Why go now: For a while, it seemed like all the boutiques along Ballard Avenue Northwest were closing, but once again this hip old hood is full of good finds.
Big news: The Kolstrand Building, a former marine-supply warehouse, has been carved into chic shops and restaurants.
Dress code: Faded jeans, rain jacket, and a (stylish) reusable bag for your haul.
Best window shopping: Local artist Curtis Steiner’s jewelry and paper gallery, Souvenir (5325 Ballard Ave. N.W.; 206/297-7116), has outrageous displays.
Holiday party prep: Horseshoe Boutique (5344 Ballard; 206/547-9639), for affordable fashions far cooler than the little black number you’ve worn the last four years.
The latest bike: Step into the Dutch Bike Co.’s new digs (4741 Ballard; 206/789-1678), and you’ll want a Bakfiets-style cargo cruiser as badly as that banana seat you craved as a kid.
Beer break: The library nook at the Noble Fir ($; 5316 Ballard; 206/420-7425).
Candy cane central: Blackbird Candy Shoppe (in the Field House; see below) carries giant ones, plus a killer Pop Rocks selection.
Men shop too, you know: The gal behind guys’ boutique Blackbird has opened the Field House—part general store, part grocery, all nostalgia. Stock up on handmade shoes, flannel shirts, and cast-iron pans. Stuff a Pendleton stocking with ornaments made from spent rifle shells, and come home with your tree, sold here by the foot. Friday nights, it’s the Skinned Knee, when speakers share tips on handy stuff like shoe repair. 5465 Leary Ave. N.W.; 206/297-6093.
Sweets with a Japanese twist: Fresh Flours is a Japanese-inspired bakery known for cross-cultural treats like adzuki bean brioche and lemon-ginger muffins. Try a green tea latte, and pick up a bag of black sesame shortbread. Puts those old holiday cookies to shame. $; 5313 Ballard Ave. N.W.; 206/706-3338.
Way better than a poinsettia: An open-root air plant (tillandsia) from the Palm Room is the ideal gift for those who occasionally forget to water. 5336 Ballard Ave. N.W.; 206/782-7256.
Think beyond white lights: Pre-party at Lucca Great Finds (5332 Ballard Ave. N.W.; 206/782-7337), stocked with handmade paper, tasteful table decor, and a ceiling full of stunning chandeliers. Next door at Camelion Design (5330 Ballard; 206/783-7125), find holiday ornaments made from pussy willows, birch bark, and natural feathers.
Insta hors d’oeuvres: A little winter rain doesn’t keep anyone away from the Ballard Farmers Market, bursting this month with dark leafy produce, handicrafts, sustainable meats—and easy appetizers like Taylor Shellfish Farms oysters, Estrella Family Creamery cheeses, and pâté from Sea Breeze Farm. 10–3 Sun; Ballard Ave. N.W. at 22nd Ave. N.W.; 206/250-0609.
Stick around for dinner
The tables by the fire at local hot spot Bastille Café & Bar ($$$; 5307 Ballard Ave. N.W.; 206/453-5014) may be booked, but now there’s a bunch of other great spots in Ballard to grab a bite—and warm up.
Japanese: A steaming bowl of udon topped with light, crunchy shrimp tempura is just what you want when you walk into Moshi Moshi Sushi. Nab a seat at the bar, beneath a huge blossoming cherry tree made entirely of lights. $$$; 5324 Ballard; 206/971-7424.
Thai: Thaw out over a vat of delightfully sweet and sour tom yum noodle soup at vegetarian restaurant Jhanjay. End with warm black sticky rice pudding and soothing cups of ginger tea. $; 5313B Ballard; 206/588-1469.
Mexican: Tamales, a holiday tradition in Mexico, became popular centuries ago because they’re portable. But one bite of the sweet black mole pork version at La Carta de Oaxaca glues you to your chair. $; closed Sun; 5431 Ballard; 206/782-8722.
Italian: At Staple & Fancy Mercantile, Ethan Stowell’s latest restaurant, choose the “staple” menu ($$$), with plates like tagliarini with pistachio pesto, or the “fancy,” a four-course family-style meal ($45) created at the kitchen’s whim. 4739 Ballard; 206/789-1200.
French: The oyster-loving characters in the Lewis Carroll poem inspired the name of the Walrus and the Carpenter, a relaxed oyster bar with a strong whiff of France. Try the smoked trout. $$$; closed Sun; 4743 Ballard; 206/395-9227.