Once the 7th largest city in Washington and 2nd largest city in King County, the residents of Beautiful Ballard draped their City Hall in black cloth the day it was annexed by Seattle in 1907. The traditional capitol of Seattle’s Scandinavian community, Ballard still has the feel of an independent small town with thriving commercial downtown surrounded by residential neighborhoods. According to the Seattle City Clerk’s Neighborhood Map Atlas, Ballard is the designation for an uber-neighborhood consisting of Sunset Hill, Loyal Heights, Whittier Heights, West Woodland and Adams, which covers the downtown Ballard area centered along NW Market St from 15th NW to 24th NW. The north boundary of NW 85th St is commonly agreed upon along with the obvious western and southern boundaries of Shilshole Bay and the Ship Canal, while the eastern boundary is more fluid, with 8th Ave NW the common understanding but extending to 3rd Ave NW from NW 45th to 65th in the West Woodland neighborhood.

Highlights of Ballard include the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks and Carl S. English Botanical Gardens. The Locks were built from 1911 to 1916 as part of the Lake Washington Ship Canal project connecting the fresh water of Lake Washington, Portage Bay and Lake Union to the salt water of Salmon Bay and Shilshole Bay in Puget Sound. They officially opened in 1917, splitting Salmon Bay into salt water and freshwater, and providing a fresh water port for the fishing fleet which has defined a way of life for many Ballard residents. The Nordic Heritage Museum celebrates Ballard’s Scandinavian Heritage while the annual Syttende Mai (17th of May) celebration of Norwegian Constitution Day includes a parade. Bergen Place Park in downtown was dedicated by King Olaf of Norway in 1975.

Golden Gardens is a popular public beach below Sunset Hill at the end of Seaview Ave. Other small community parks include Sunset Hill Park, Webster Park, Salmon Bay Park, Ballard Common Playground, School District Playfield, and Gilman Playground. The Ballard Pool is a public indoor pool just north of Ballard High. The Ballard Library was completely rebuilt in 2005 at the NW corner of downtown.  Marvin’s Garden is another downtown park space with bell tower.

Elementary schools include Adams, just west of downtown Ballard, Loyal Heights, Whittier & West Woodland. Salmon Bay K-8 is just north of downtown. Ballard High School is the oldest continuously operating high school in Seattle, but was completely rebuilt in 1999 and includes a biotech magnet program and renowned television production program. Area middle school students are served by Whitman, located just north of the greater Ballard neighborhood in North Beach.

Ballard is dotted by numerous religious institutions with the notable presence of Lutheran congregations with roots in the Norwegian, Swedish and Icelandic communities, marking the Scandinavian influence in the community.

Depending on traffic and bridges, Ballard is about 25 minutes by bus from either downtown or UW, although it is the terminus of the Burke Gilman trail for bike commuters to the UW. The 17, 18 and 15 connect Sunset Hill, North Beach, & Crown Hill (along 32nd, 24th & 15th Ave NW respectively) to downtown Seattle via downtown Ballard with the 81 providing Night Owl service. The 44 provides direct service from downtown Ballard to UW with the 75 making the big loop from Ballard to Northgate, Lake City, Sand Point and finally the UW. The 28 connects Broadview to downtown via East Ballard (Whittier and West Woodland) along 8th Ave NW, while the 48 connects North Ballard (Sunset Hill, Loyal Heights & Whittier along NW 85th St) to UW and the Central District. The 46 connects Golden Gardens to Fremont running through the heart of Ballard.

For real estate searches, Ballard can refer to almost any NW Seattle address. Even though Sunset Hill, Loyal Heights, Whittier and Woodland Park are recognized communities by MLS (as well as Olympic Manor, North Beach, Blue Ridge, Greenwood and Phinney Ridge), most agents just use Ballard as the community designation instead of the Ballard specific neighborhoods or the other neighborhoods outside of Ballard proper. Currently there are houses listed as Ballard as far away as the University District.