Seattle, Washington audio tour: The Changing Face of Ballard: Trace the Evolution of a Seattle Neighborhood

The Changing Face of Ballard: Trace the Evolution of a Seattle Neighborhood

Walking Tour

60 mins

About the Tour

Immerse yourself in the landscape, culture and history of Seattle via its historic waterfront neighborhood, Ballard. On this quirky walking tour, you’ll learn all about the past, while taking in the area’s unique and modern urban environment, inviting park spaces and breathtaking views of the bay.

The neighborhood is a microcosm of the long history that unfolded here. Listen as I tell you all about the incredible changes that have taken place, from the early Native Americans and colonization, to how the city became the tech hub it is today. Along the way, I’ll share humorous, saucy and engaging stories in my trademark style. I’ve been a local for 15 years now and have plenty of little tidbits to keep you smiling, laughing and learning!

You won’t want to miss hearing about:

• Ballard’s many different inhabitants
• The Hiram Chittenden Locks system
• Luther Burbank and how he forever changed everyone’s backyard
• Jet City in the 1970s
• How salmon use ladders

Allow an hour for this walk which, if you’re feeling brave and want to be considered an honorary resident, you can enjoy no matter the weather. Don’t forget your camera because rain, shine (or something in between) there’ll be plenty of Kodak moments and Instagram-worthy spots to capture. Let’s time travel without leaving the 21st Century!

Credits: and The Seattle Times for providing valuable information
The Frog’s Leg Rag music track by Kevin MacLeod
The Seattle Municipal Archives and Joe Mabel - CC Attribution 4.0 for their photos

Tour Producer


Elke Hautala

An identical twin performer/tour guide turned scholar and documentary filmmaker. Elke has worked as an actress, completed a singer-songwriter album, given tours of the Seattle Underground (including one for Anthony Bourdain's show The Layover) and is currently finishing three educational documentary films. She wants to share the joy of public history and diverse culture through uplifting stories.

How VoiceMap Works

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Major Landmarks

  • National Nordic Museum

  • Hiram M. Chittenden Locks & Botanical Gardens

  • Burke-Gilman Trail

  • Salmon Bay Bridge

Directions to Starting Point

The tour begins on the southwest corner of the NW Market St and 24th Ave NW intersection. There is some paid street parking (free on Sundays!) usually available on surrounding streets. You can take the #44 bus to NW Market St & Ballard Ave NW then just walk a few blocks to the starting point.

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Places to stop along the way

One of the wonderful aspects of this tour is how you can build it into a truly memorable experience by diving deeper into many of the spots that I highlight along the way!

*Visit the National Nordic Museum for a culture fix and delicious snacks at their Freya Cafe
*Round out your weekend morning with a pancake brunch at the mouth watering Portage Bay Cafe
*Take a jaunt across the Hiram Chittenden Locks to see their magnificent splendor and visit the Fish Ladder (mid-June to September are the best viewing times)
*Have a delightful fisherman's meal and a cold beverage at quirky and fun Lockspot Cafe
*Take a detour to the Kiss Cafe for sandwiches, coffee or a NW beer
*Finish your tour with a legendary dinner (and unforgettable views) at Ray's Boathouse
*Ready for more? Take the long way home and continue out to visit Golden Gardens, a beach and park at the end of the Burke-Gilman trail. Have a rewarding picnic of hot dogs and ice cream from Little Coney when you arrive. If you time it right, you may even catch the sunset!

Best time of day

This area can get very busy especially on weekends during the summer so it depends on the experience that you want. If you're excited to be able to walk through the crowds then weekends would definitely be the best time, if you want a quieter and more contemplative time, during the week is best. I would recommend any time from about 7am to 9pm depending on the time of year. The Hiram Chittenden Locks are closed outside of those times. Please note that from October to about June it can be rainy or cloudy and in the Fall/Winter especially it gets dark around 5pm.


Please be aware that this tour does require quite a bit of walking and there are steep stairs at one section. Also, many of the sidewalks, paths and trails can sometimes have not only pedestrians and joggers but also bicyclists so keep an eye on your surroundings as you walk. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes, bring your rain gear in the Fall to Spring especially (sun coverage in the summer) and water.


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The Changing Face of Ballard: Trace the Evolution of a Seattle Neighborhood