Now known – for better or worse – as one of the best hipster neighborhoods in the nation, the Ballard area sits at the base of the hill where 9 Cranes Inn is located. Locals and tourists alike flock to Ballard to enjoy a sunny day at the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks and cruise the stores and eateries that line Market Street and Old Ballard Avenue.
Long before the craft breweries, celebrated restaurants, and unique shops made Ballard a hotspot, the neighborhood enjoyed a rich Scandinavian* heritage. This heritage dates back to the late 1800s, when Ballard was a city unto itself, and had jobs aplenty. Boat builders, mill workers, and fisherman flocked from Nordic countries, bringing their culture, artifacts, and traditions with them.
Some long-term residents mourn the fading evidence of Ballard’s Scandinavian roots, but a new and improved museum on the main drag has managed to embrace the best of the old and new worlds. The Nordic Museum, located between the bustling center of Ballard and the Locks, is a vibrant monument to all things Scandinavian. The sleek, modern building’s functional design and environmental sustainability mirror Nordic ideals. It opened in May, after relocating from its much smaller quarters tucked back into the residential section of Ballard.
Inside, the aim is to share Nordic culture with people from all places via art, everyday objects, educational and cultural events, and personal stories. The permanent collection includes items and photos from the Nordic migration from overseas in the late 1800s, as well as from the Midwest in the 1920s. An ever-refreshing series of special exhibits share focused topics and contemporary perspectives, while special events and classes make Nordic traditions come alive for visitors of all ages. Not to be overlooked is the cheery café at street level, which you can visit whether or not you are checking out the museum that day.
We at 9 Cranes Inn are museum members and love the place. So far we’ve visited twice, and look forward to taking in all that the space offers in small chunks. The museum isn’t overwhelmingly huge, but it is chock full of great information and changing events that merit multiple visits for full appreciation.
Museum hours are 10 to 5 every day except the following: Closed Monday, and open 10 to 8 on Thursdays. It also is closed Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve Day, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day. Admission is $15 general, $12 seniors (65+), $10 students, free for children 4 and under and members. Admission is free to all on the first Thursday of every month.
* Please note that we are using the terms “Scandinavian” and “Nordic” interchangeably here, mostly to avoid too much repetition. We recognize that the former is commonly used for Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, while the latter tends to include Denmark; Norway; Sweden; Finland; and Iceland; including the territories of Svalbard, Greenland, the Faroe Islands, and the Åland Islands.