and powder in his workspace, making for an eye-catching visual show.

The adjacent walls of blown glass also accentuate color matching and comparison.

You can also see an enormous chandelier's kit-of-parts in the composition.

Visitors will see a glass ceiling draped with illuminated pieces from the sea crustacean series as they go from the hot shop to the display hall.

Dale's antique vehicle collection lies at the stage left.

Interior of Chihuly Studio
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Walls wrapped in tin give the space an industrial-automotive vibe, which helps the automobiles stand out more aesthetically.

Stage right is a beautifully curated mix of fabrics, baskets, and portraits arranged around one of the most extensive Douglas-fir coffee tables you'll ever see.

A birch-bark boat and a 1914 Indian motorbike round out the decor in the space.

You may find a glass-bottom lap pool with pieces from the marine crustacean in the studio.

The changing rooms next door hint that this pool is functional.

You'll see how Chihuly makes and assembles his pieces before their final presentation if you tour the Chihuly Studio.

Colorful and unique art of Chihuly Studio
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Celebrate Local Art at Ballard ArtWalk

More than a decade after its inception, the Ballard ArtWalk is still going strong.

Every year, the Ballard ArtWalk brings together locals and visitors alike to enjoy food, music, and the work of the area's many artists.

Once every other month, the Ballard Alliance and local businesses put on this fun community event on its second Saturday.

As part of the ArtWalk, the community showcases thriving local businesses while celebrating the arts.

Many Ballard businesses welcome a local artist each month and display their work.

Explore Seattle's Scandinavian Heritage at National Nordic Museum

Exterior of National Nordic Museum
ECTran71, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The National Nordic Museum is a world-renowned museum and cultural institution.

It welcomes visitors from all walks of life to learn about and be inspired by Nordic culture.

The museum leased Webster School from Seattle Public Schools for its 1980 opening in the Ballard area.

Nordic Heritage Museum works to preserve and share Nordic and Nordic American cultures through folk art activities, educational programs, and exhibits.

It is North America's only Nordic museum.

Interior of National Nordic Museum
Joe Mabel, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

However, the Nordic Heritage Museum had to relocate due to the lack of a sufficient temperature control system and other architectural restrictions.

The museum started to raise money and buy a spot in Ballard in 2003, keeping its link to the area and its early population of Nordic immigrants.

It took a long time to raise money and build the new National Nordic Museum, which opened in 2018.

Visit this location that brings life to the past and honors the present.

Exhibit in National Nordic Museum
Joe Mabel, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

See Intricate Woodworks at Ballard Millworks

Are you looking for some home additions to your rustic-themed or minimalist interior?

Ballard Millworks is a mill and woodshop in Seattle.

All the trees it mills tell a unique tale about Seattle's natural heritage.

Ballard Millworks uses chipped or cultivated trees rather than those cut down to make firewood.

Fluent Tree Pro and other local arborists have helped get all its wood from trees within a ten-mile radius of its Ballard mill.

Learn about the process of crafting its woodworks as you explore Ballard Millworks.

Enjoy the View at Carl S. English Jr. Botanical Garden

Daytime view of Carl S. English Jr. Botanical Garden
Joe Mabel, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

A gardener hired to alter a gravel portion of the grounds also created an English estate-type garden in 1931.

During his travels and correspondence with botanists across the globe, Carl S. English Jr. gathered a considerable collection of plants thanks to the help of ship captains passing through the locks.

For example, he was the first person in the United States to receive seeds of the dawn redwood.

There are now eight plants in the garden that are still growing.

Check out 573 plant species in the garden, many of which originate from countries like Thailand, Japan, South America, and New Zealand.

Meanwhile, the native flora of the West Coast also interested Carl.

Thus, there were several native conifers in the garden.

You will also find Mexico's Mexican pine, Argentina and Chile's Darwin barberry, the Himalayas' Indian horse chestnut, and California's California wax myrtle.

With many flower beds, the Carl S. English Jr. Botanical Garden also hosts different kinds of insects.

Bring Home a Book from Secret Garden Books

While Secret Garden Books provides books for a wide range of readers, its primary focus is on children's literature.

This brick-and-mortar independent bookshop is close to restaurants, galleries, boutiques, and cafés in Ballard.

As long-time booksellers and ardent readers themselves, its staff can help you choose the perfect book for yourself or a loved one.

Additionally, it provides complimentary gift wrapping, bargains for book clubs and instructors, shipping services, and convenient, unique order options.

Secret Garden Books also hosts outreach programs in and around the neighborhood.

Stroll around Ballard Locks

View of Hiram M. Chittenden Locks and a bridge
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The Ballard Locks, also known as the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, are a famous Seattle tourist destination, particularly in spring and summer.

Completed in 1917, these locks connect Lake Union and Lake Washington.

A kayak and a 760-foot-long vessel may both enter and exit the locks simultaneously.

Dropping as deep as 26 feet to match Puget Sound's depths is standard procedure while entering the lock.

It enables the exchange of fresh water for saltwater.

The waters of Hiram M. Chittenden Locks
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Boats queue up on both sides of the locks when traffic is heavy.

On a series of swinging walkways, spectators may get a good look at the action.

Runners and bicyclists often use the locks to go from Ballard to Magnolia.

Tourists may also observe the spawning fish from a designated viewing area at Ballard Locks.

