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Plan an off-season visit to the Ballard Locks

Brothers Aiden, front, and Ethan Castoldi enjoy a sunny day at the Ballard Locks.


The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, more commonly known as the Ballard Locks, are one of Seattle’s biggest tourist attractions, which can make visiting with little ones challenging. But March is still considered the offseason, and the crowds that typify the warmer months — and summer’s salmon migration — have yet to descend. True, the small locks close for cleaning the second week of the month. But the big locks are running full steam, with the constant traffic of boats coming and going, and around mid-March, the fish ladder should start streaming with steelhead trout.

March also sees the return of free one-hour tours, which leave the visitors center Thursday through Monday at 2 pm. Beginning inside with a slideshow, then winding through the botanical garden, the locks, and past the fish ladder, the tour is full of interesting history and facts, but the tone is informal and friendly — kids who might wander away (and the adults who follow them) are fine. That a uniformed ranger leads the group adds appeal for kids who still think that’s cool.

If you’re looking for lunch nearby, stop into Red Mill Totem House (3058 NW 54th St.), which offers both Red Mill’s famous burgers as well as fish-and-chips and clam chowder, in keeping with the location’s previous life as a fish fry spot for six decades. Or complete the off-season adventure with a stop at Un Bien (7302½ 15th Ave. NW) for a Caribbean sandwich and a walk through Golden Gardens Park. If weather permits, bring bikes and walk them across the bridge to the Magnolia side of the water, then pedal the mile of flat path to the Urban Family Brewing Company (4441 26th Ave. W.), with beer on tap for parents, apple juice for kids, and free pretzels for everyone.

The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, 3015 NW 54th St.
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