In the late 19th century, Scandinavian loggers and fishermen established a working waterfront which is still functioning a full century later. Seattle annexed Ballard in 1907, taking advantage of the huge econom­ic growth the mill town fostered; by then Ballard was the state’s third largest city. Seattle’s commercial fishing fleet resides at Fishermen’s Terminal just across Salmon Bay. The late 1990s boom made real estate prices skyrocket, and scores of boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants opened, reflecting the changing demographics. Popular tourist attractions include the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks and Golden Gardens. The Nordic Heritage Museum celebrates the culture of the area’s Scandinavian Americans, and every May 17, the annual Norwegian Constitution Day Parade takes over the streets.

Belltower, Ballard

For in-depth information on the area, contact the Ballard Chamber of Commerce 206 784 9705,

Although Fishermen’s Terminal lies across the Ship Canal from Ballard proper, it is integral to Ballard’s identity.

It’s best to admire Ballard’s industries from a distance. Waterfront car and truck traffic can be hazardous.

  1. Nordic Heritage Museum

    With rooms organized by country, this museum illustrates the links between Scandinavian people in the Pacific Northwest. Founded in 1980, it’s the only museum in the United States to revere the legacy of immigrants from five Nordic countries – Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. It also enlightens visitors with rotating and permanent exhibits such as colorful Old World textiles, rare china, books and bibles, wood­working tools, and carved wooden ale bowls. There is also a music library.

  2. Market Street

    The nerve center of Ballard has a vast selection of stores, cafés, Scandinavian gift shops, and taverns lining both sides of the street. Although Ballard is only about 4-miles (6-km) northwest of Pike Place Market, the street’s melange of local businesses and creative signage reflects the community’s small-town personality that has remained intact since the days before Ballard officially became part of Seattle.

  3. The Locks

    Every year, 100,000 vessels pass through the Ship Canal’s Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, and nearly as many tourists come to marvel at the site between Salmon Bay and Shilshole Bay. Named for a retired US Army Corps of Engineers general, the Locks’ sophisticated engineering, and the sheer variety of pleasure boats and industrial ships that are able to pass through, impress visitors. The Locks also feature fish ladders to allow migrating salmon to leave from or return to their home streams, best observed between June and November. Don’t miss the small but fascinating visitors’ center, with its informative short film and displays.

    Visitors’ center

    • Winter (Oct 1–Apr 30) 10am–4pm; Summer (May 1–Sep 30) 10am–6pm

    • The Army Corps of Engineers offer free guided tours Mar 1–Nov 30

    • 206 783 7059

  4. Carl S. English, Jr. Botanical Gardens

    Take a little time for a delightful promenade through the greenery of lush trees and rare and exotic plants that fill the garden’s seven acres, bordering the Locks on the north side of the Ship Canal. The gift shop, which also serves visitors to the Locks, makes a guide available to assist in identifying the plants.

    • 3015 NW 54th St

  5. Ballard Avenue

    From the roaring 1890s through the Great Depression, the four block stretch of brick-paved Ballard Avenue defines the raison d’etre of a mill town that also had a thriving boatbuilding and fishing industry. The 19th-century architecture is gorgeous, and it’s easy to imagine a street filled with timber millworkers, salty fishermen, fishmongers, and the banks, saloons, and bordellos that served them. In 1976, Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf read the proclamation that identified Ballard Avenue as a National Historic District.

  6. Golden Gardens

    Ballard’s largest park, and one of Seattle’s true urban escapes, includes 87 acres of forested trails, beaches, picnic areas, and great views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. Originally, the gardens stood at the end of the line for electric streetcars which were funded by realtors, who wanted Seattle residents to get away from the city’s noise and grit. Cool summer nights along the shore bring groups to huddle around bonfires, while sunny days see hundreds of revelers getting tans or playing volleyball in the sand. There is also an off-leash area for dogs, and a boat ramp at the marina.

  7. Fishermen’s Terminal

    The terminal provides moorage for more than 700 commercial fishing vessels and workboats. Because of the sheltered port and the area’s supporting industries and businesses, many Northwest commercial fishermen regard Seattle as the best center for maintenance and repair. The bronze and stone Fishermen’s Memorial sculpture, inscribed with the names of more than 500 local men and women, commemorates lives lost during the hard and dangerous work of fishing in Alaska. There are two seafood restaurants on the docks – one’s a carry out with dockside tables.

    • 3919 18th Ave W

    Fishermen’s Terminal
  8. Sunday’s Farmer’s Market

    Like many neighborhoods in Seattle, Ballard attracts weekend shoppers by organizing regional farmers, artists, and craftspeople to fill closed-off streets with an Old World market. The lovely brick pavement and 19th-century architecture along Ballard Avenue form the backdrop for a pleasant walk for the visitors. The market operates year round, but when summer is in full swing, growers from the arid eastside of the Cascade Mountains bring their bounty of organic produce, range fed chickens, and hormone-free beef to sell.

  9. Bardahl Sign

    Whether you travel by foot, bicycle, car, bus, boat, or plane, the towering, flashing, red neon advertisement for Bardahl automotive oil treatment makes for an unusual icon for any neighborhood. From distant hilltops, the sign’s manic ascending flashes harken back to the industrial roots of Ballard, and to company founder Ole Bardahl, Ballard resident and Norwegian immigrant. The sign is one of Seattle’s favorite, if most garish, urban landmarks.

  10. Salmon Bay Industries

    With the opening of the Sinclair Mill in the 1890s, Ballard was given the title “Shingle Capital of the World” as it was instrumental in rebuilding Seattle after the havoc wreaked by the Great Fire of 1889. Smaller firms and manufacturers, machine shops, and foundries settled in to stake their claims as well. Today, the area has not changed much. Skirting Ballard’s southern waterfront along the Ship Canal, Salmon Bay industries include dry dock repair and maintenance for ocean-going container ships and barges, and a large gravel company whose equipment dominates the skyline.

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