Most Seattleites have done plenty of walking in Ballard. Between the buzzing farmers’ market, the Chittenden Locks (the perfect go-to for out-of town visitors) and the too-cute boutiques, Ballard practically begs to be explored by foot. So what inspired me to hoof it over there on a rainy Sunday afternoon for yet another stroll? Field Trip Day, an event hosted in dozens of cities around the country by Field Trip, an app developed by Google’s internal startup Niantic Labs, did a pretty good job convincing me and the dozens of other brave souls out there in the threatening thunderstorms that no matter how much time we’d already spent in the neighborhood, there were hidden secrets waiting to be discovered. Plus, I thought I’d be discovering it all via Google Glass, the eyeglasses-like, head-mounted computer with which the Field Trip app just became compatible.
The Field Trip app links information sources to your smartphone’s GPS, offering interesting tidbits anywhere in participating cities about the things currently around you. So when we passed by Conor Byrne Pub on Ballard Way, a little vibration in my pocket told me that the 108-year-old building has always housed a pub, except during Prohibition when it had a brief stint as a “café.” There were 35 local businesses participating in the afternoon activities, and the route wound its way through Ballard’s historic center with the final festivities at Hale’s Palladium for live music, beer and circus performances. While some of the businesses put more together for the event than others, a few of the highlights were a free scoop at Full Tilt Ice Cream, a lesson in vodka distilling (and a tasting, of course) at Old Ballard Liquor Co. and a tour of the artist collective Salty Dog Pottery Studio. While the allure of Google Glass went unrealized for me (there were a lucky few cyborg souls sporting a pair), the afternoon did highlight some areas of the neighborhood that are easily overlooked. With the influx of new people, restaurants and breweries, it’s nice to have little reminders of Ballard’s salty history.
Get the Field Trip app here and start off on your own expedition.