Boats docked at Hiram M. Chittenden Locks
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Enjoy VR Games at Portal Virtual Reality

Portal VR opened in 2017 to make virtual reality accessible, social, and fun.

As a result of Portal VR's game library and unique design, the technology engages players of all ages.

The booths accommodate high-end modern room-scale virtual reality experiences.

Enjoy the fully immersive 360-degree experience.

For this, HTC Vive devices with strong processors employ excellent visuals, giving users the best possible VR experience.

The booths also provide a coat hook and a storage container for your belongings for convenience and security.

In addition to the games, Portal VR views virtual reality as a spectator sport.

Each booth includes a vast HD video monitor showing the other players precisely what the player is viewing.

You can see most stalls from the lounge area.

Watch your friends swing, jump, crawl, and thrash while playing.

Relax, eat, drink, and enjoy other VR gamers' hilarious actions and screams.

Bond with Fur Parents and Their Pets at Dog Yard Bar

The Dog Yard Bar is a one-of-a-kind dog park and bar in Seattle.

Indulge in a drink or a tasty treat with your doggie while meeting new people and exercising with other dog owners.

It also holds breed-specific gatherings.

Before going to the Yard, fill out a pet profile and check the regulations (vaccinations, spay/neuter, quick-release collar required).

Natural rocks from Eastern Washington, tunnels, tires, and more make up the playground.

This place has plenty of water features to cool off when the weather becomes sweltering.

During the colder months, the facility installs outside heaters.

You can order a wide variety of local beers, wines, sodas, and other non-alcoholic beverages.

Likewise, try the Dog Yard Bar's delectable delights like fresh-baked pie, burritos for breakfast, soft pretzels, and pizza.

Indulge in Seafood at Ballard SeafoodFest

Performers during the Ballard SeafoodFest
Joe Mabel, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1974, Ballard's first SeafoodFest commemorated the neighborhood's longstanding ties to the fishing industry and its Nordic heritage.

Today, this free event draws over 75,000 visitors who enjoy the traditional salmon BBQ and other delectable cuisines.

Water spray during the Ballard SeafoodFest
Joe Mabel, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Other event highlights include live performances, arts and crafts, children's activities, a beer garden, and a skate contest.

Also, watch out for the best craft beer display of any Seattle street festival.

Each year's Salmon Barbecue benefits a non-profit organization in the community.

Satisfy your appetite at SeafoodFest!

Booths during the Ballard SeafoodFest
Joe Mabel, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Play Board Games at Mox Boarding House

Mox Boarding House is a gathering spot for old and new friends alike.

You can find it in Seattle's historic Ballard area.

This board game-themed shop opened in 2011.

Its gaming space spans over 10,000 square feet, with a gaming and eating area.

You can play tabletop games here and browse or purchase what you want.

While you're here, feel free to use its complimentary board game collection with more than 400 titles.

The Mox Boarding House also serves food that ranges from international, traditional, and vegan.

Grab Some Fresh Produce at Ballard Farmers Market

Street closed sign for Ballard Farmers Market
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Seattle's first year-round neighborhood farmers market, Ballard Farmers Market, opened in 2000.

It sells only food grown in Washington state.

Food vendor at Ballard Farmers Market
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Buy everything from veggies to meats to dairy to seafood to baked items to handcrafted goods to body care products here.

There are few better places in Seattle to spend a long weekend than the Ballard Farmers Market.

The Market spreads out across two city blocks and is home to a large number of stalls.

Shoppers at Ballard Farmers Market
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Check Out the Herbs at Little Tin Goods & Apothecary Cabinet

Little Tin Goods & Apothecary Cabinet is essentially a garden bar.

It offers cocktails with fresh herbs, flowers, and tinctures made from wild ingredients.

While Little Tin Goods & Apothecary Cabinet sources tinned items from Europe, this company gives them a home-cooked touch.

Relax and enjoy the sounds of vintage jazz and admire the belle epoque style as you sip your cocktail.

Celebrate the genuine and solid relationships made when people gather over a drink.

Catch Musical Performances at Tractor Tavern

Performers in Tractor Tavern
Joe Mabel, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Tractor Tavern, located in the center of historic downtown Ballard, has become a nightly entertainment destination for over two decades.

Musicians from throughout the country and the world perform at the Tractor.

This remarkable institution's events calendar always has many exciting things to see and do.

Enjoy cheap beer and liquor with prompt service from bartenders and staff.

Enjoy the show at Tractor Tavern!

Relax at Hotel Ballard

Hotel Ballard is a boutique hotel at its finest.

Whether you are here for business or pleasure, its 29 luxurious bedrooms are a private sanctuary where you can relax and recharge.

It lies in the heart of Ballard Avenue, near exciting stores and restaurants.

Visitors may enjoy Seattle's first year-round neighborhood farmers market every Sunday.

In addition, you can recharge at the on-site spa.

Whether searching for a day of total relaxation or a quick pick-me-up, the Olympic Spa offers a service to suit your needs.

Hotel Ballard guests may also use the Olympic Athletic Club, a world-class members-only facility.

Final Thoughts

If you're looking for something to do in Seattle but don't want to deal with the downtown crowds, Ballard is the place for you!

There are many restaurants and events to choose from, making it a great spot to spend time outside.

Everyone will enjoy exploring Ballard's historic streets and many attractions.

Book your trip today!

You might find more things to do in Ballard after you arrive.

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