Much like the mythical North Pole, Ballard is a universe unto itself: You have to cross rivers, surmount hills, and traverse valleys to get there, but once you arrive you’re amid enchantment of all kinds, from live music and an array of drinks to pristine little toy shops.
The pretty fisherman’s village lights up in the wintry holiday season, providing a spark of excitement during Seattle’s oft-dreary weather. But all that wetness provides a lush supply of produce, which strollers can purchase during the year-round weekly Sunday Ballard Farmer’s Market (5345 Ballard Ave. N.W.).
And between sampling the market’s homemade doughnuts or fresh apples, folks can pop into one of the cherished coffee shops Ballard has to offer: the tight-quartered Anchored Ship Coffee Bar (5306 Ballard Ave. N.W., 954-9215) or the more sprawling Caffè Umbria (5407 Ballard Ave. N.W., 420-3945) for steaming hot chocolates or spicy chai lattes.
But Ballard’s pièces de résistance are all the cute shops, where you can find any number of scented soaps, artisanal toys, vinyl records, or handmade cards. Indeed, Ballard is teeming with spots to purchase the latest gift to spruce up your loved ones’ domiciles.
Here’s what we suggest: Start at the southern tip of Ballard Avenue and get a slice of pizza (and maybe a pint) from Ballard Pizza Company (5107 Ballard Ave. N.W., 659-6033). Proceed north. You’ll notice Dancing Brush Studio (5129 Ballard Ave. N.W., 782-2882) where you can make your own ceramic gifts for family and friends. A little down the way you’ll see Second Ascent (5209 Ballard Ave. N.W., 545-8810), where you can buy hiking shoes, tents, and sleeping bags for the intrepid traveler in your life.
Down the road, you’ll see boutiques like Jax Joon (5338 Ballard Ave. N.W., 789-8777), where you can purchase delightfully bright throw pillows, fish vases, and fashionable clothes. Or, nearby at Prism (5208 Ballard Ave. N.W., 402-4706), you can acquire hip necklaces and earrings for the jewelry lover in your life. Next to each other, the fanciful Lucca Great Finds (5332 Ballard Ave. N.W.) and Chameleon Design (5330 Ballard Ave. N.W., 783-7125) offer items to enliven homes both large and small. And at Clover Toys (5335 Ballard Ave. N.W., 782-0715), you can find any number of books for kids.
But now you’re hungry again; that pizza has worn off. Where to? Sample barbecue at Bitterroot (5239 Ballard Ave. N.W., 588-1577) or a decadently greasy plate at Hattie’s Hat (5231 Ballard Ave. N.W., 784-0175). But save some energy amid that sauce-filled meal (washed down with perhaps another pint). Clean your hands, too, because our final three stops include the vintage shop Trove (2204 N.W. Market St., 297-6068) and the vinyl record havens Bop Street (2220 N.W. Market St., 297-2232) and Sonic Boom (2209 N.W. Market St., 297-2666). Go to Trove for the cute 1950s poodle skirts and hit up the record stores for the era-appropriate music. Or just go to salivate over the splendor of Ballard’s most eclectic shops. And when the day is done, get yourself a cocktail at Hazelwood (2311 N.W. Market St., 783-0478). You surely won’t forget it.