View of the people walking along a Seattle pathway surrounded with shops, one of the things to do in Ballard

15 Best Things to Do in Ballard in 2023 (By a Local)

Ballard is one of Seattle’s best neighborhoods, and you’ll find lots of great things to do in Ballard. Ballard offers trendy restaurants and cafes, a walkable shopping district, and some of the city’s top attractions. 

Plus, Ballard is a great place to catch a sunset because it’s nestled against the water. In fact, it’s home to one of the best places to see a sunset in the city. 

I’m a Seattle local, so I’ll break down all of the cool things to do in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle.

Here are 15 things in Ballard you can’t miss!

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15 Best Things to Do in Ballard

Ballard (Hiram M Chittenden) Locks

Check out the ships and salmon jumping upstream at a relaxing waterfront park. 

A woman walking along the Ballard Locks on a sunny Day
You can walk atop the Ballard Locks for an even closer look at the action

📍 Google Maps | Phone: +1 206 780 2500 | Website | Hours: 7 am – 9 pm daily | 👉 Book a Ballard Locks Tour on Viator

The Ballard Locks are a well-known Seattle attraction and one of the best things to do in the city. Watch ships move from freshwater Lake Washington into saltwater Puget Sound via the Lake Washington Ship Canal. 

You can walk atop the locks and watch the boats from above. Or book a Ballard Locks tour to experience the “boat elevator” firsthand! 

There’s a pretty botanical garden on the north side of the locks, and don’t miss the Ballard Locks Fish Ladder either. You can watch salmon jumping upstream during the spawning season at the fish ladder.

Ballard Brewery District

Grab incredible stouts, sours, and IPAs at some of the city’s best breweries.

A flight of beer and the menu from Lucky Envelope Brewing
A flight from Lucky Envelope, one of my favorite Ballard breweries

📍 Google Maps | Website

Don’t miss the Ballard Brewery District, beer lovers! The Brewery District has some of the best breweries in Seattle. Get incredible stouts from Lucky Envelope, sip unique sours from Urban Family, and or get a perfectly hoppy IPA from Stoup. There are over 10 breweries in a mile radius in the district. This makes it incredibly easy to try a lot of brews at once.

🛎️ Need a Hotel? Ballard is one of the areas in my recommendations for where to stay in Seattle. Both Hotel Ballard and the Ballard Inn are great accommodations if you want to be in this hip neighborhood.

Ballard Farmers Market

Peruse produce and munch tasty treats at a large and lively weekly market.

A bag of donuts from Ballard Farmers Market with the crowd in the background
I can’t leave the Ballard Farmers Market without grabbing these donuts

📍 Google Maps | Website | Hours: 9 am – 2 pm Sunday, Closed Monday – Saturday

The Ballard Farmers Market is one of my favorite markets in the city. It has a massive selection of fresh produce, many vendors, and amazing food. In my opinion, the hot, cinnamon sugar-coated mini donuts are reason enough to visit this Sunday farmers market. 

Find the best Washington state produce here. Take home Rainier cherries, apples, Walla Walla onions, mushrooms, and more. There are also handmade goods like ceramics, jewelry, and candles. Choose bao, tacos, or pizza from one of the food trucks if you’re not in the mood for donuts.

National Nordic Museum

Learn about Ballard’s Nordic heritage, history, and culture at this popular museum.

📍 Google Maps | Phone: +1 206 789 5707 | Website | Hours: 10 am – 5 pm Tuesday – Sunday, Closed Mondays | Entrance: $20, adults, $10 youth (5-18), free, children 0-4

Ballard has a strong Nordic influence. Many Scandinavian immigrants emigrated to Ballard between the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The National Nordic Museum is the best place to learn about the neighborhood’s Nordic heritage.

The National Nordic Museum is not far from the Ballard Locks. It has tons of exhibits on Nordic culture and Nordic immigrants in Seattle. Some of the most popular exhibits in the National Nordic Museum are on Vikings and the journey from Scandinavia to Seattle. 

You can visit this great museum for free if you go on the first Thursday of the month!

Ballard Avenue NW and NW Market St

Go shopping at some of the coolest local businesses in Seattle.

View of the displays from Prism in downtown Ballard
Some of the goods from Prism, one of my favorite shops in downtown Ballard
View of inside the cowboy boots store in Ballard
Another store in Ballard with cowboy boots for every occasion

📍 Google Maps

Ballard Ave NW and NW Market St are some of the best places to shop in Seattle. Support great Ballard businesses on these two walkable streets in downtown Ballard. Both have tons of cool shops for all your gifting and souvenir needs.

