Hiram M. Chittenden Locks (Ballard Locks)

#7 in Best Things To Do in Seattle
Hiram M. Chittenden Locks (Ballard Locks) picture1 of 2
Hiram M. Chittenden Locks (Ballard Locks)2 of 2
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Key Info

3015 NW 54th St.

Price & Hours

Free

Details

Parks and Gardens, Sightseeing, Free Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
3.9scorecard
  • 5.0Value
  • 3.5Facilities
  • 4.0Atmosphere

These locks – operated by the Army Corps of Engineers – are popular among visitors and locals in Seattle. The locks allow boats to pass between Puget Sound and the Lake Washington ship canal, offering a live demonstration of Seattle's maritime lifestyle (many have compared the locks to a miniature version of the Panama Canal). After you've watched a couple barges pass by, head to the south side of the locks where fish ladders help salmon migrate during the summer months; if you're lucky, you might catch a glimpse of a sea lion looking for a quick bite to eat. The fish can be seen up close from special viewing windows. The Chittenden Locks are also home to the Carl English Botanical Gardens, which feature a variety of unique plants and beautiful views.

Many visitors suggested taking one of the free tours offered to learn more about the history of the locks. A few reviewers were disappointed that the visitor center was closed the day they stopped by. If that's something you want to explore, make sure you check the hours ahead of time. You can also learn more about the locks on one of Seattle's best boat tours.

The locks are available to visit daily from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and are located in northwest Seattle's Ballard district. Free one-hour tours run from March 1 to Nov. 30. A visitor center is open daily May through September from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. From October through April, the center is not open Tuesday and Wednesday and closes at 4 p.m. the rest of the week. There is no entry fee for any of the attractions here. The locks can be found north of downtown and about 5 miles west of the University of Washington. You can reach the locks by driving or taking bus routes nos. 29 or 44. For more information, check out the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks website.

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#1 Pike Place Market

Since 1907, this bustling market near the downtown waterfront has been the go-to place for local produce. Today, you can find almost everything, from local artwork to vinyl records. Plus, the flower market is a particular must-see, according to reviewers. Though Pike Place Market is one of the most tourist-heavy attractions in Seattle (plan to run into crowds, especially during the weekend) that's no reason to scratch it off your to-do list. Recent visitors said the abundance of vendors and lively atmosphere make it an experience you shouldn't pass up, no matter how busy it gets. 

The streets surrounding Pike Place Market are peppered with restaurants and coffee shops, and there's an information booth just west of the marketplace at First Avenue. If you want a little help navigating the massive market, guided tours and food tours are available from third-party companies. You can find a list on the market's website here.

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Alan Alabastro/Visit Seattle
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