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Big Wheel News: Ballard Day Trip

Ballard real estate prices are totally out of control, so moving into that neighborhood is not a viable option for most right now. So, why not enjoy the nabe for a day instead? It’s an ideal place to pass time, stopping for many food and rest breaks. Oh, and did we mention shopping? Ballard Ave. is chockablock with fab boutiques for Mom, Dad and/or Little One. Additionally, Ballard hosts many happenin’ events, including the upcoming SeafoodFest (July 29-30). In this Big Wheel, read what we—and RT readers—like about what could be called Seattle’s hottest area. Ballard was its own city until 1906 and it’s continued to be a unique destination in its own right—though, now more than ever. Slap on your ‘Free Ballard’ bumper sticker and head on over.


  • Hiram M. Chittenden Locks
    3015 NW 54th St.
    206.783.7059; click on ‘locks & dams’ on the left-hand side and then select ‘Lake Washington ship canal’
    Changing table? Yes
    The locks connect the Puget Sound with the higher-level fresh water of Lake Union/Lake Washington and vice versa. Munchkins and adults watch transfixed as the waters raise and lower to let boats of all shapes and sizes in and out of the Sound. The little walkways across the water will lead you to the fish ladder, which sees most of its action June to Sept., as salmon return to the fresh waters where they were born.
    P.S. Don’t forget to visit the visitors’ center and the botanical gardens while you’re here.
  • Ballard Public Library
    5614 22nd Ave. NW
    Changing table? Yes, scroll in the locator for the Ballard branch
    Construction on this mod building was finished just over a year ago. It now houses a popular children’s area in the NW corner, with a wooden dollhouse particularly loved by one of our reader’s daughters. Use the periscope to get a view of the “green roof,” composed of eco-friendly, low-water-use plants. Also, check the web site for story hour times. The library is a great rest-stop spot on your tour of Ballard.
    P.S. Be sure to scope the skateboarders across the street.
  • Sunset Bowl
    1420 NW Market St.
    Changing table? Yes, but not easily accessible; bring your own pad.
    Though many adults come for the music and beer bottles shaped like bowling pins, your kids will likely dig the retro bowling alley’s lightweight bowling balls and the bumpers (so gutterballs can’t occur). It’s best to come during the day, when league players or rowdy college students don’t occupy the lanes. Open 24 hours.
    P.S. The Sunset Bowl has karaoke nights, if you ever want to line up a babysitter and escape for some goofy fun.
  • Ballard Community Center
    6020 28th Ave. NW
    206.684.4093, search ‘ballard community center’
    Changing table? Yes
    Score! The toddler playroom in the community center offers drop-in play for only $2 per family. Shoes must be off, children must be supervised and there’s no eating or drinking in the room (plus you have to take your dirty diapers with you, per the health department). However, Junior will squeal over the soft toys, kitchenette and play tree house. Open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 11:00 am to 8:00 pm and Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1:00 to 8:00 pm. Closed on Saturday and Sunday.

Honorable mentions:

  • Golden Gardens Beach, search ‘golden gardens’
    Try the sandy beach at the Gardens on for size. The water’s cold, but youngsters don’t care. Bring a sand pail and shovel.
  • Nordic Heritage Museum
    The museum might be interesting for older kids; younger ones will enjoy the nearby playground much more.
  • Ballard Farmer’s Market
    We go ape for the Bruschettina stand and the flowers at the Sunday market. Kids can find happiness soaking up the lively atmosphere and petting the (nice) dogs.


  • 20Twenty
    5208 Ballard Ave. NW
    no web site
    A charming little vintage/indie designer store, 20Twenty carries something for cool-hunters of all ages, from locally designed jewelry to 1980s Izod polo shirts. At the front of the store, note the onesies with cupcake drawings on them and the bibs enlivened with words like ‘dictator.’ Some vintage items, including a kids’ sweater vest with a deer on it, are perfect for little hipsters.
  • OKOK Gallery
    5107 Ballard Ave. NW
    This shop used to be on Capitol Hill and recently moved to larger garage-like digs in hopping Ballard. Modern art, funky design books and collectable toys from Japan and other countries rule here (think Kid Robot in NYC’s SoHo district). Stop in to pick up a few Uglydolls for Little One.
  • Clover
    5335 Ballard Ave. NW
    One of the best boutiques for kids in town, well-merchandized Clover specializes in European toys from the likes of Haba and Brio. Wooden railroad cars, lady bug tea sets, Calin dolls and Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes were recently spotted on Clover’s shelves, along with Petit Bateau onesies and tiny Robeez shoes.
  • Me ‘n Moms
    2821B NW Market St.
    no web site
    With a row of lightly used strollers parked out front (for sale), Me ‘n Moms lets you know what it’s all about before you step foot inside its cavernous space: Deals. In the consignment store you can pick up necessities including a car seat, a baby carrying pack and a crib. Plenty of new accessories abound—take, for instance, the Thomas and Friends trains, as well as the little hats for little heads.
    P.S. Habitude at the Locks is nearby. Perhaps a friend could watch Little One while you get a relaxing Aveda pampering treatment or haircut?

Honorable mentions:

  • Archie McPhee
    Two stores filled with novelty items like bacon-strip band-aids, rubber duckies, fake spiders, palm skirts and all things party.
  • Cookies
    Tiny pastry chefs-in-training love picking out cookie cutters at this cute little shop.
  • Secret Garden Bookshop
    Books for little kids and big kids (adults), too.
  • Collective
    A hip furniture store with modern baby-room furniture and rockers, plus many funky vintage finds you can use to spice up any room.
    Note: Many stores along Ballard Avenue, including Lola, Lucca and Camelion Design, have kids’ sections.


  • The Old Town Ale House
    5233 Ballard Ave.
    Changing table? Yes
    With brick walls and wooden tables, the Ale House reminds us of something you’d find in Boston. The kids’ menu includes a few winners: cheese tortellini with parmesan and butter, chicken fingers with fries, and fish -n- chips. Parents might want to try the sausage wedge (a sandwich with spicy Italian sausage, red sauce and cheese) or the portabello ravioli.
    P.S. Did someone say Belgian beer?! Sample a bottle or draught—the selection is good.
  • Café Besalu
    5909 24th Ave. NW
    no web site
    Changing table? No
    The little quiches and croissants at the cafe are legendary. It’s not a huge space, so go on a warmer day and sit outside, where Junior can be as loud as he wants. Besalu is a perfect first stop in Ballard; the rich snack will easily carry you through to lunch.

Honorable mentions:

  • Hi-Life
    In an old Ballard firehouse, Hi-Life is definitely family central. Crayons are provided and the mac & cheese on the kids’ menu has a good rep. Arrive before 10:00 am on weekends to avoid the crowds.
  • Cupcake Royale
    One reader worships Royale’s lemon lavender cupcakes. We’re definitely partial to the chocolate. No matter—both parents and children are satisfied here, with cupcakes and cool or warm drinks in hand.
  • Thaiku
    no web site; 5410 Ballard Ave. NW, 206.706.7807
    Though many people consider this more of a singles restaurant, you’ll see families at Thaiku, too. No kids’ menu is available, but the noodle-based dishes just might please Junior’s palate.
  • Cocina Esperanza
    no web site; 3127 NW 85th St., 206.783.7020
    A cozy Mexican place that’s good for tots and not too expensive.
  • The Scoop at Walter’s Café
    no web site; 6408 32nd Ave. NW, 206.782.3920
    Delish ice cream from the Snoqualmie Gourmet Ice Cream company.