The history of Ballard is pretty amazing when you consider that William Rankin Ballard (the neighborhood’s namesake) ended up owning the land because he LOST a coin toss.
When the land’s four owners dissolved their partnership in 1887, nobody wanted the stretch that contained the railroad. William, who already owned the land next to it, “won” it as the loser… but SURPRISE! This turned out to be an awesome thing!
See, railways are an excellent way to bring in and export supplies. Once the neighborhood gained some fame for being where the railroad ended, it filled with mills for production. People flocked to work in these mills after the Great Seattle Fire. Then came shops, families, a marina- and it became the bustling community we know it as today.
Here are some things to check when you’re in Ballard to get to know it a little better:
Without the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, Lake Washington, Lake Union and the Puget Sound wouldn’t be connected. Since 1917 the locks have made it possible to sail the world and easily end up in two of Seattle’s most beautiful freshwater lakes. In summer, head here to watch Salmon climb the locks’ fish ladder as they head east to spawn and return to the Sound once they’re done.
Ballard is a neighborhood with tons of west-facing coastline, making it an amazing place for sunset views. Along the locks you’ll find the Carl S. English Jr. Botanical Garden, where you can watch ships enter and leave Lake Union and the Puget Sound. Northwest 60th St. Viewpoint, Golden Gardens Park and Sunset Hill Park offer vistas of the Shilshole Bay. Relax and take in pink and purple hues over the Pacific Ocean.
If you’re 21+ and like beer, we hope that Ballard’s 11 breweries in a 5 mile radius will be enough to convince you to head there and check them out. The many large warehouses that date back to Ballard’s mill days make the perfect space for brewery equipment and tasting/tap rooms. Check out the neighborhood’s list and map of breweries here.
Where there’s good drinks there’s bound to be good food. While there are wonderful restaurants all over Ballard, Ballard Ave NW is essentially the neighborhood’s restaurant row. While you’re strolling down the street, make sure to check out neighborhood famous: The Walrus and the Carpenter, Bastille Café & Bar, Bitterroot and San Fermo. Other popular places include Caribbean sandwich shop Un Bien and northeastern Thai specialty Pestle Rock.
Surprised to find a museum dedicated to Nordic Heritage in Seattle? Nordic people have been living here since the late 19th century, and were actually one of the largest ethnic groups in the state by the early 1900s! Our forests, mountains and farmlands are similar to landscapes they saw at home. Check out some cool artifacts from the first Nordic people in Seattle and learn a bit about how they continue to live.
Every Sunday on a long stretch of Ballard Ave NW and 22nd Ave NW, you’ll find the Ballard Farmer’s Market in full swing. The market has been open since 2000 and was the first farmer’s market in the city to offer produce exclusively from farmers in Washington State. And don’t worry- during the winter, you’ll still be able to find lots of jams and preserves that capture the flavor of the Pacific Northwest!
- Festivals and Events
This happening neighborhood holds many festivals during the year to celebrate its heritage. Ballard Seafood Fest happens every year the weekend after the 4th of July. Try some local seafood and enjoy live music! Speaking of music, the Ballard Jazz Fest is an event where you’ll definitely get groovy. Make sure to check out the 17th of May Fest (held on, you guessed it, the 17th of May) which celebrates the neighborhood’s Nordic roots. Click here for an up-to-date list of what’s happening in the area during your stay!
*Did you know? Some photos that appear on this page are public domain! Neat!