Find clothing, locally made art, or vintage and antique goods. Other stores have kitchenware, home decor, and various other knick-knacks. A few of my favorite spots are Prism, September, and Blendily. Any of these spots is great for retail therapy.

The Walrus and the Carpenter

Eat fresh seafood in a bright and airy restaurant on Ballard Avenue NW.

📍 Google Maps | Phone: +1 206 395 9227 | Website | Hours: 4 pm – 10 pm daily

The Walrus and the Carpenter is one of the best restaurants in Seattle. It serves some of the freshest and tastiest seafood in the Seattle area. Show up early. It’s right on the bustling Ballard Avenue NW and has limited seating and takes no reservations.

The menu is seasonal, but make sure you always get the oysters! It’s the specialty at the Walrus and the Carpenter, and they’re sourced from some of the best oyster farms on Puget Sound. The grilled sardines and beef tartare are also two tasty items to snag if they’re on the menu. 

Golden Gardens Park

Sunbathe, play volleyball, and watch sunsets at a gorgeous beach park.

View of the beautiful sunset from Golden Gardens Park
Sunset at Golden Gardens Park

📍 Google Maps | Phone: +1 206 684 4075 | Website | Hours: 4 am – 11:30 pm daily

The beach at Golden Gardens Park is one of the best sandy Seattle beaches. Come here for a perfect day of sunbathing, beach combing, bonfires, and barbecues. Golden Gardens also has volleyball courts and a forest area with hiking trails and a dog park. 

Golden Gardens Park is best in summer, but in the winter you can still expect views of the Olympic Mountains and breathtaking sunsets. Explore the tide pools and spot seals, and sea lions from the shore year-round.

📚 Related Reading: Golden Gardens is also one of the best Seattle parks. Read this article next to see what else made the cut! 

San Fermo

Enjoy a romantic Italian dinner in a cozy converted house.

A plate of Bolognese on a wooden table
Bolognese is one of the traditional Italian dishes served at San Fermo

📍 Google Maps | Phone: +1 206 342 1530 | Website | Hours: 5 pm – 10 pm daily

San Fermo is a cozy escape for a romantic Italian dinner even though it’s on the busy Ballard Ave NW. The restaurant is in a converted house which only adds to its charm. Sitting on the patio is a must if you’re on a date.

San Fermo serves traditional Italian dishes like bolognese, carbonara, and burrata. But it puts a creative spin on them using locally sourced, regional ingredients. The restaurant accepts a few walk-ins daily, but I recommend making a reservation to guarantee a meal here.

Dog Yard Bar

Drink beer and hang out with adorable pups at a dog park bar.

The author Chelsea Booker, petting the dog in Dog Yard Bar
Me, making friends with some of the pups at the bar

📍 Google Maps | Phone: +1 206 491 9741 | Website | Hours: 2 pm – 8 pm Tuesday – Thursday, 12 pm – 9 pm Friday, 10 am – 9 pm Saturday, 10 am – 7 pm Sunday, 4 pm – 8 pm Monday

Seattlites love their dogs (after all, there are more pups in Seattle than kids!). This love is exemplified in Dog Yard Bar. Dog Yard Bar is part dog park and part bar. Bring your dog along for some socialization or come to watch dogs play as you sip beer and eat snacks.

Dog Yard Bar is a haven for dog owners and dog lovers in Ballard. They have several meet-up events for dog owners and their pups, as well as trivia nights for casual bar attendees.

Portal Virtual Reality

Test your gaming skills in a laidback virtual reality arcade.

📍 Google Maps | Phone: +1 206 494 0102 | Website | Hours: 3:30 pm – 8 pm Tuesday-Thursday, 3:30 pm – 10 pm Friday, 12 pm – 10 pm Saturday, 12 pm – 8 pm, Sunday, Closed Mondays | Entrance: $34.95+ (8 years old and up)

Ballard’s Portal Virtual Reality Arcade is the place to get an introduction to virtual reality games. This cool, family-friendly arcade has booths you can rent to play games for up to 90 minutes at a time. Portal is tons of fun whether you’re a newbie or not.

Only one person can be in a booth at a time for safety reasons. You’ll need to take turns playing if you’re visiting with a group. However, some screens show exactly what the player is seeing to keep the experience communal. 

Ballard Artwalk

Support local artists in a longstanding neighborhood art show.

View of the displayed artworks in Ballard Artwalk
Some of the pretty art by local artists

Website | Hours: 6 pm – 9 pm, 2nd Saturday monthly

Artwalk is a monthly event in various Seattle neighborhoods. It’s one of the best free things to do in Seattle. The Ballard Artwalk is in downtown Ballard on the second Saturday of every month. 

