Explore Seattle’s Ballard Neighborhood

June 3, 2024

Sandy beach with sunbathers
Golden Gardens Beach

Updated June 2024

Seattle is known for its distinctive and unique neighborhoods. Although the Greenlake neighborhood is our personal favorite, we always recommend that guests spend some time in Ballard, too, when visiting Seattle. It’s an easy 15-minute drive west of Greenlake Guest House. Ballard is one of Seattle’s oldest, trendiest, and most popular neighborhoods.

Guests love exploring the locally owned shops, restaurants, and bars along historic Ballard Avenue. Just a few blocks from Ballard Avenue, the brewery district is home to about a dozen craft breweries. Outdoor attractions like the Ballard Locks, Shilshole Bay, and Golden Gardens Park are glorious when the weather is nice. Finally, the National Nordic Museum offers a unique perspective on the Scandinavian roots of this Seattle neighborhood. Ballard is definitely worth a visit when you are visiting us in Seattle!

water view with restaurant
Ray's Boathouse on Shilshole Bay in Ballard

Our Favorite Ballard Restaurants and Bars

Ballard Avenue is jam packed with unique, locally owned restaurants and bars. Seating is available both inside and outside in covered, heated patios along the sidewalk. Some of our favorites include Gracia (Mexican), Sabine (French Bistro), Staple & Fancy (try the chef’s tasting menu), and Walrus & the Carpenter (small plates & oysters). A few blocks away, Ray’s Boathouse is also a great choice for local seafood and incredible views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. Ray’s has a more formal dining room on the main floor, and a casual café (our favorite!) with a deck upstairs. Not sure where to go? It’s also fun to simply wander along Ballard Avenue and look for an available table. You might want to have cocktails or appetizers at one venue, dinner at another, and then finish up with dessert somewhere else. Some of our “sweetest” choices include Hot Cakes (molten lava cakes and boozy shakes), Pie Bar (pie!) or Salt & Straw (homemade ice cream).

Man and woman  sitting behind tray of fresh oysters on ice
Enjoying fresh oysters at Ballard's Walrus and the Carpenter

Brewery District

With a dozen of breweries within a few blocks in a former warehouse district, this neighborhood is perfect for any craft beer enthusiast. Highlights include Maritime Pacific Brewing Company, Reuben’s Brews, and Urban Family Brewery. The Brewery District also boasts a vibrant food truck scene, since many of the breweries don’t have kitchens inside. See full list here.

kayaker on the water


Outdoor Attractions

The Ballard Locks (also known as the Hiram Chittenden Locks) were created by the Army Corps of Engineers over 100 years ago to connect Puget Sound with Lake Union. View the salmon in the fish ladder, explore the manicured gardens and grounds, stop at the visitor center, and watch boats of all sizes navigate the locks. In summertime, enjoy free concerts on the lawn every Saturday and Sunday at 2pm.

A couple miles north of the Locks, Golden Gardens Park is where locals go to soak up the sun, picnic, swim, and play in the sand. The sunsets are incredible! It’s also fun to walk or bike the paved trail, along the scenic waterfront and marina, between the Ballard Locks and Golden Gardens.

Ballard Kayak is located in the Shilshole Marina and offers kayak and stand-up paddle board rentals and tours during the warmer months. Paddle through the Ballard Locks or view the amazing sea life and scenery on a variety of itineraries.

The Ballard Farmers Market happens year-round on Sundays only from 9-2 along Ballard Avenue. It is one of the largest farmers markets in the state (after Pike Place Market) and features local produce, meat and seafood, crafts, fresh flowers, and baked goods.

Flower stall on street
Local Flowers at Ballard Farmers Market

road with tents and food stalls at farmers market
Ballard Sunday Farmers Market

National Nordic Museum

The National Nordic Museum shares Nordic culture to people of all ages and has a variety of permanent and temporary exhibits. The museum also has a Scandinavian café and gift shop. It’s fitting that the museum is located in Ballard, which was settled by Nordic fishermen and farmers in the 1800’s. Currently, it is open Wednesday-Sunday.

Ballard SeafoodFest

The Ballard SeafoodFest, celebrating its 50th anniversary July 12-14 in 2024, is a beloved tradition in Seattle. This annual event highlights the neighborhood's unique Scandinavian and maritime heritage. Every summer, we look forward to enjoying the festival's signature Alder-smoked Salmon BBQ and the whole experience. "Whether you're a seafood lover, a fan of live music and art, or simply looking for a fun way to connect with the Ballard Community, Ballard SeafoodFest is the must-do event of the summer."-Ballard SeafoodFest.org.

Cooked half lobster in shell with butter and cocktail sauce
Enjoy fresh lobster and other seafood at the Ballard SeafoodFest


Getting to Ballard

Downtown Ballard is just under 4 miles from Greenlake Guest House. The easiest way to get to Ballard is via a rental car or ride share. Head west on 85th, 80th, or 65th and it’s a 15-minute drive. By bus, it is an approximately 45-minute ride on the #45 bus, with one transfer required. You can walk to Ballard in about 1 hour 20 minutes (over a big hill). Parking can be tight on Ballard Avenue, especially on the weekends, so you may have to pay for parking or walk a few blocks if you bring your car.

Marina with sailboats
Shilshole Marina in Ballard