The Nordic Museum has been a fixture of Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood for nearly four decades. Originally opening in 1980 as the Nordic Heritage Museum, it moved to its new-and-improved location on Market Street earlier this year. The museum is dedicated to honoring the legacy of immigrants to the United States from the five Nordic countries of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. In addition to their regular exhibits, the Nordic Museum also hosts a variety of dances, films, and festivals that are fun for the whole family.
On foot, the trek from downtown Seattle to Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood would take nearly two hours. However, thanks to King County Metro, the Nordic Museum is a mere 30-minute bus ride on Route 40 from the heart of downtown. Bus fares range from $1.50 for youth to $2.75 for adults and can be purchased with cash – exact change required – or directly from your smartphone using the Transit GO Ticket App (available for Apple, Google, or Microsoft). Bus routes and schedules are publicly posted on the King County Metro website, and the One Bus Away app (available for Apple, Google, or Microsoft) gives riders real-time reports on their bus’s status (early, late, or on-time).
If life has taught me anything, it’s that the journey matters just as much as the destination. With so many activities to choose from, here’s a rundown of some of my favorite spots along the way:
White peach (left) and pink guava (right) ginger beer from Rachel’s Ginger BeerPhoto Credit: Edan Patterson
1. Before boarding the bus, take some time to explore downtown – and any trip to downtown would be woefully incomplete without an adventure through Pike Place Market. One of the oldest farmers-markets in the United States and one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world, the Market is home to fishmongers, the first Starbucks, and about 240 other “mom-and-pop” businesses in the Market Historical District. Stop into Rachel’s Ginger Beer for handmade sodas (personally, I recommend the white peach ginger beer, but the pink guava is also spectacular). You can even take your ginger beer game to the next level by making it a soft-serve float! With your spiced beverage in one hand and bus fare (or Transit GO App) in the other, you’re ready to start your adventure. Hop on the bus at 3rd Ave and Pine Street and ride 2 stops (5 minutes) to the first location.
A chocolate frosted old fashioned from Top Pot DoughnutPhoto Credit: Edan Patterson
2. Hop off the bus at Blanchard Street and 6th Ave to try Seattle sweet spot Top Pot Doughnuts. Top Pot opened its first location in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood back in 2002, and has since expanded to nearly two dozen locations throughout Washington and Texas. Offering more than forty different types of hand-forged doughnuts, there’s something for everyone – from chocolate-frosted old-fashioneds to blueberry specialty cakes to raspberry-filled bulls-eyes. 10/10 would recommend pairing your tasty treat with coffee or tea and spending some time unwinding in their cozy café. After satisfying your sugar cravings, be sure to snap a pic of their highly Instagrammable neon sign before getting back on the bus at Blanchard and 6th and riding 2 stops (5 minutes) to the next location.
The buffalo mozzarella pizza from Serious Pie & BiscuitPhoto Credit: Edan Patterson
3. If it’s before 3:00pm and you’re craving biscuits (or after 11:00am and you’re craving pizza), head over to Serious Pie & Biscuit at the corner of Westlake Ave N and Harrison Street. “The Zach” – a biscuit with fried chicken, Tobasco black pepper gravy, fried egg, and bacon – is everything I want in a biscuit and more (or, if you have a sweet tooth like me, the biscuit with peanut butter, banana and honey is equally delectable). For lunch or dinner, I go for the buffalo mozzarella pizza, although my roommate swears by their Yukon gold potato pizza. Once you’ve had your fill, get back on the bus at Westlake and Harrison and ride 2 stops (5 minutes) to the next location.
MOHAI and the Center for Wooden Boats at South Lake UnionPhoto Credit: Edan Patterson
4. The Museum of History and Industry, or MOHAI, is just across the street from the 40’s bus stop at Westlake Ave N and Mercer Street. MOHAI features local artifacts ranging from Boeing’s first commercial plane to Rainier Brewing Company’s neon “R” sign. MOHAI is open daily 10:00am – 5:00pm with free admission on the first Thursday of the month (usually $20 for adults). Alternatively, the next-door Center for Wooden Boats at South Lake Union is always free! Walk the docks, explore the boats, and browse the exhibits free of charge – all with panoramic views of the beautiful Lake Union. After you’ve seen the Pocock Shells, climbed aboard the Dora and Wally, and wandered the Boathouse for a bit, get back on the bus at Westlake and Mercer and ride 8 stops (11 minutes) to the next location.
The Fremont RocketPhoto Credit: Edan Patterson
5. At 36th Street and Dayton Ave, explore some of Fremont’s local landmarks! One of Seattle’s most eclectic neighborhoods, Fremont is home to the iconic “Center of the Universe” sign at the intersection of Fremont Place, Fremont Ave, and 35th Street, and the “Fremont Troll” under the Aurora Bridge off 36th. Fremont is also home to several other lesser-known landmarks, such as “Waiting for the Interurban” (an aluminum sculpture on 34th Street depicting six people and a dog waiting for the streetcar) and “The Fremont Rocket” (a sculpture off 35th Street made of military surplus depicting a fictional rocket). After snapping a few artsy photos for the social media platform of your choice, get back on the bus at 36th and Dayton and ride 9 stops (13 minutes) to the Nordic Museum.
Inside the Nordic MuseumPhoto Credit: Edan Patterson
The Nordic Museum is located two and a half blocks west of the 40’s stop at NW Market Street and Ballard Ave. Open 10:00am – 5:00pm Tuesday through Sunday (except Thursdays, when they are open until 8:00pm), the museum features a collection of 77,000 artifacts tracing 12,000 years of Nordic History. These artifacts include art, tools, jewelry, coins, weapons, boats, and much, much more. Be sure to stop in between now and April 14th to see the ‘The Vikings Begin’ exhibit on loan from Uppsala University, Sweden, featuring a collection of 1,300-year-old items from the pre-Viking Age. This is the first time that these artifacts have ever crossed the Atlantic – see them now before they return!
And, just like that, voila! You are now an expert on Nordic History *and* King County’s public transportation system. You can continue taking the 40 all the way up to Northgate Mall, or take it south past Rachel’s Ginger Beer to King Street Station and Seattle’s Chinatown-International District. Or choose your own adventure on a different line – with over 200 King County Metro bus routes serving the Puget Sound area, Seattle’s public transportation makes navigating the Emerald City simple and cost-effective.