Businesses stay open late and crowds mingle during Artwalk. People walk from one cool shop to the next to admire and purchase art from featured local artists. A few of the participating businesses are art galleries, but others include restaurants, wine shops, and even salons.

Un Bien

Pig out on delicious Caribbean sandwiches in north Ballard.

Closeup look of the Caribbean Roast cut in half from Un Bien
The Caribbean Roast is one of the best sandwiches in Seattle

📍 Google Maps | Phone: +1 206 588 2040 | Website | Hours: 11 am – 9 pm Wednesday – Saturday, 11 am – 8 pm Sunday, Closed Monday – Tuesday

Un Bien is in north Ballard in a neon pink building. It may be a little far from some of Ballard’s other attractions, but it’s worth the trek. Un Bien serves the best Caribbean sandwiches in the city.

The Caribbean Roast sandwich is made with pork shoulder slow-roasted in a flavorful marinade. It’s Un Bien’s specialty and my favorite thing on the menu. Also try The Press, with pork, smoked ham, banana peppers, and Swiss cheese. This is a must-try lunch and dinner spot no matter what you get.

Mox Boarding House

Play board games with friends and sip a beer at a casual gaming cafe. 

View of the different game boards at Mox Boarding House
You rent any game behind the register at Mox Boarding House

📍 Google Maps | Phone: +1 206 523 9605 | Website | Hours: 11 am – 10 pm Monday – Thursday, 11 am – 12 pm Friday, 10 am – 12 am Saturday, 10 am – 10 pm Sunday

Mox Boarding House is an awesome place to bring friends for a casual night of board games and beers. It’s a board game store and cafe. Buy or rent games to play in a private room or the cafe. 

Staying for a while? Order food and drinks. Mox serves local beers and cider, mead, and creative cocktails. Food options include focaccia bread, sandwiches, and a 4-cheese mac and cheese.

There’s another Mox Boarding House on the Eastside. It’s one of the best things to do in Bellevue, Washington among other fun activities.

Spice Waala

Order some of the best Indian street food in the city–you’ll be tempted to get everything on the menu!

The author Chelsea Booker, smiling for a photo with her food from Spice Waala
Me at the Capitol Hill location of Spice Waala

📍 Google Maps | Phone: +1 206 457 8691 | Website | Hours: 5 pm – 9 pm Tuesday, 11 am – 2:30 pm & 5 pm – 9 pm Wednesday – Saturday, Closed Monday-Sunday

Make sure you’re hungry when you go to Spice Waala because you’ll be tempted to order everything on the menu. It’s easy to do since everything is so reasonably priced. 

Spice Waala has delicious Indian roll-ups. Try its Chicken Tikka and Paneer Bhaji rolls. The restaurant also serves some of the best generously seasoned and crispy French fries in the city. Other food includes snacks like Chana Chaat and Bhel Puri. Everything is flavorful and tasty. But fair warning, be prepared for spice!

Tractor Tavern

Enjoy live music and a great night out at an intimate and popular Ballard venue.

View of the empty spot surrounded with buildings in Tractor Tavern
Tractor Tavern has been a popular spot in Seattle for many years (photo: MNR Media / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps | Phone: +1 206 789 3599 | Website

Tractor Tavern is one of Seattle’s great live music venues. This popular Ballard institution has been around for over 25 years and has shows daily. The venue is small and intimate with standing room only. It’s a fun place to go if you’re interested in hearing great local bands.

Indie, alt-rock, country, reggae, folk, and Americana bands have all played at Tractor Tavern. Tickets are reasonably priced, drinks are strong, and the atmosphere is upbeat. Come here for a great night out.

FAQs About Things to Do in Ballard 

What is Ballard Seattle known for?

Ballard Seattle is known for its Scandinavian roots. It’s home to Seattle’s National Nordic Museum. The Ballard Locks are its major attraction along with Golden Gardens Park, and its Brewery District. There are many shopping opportunities on Ballard Ave NW.

What is the main street in Ballard Seattle?

The main street in Ballard Seattle is Ballard Ave NW. This street has cafes, restaurants, and shops. NW Market Street is another main street in Ballard. It has several attractions like a historic movie theater and a virtual reality arcade.

Is Ballard walkable?

Ballard is a walkable neighborhood if you stay in the downtown area around Ballard Ave NW. Other parts of Ballard are more spread out and residential. It’s easier to get sound in these parts of Ballard with a car.


The Ballard area is awesome, which is why I recommend coming here if you have a few days in Seattle. There are lots of things to do in Ballard! Venture north of downtown Seattle to this vibrant neighborhood for a great time.

For more Seattle fun, check out my full list of 50+ things to do in Seattle.

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