The city of Seattle is brimming with fantastic bars, restaurants, locally-owned boutiques, and free public spaces. Whenever someone asks for recommendations on what to see/eat/do I always have to ask them first, “how much time do you have?” One of my favorite areas of town is the Ballard neighborhood. Ballard is located in the northwestern part of Seattle and is surrounded by water on two sides. A very residential area of town with some of the best of what Seattle has to offer (but maybe I’m bias).
Ballard has an interesting history. The neighborhood began as an industrial center more than 100 years ago; but more recently it’s known for its Scandinavian culture. It’s the place to go to find lutefisk and lefse and there are still a few Scandinavian-based shops with trinkets and imports. Additionally, it’s where you’ll find the Nordic Heritage Museum, which showcases the rich history of the neighborhood. You even may notice a nod to its Scandinavian history in architectural details and signs.
As for the food, many Ballard restaurants focus on seafood; and if that’s what you’re looking for then I’d definitely recommend Ray’s Boathouse. A perfect date-night spot with great views of the bay. However, I have to say that one of my all-time favorite restaurants is La Carta De Oaxaca. A very modest (and small) space that serves Mexican cuisine and large margaritas. For a special occasion, head to Staple & Fancy, an Italian eatery lead by chef Ethan Stowell that shares the same building as The Walrus & The Carpenter and Barnacle (both small plate menus that are also both excellent). Or, if you prefer, Bastille Café & Bar boasts French cuisine that almost makes you feel like you’ve actually been transported to Europe. Of course, Ballard restaurants cannot be mentioned without discussing Café Besalu. The absolute best place to find pastries in the entire city of Seattle, Café Besalu was just recently sold by its owners to Herkimer Coffee owner, Mike Prins, but the staff is staying on; so, they promise the recipes will stay the same. Be prepared for a wait on Sunday mornings, but it’s well worth it.
Looking for nightlife options? Thunderbird Tavern has a great happy hour and Ballard Station House is your best bet for a sports bar. Hazelwood is where to head for the best cocktail menu and King’s Hardware can’t be beat for overall, laid-back vibes. Market Street, Leary Ave NW, and Ballard Ave, are the heart of Old Ballard – and for good reason. A very walkable part of town and filled with so many good options that you almost can’t go wrong. That goes for shopping as well. Everything from outdoor gear (Ascent Outdoors, Filson, Kavu) to women’s apparel and home goods (Prism, Horseshoe) and a half dozen or so thrift and vintage stores will have you dressed to impress.
Quite possibly Ballard’s crown jewel, is the farmers market. The very first year-round market in Seattle, Ballard Farmers Market is every Sunday from 10am to 3pm. Ballard Ave between NW Vernon Place and 22nd Ave become blocked off, as well as 22nd Ave from Ballard Ave to Market Street. Fruit and vegetables, meat, home goods, crafts, and more. Other notable destinations and hot spots? Carl S. English Jr. Botanical Garden and Ballard Locks. Feel free to stop into the US Army Corps of Engineers building located on the grounds, there’s often an employee willing to answer questions. Also, don’t miss Golden Gardens Park, it includes a real sand beach, a great dog park, and panoramic views sure to keep you busy for a few hours.
This city is always brimming with new, exciting restaurant openings, events, and city development; so whether you're a lifelong resident or just in for the weekend you'll surely never be bored.