Until it reluctantly agreed to annexation by Seattle in 1907, Ballard was a city in its own right, and the neighborhood retains its independent spirit to this day. Once known throughout Seattle for its Scandinavian heritage—symbolized by “Uff-da” bumper stickers—and its ties to the fishing industry, Ballard is known today as one of the hippest places in town, with fashionable boutiques, a bar scene to rival any in Seattle, and several of the city’s most popular restaurants.
The bustling intersection of Market Street and Ballard Avenue is a good spot to start if you want to get an idea of the neighborhood’s typical offerings. This area is home to a cluster of trendy shops, including an outpost of local record-store chain Sonic Boom and the stylish clothing and accessories boutique Velouria, as well as several hopping cafes, bars, and restaurants. The Matador serves tex-mex cuisine and features a tequila bar with 95 varieties. The Great Harvest Bread Company prepares sandwiches on fresh-baked bread, and offers free bread samples. And Cupcake Royale bakes a variety of creative and traditional cupcakes, ranging from red velvet to salted caramel. Less than a block away from Cupcake Royale is The Majestic Bay Theater, one of the West Coast’s oldest movie houses, which plays current releases and has a charming, old-fashioned marquee.
A walk down quaint and leafy Ballard Avenue reveals the neighborhood’s long history. Century-old brick buildings once home to rough-and-tumble dive bars and fishing outfitters now house clothing boutiques, wine bars, and art galleries. A few notable Ballard institutions are located along this street, including Hattie’s Hat, Ballard’s oldest bar, and The Tractor Tavern, a sawdust-on-the-floor bar and music venue that still invites patrons to square dance every Monday evening. Ballard Avenue also hosts the Ballard Farmers Market on Sundays throughout the year.
Although most Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish establishments have long since left the neighborhood, a few remnants of Ballard’s Scandinavian heritage still remain, including the Nordic Heritage Museum, dedicated to honoring the contributions and preserving the culture of Scandinavian-Americans in the Pacific Northwest. Each May, the community still celebrates Syttende Mai, or Norweigan Constitution Day, on May 17th with a parade down Market Street.
The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, more commonly known as the Ballard Locks, and Golden Gardens are two popular parks located in Ballard. At the Locks, boats pass through a series of gates from the saltwater of Puget Sound to the freshwater of Lake Union and back again. A viewing room at one end of the park also gives visitors the opportunity to watch salmon swim up a salmon “ladder” during the summer months. Golden Gardens, at the north end of Ballard on Shilshole Bay, has one of the few sandy beaches in the city, and is a popular spot to hold bonfires and barbeques.
- • Ballard on Wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ballard,_Seattle
- • Ballard neighborhood blog: www.myballard.com
- • Guide to Ballard’s restaurants, shops, and nightlife: inballard.com
- • Nordic Heritage Museum: www.nordicmuseum.org
- • Sonic Boom Records: www.sonicboomrecords.com
- • Velouria: shopvelouria.tripod.com
- • Matador: www.matadorrestaurants.com
- • Great Harvest Bread: www.greatharvest.com
- • Cupcake Royale: www.cupcakeroyale.com
- • Majestic Bay Theatre: www.majesticbay.com
- • Hattie’s Hat: www.hattieshat.com
- • Tractor Tavern: www.tractortavern.com
- • Ballard Farmers Market: ballardfarmersmarket.wordpress.com