46 Free and Cheap Things to Do in Seattle
So you’ve been to the icky gum wall and bought some flowers from Pike Place Market, now what?? If you are looking for some more fun and free things to do in Seattle, Washington, you have come to the right place. We moved to the city over 3 years ago and have spent the last few years exploring to find all the best free things to do in Seattle that are light on the wallet but full of adventure, and we put together a list of them all to share with you.
Looking for the top touristy things to do in a day? Read this guide for things to do with only One Day In Seattle
Fun, Unique, and Free Things to do in Seattle, WA
Head up to Smith Tower after a Sports Game
If you already have tickets to a Mariners, Seahawks, or Sounders game downtown, save those stubs for after the game (or before) and head past Pioneer Square to the famous Smith Tower. Those game tickets will grant you free entry to the observatory (normally $20+) where there is an exhibit on the history of the tower and Seattle at the time it was built, plus an old-timey elevator ride to the top, where you’ll get a 360 view of downtown Seattle and the Puget Sound, and access to a classic 1920’s speakeasy style bar.
Visit the Seattle Central Library + Rent Free Museum Passes
The library may not sound exciting at first, but the downtown Seattle Public Library is no ordinary building. This is a fun place to stopover on your trip downtown and has incredible architecture, with all of the outer walls in a diamond pattern covered in windows which is perfect to let every bit of light in possible. Browse the shelves of books inside, check out the famous Red Room, and grab a warm cup of drinking chocolate from Chocolati to heat up in the winter. It’s also free to join the library, and members can sign up for free museum passes on the library website. Museum passes are released one month prior and are very popular, so be sure to plan your trip in advance to reserve your free museum passes.
Take a Free Walking Tour of Seattle
If you aren’t sure where to start or want to see a new side of Seattle, a free walking tour is a great place to start! Seattle Free Walking Tours offers tours of the market, general Seattle info, and also a cemetery tour for a pay what you will offering.
Warm Up on a Rainy Day at the Amazon Spheres
The Amazon Spheres are located at the company’s headquarters downtown and were originally built to provide a green space for employees to escape from their concrete jungle offices in downtown Seattle. Based on the cloud forest in Monteverde, Costa Rica, the spheres are filled with thousands of tropical plants over 3 stories, and are open to the public free of charge on every other Saturday. Reserve your tickets online in advance, and be sure to dress in layers as it is a completely different ecosystem indoors and you may end up sweating if you are dressed for Seattle’s cooler climate. If you get hungry during your visit, you can pop up to the third floor and grab creme and custard-filled brioche donuts from General Porpoise and a coffee; or if you’re craving something more, stop by Renee Erickson’s pastel pink dream of a restaurant Willmott’s Ghost on the first floor.
Borrow a Book from a Little Free Library
As Seattle is such a green city, you will find many programs to reduce waste and not let items be thrown away, and the Little Free Library is such a fantastic concept for that. You can use this map to locate Little Free Libraries all over the country. Find one on the map and head out for a walk, then pick out a book to take with you on your adventures. Hit up one of the parks below or any coffee shop in Seattle and enjoy your chosen read, then when you finish one donate it to the next Little Free Library near you.
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Waterfall Park Downtown
Did you know that the US Postal Service began in Seattle? The original location has since moved, but you can still visit this historic site in downtown’s historic Pioneer Square. The space has been converted into a waterfall garden which is free to the public and open during daylight hours.
Visit a Museum on First Thursday
Seattle has an incredible offering of museums on subjects from pop culture, to aviation, to science, and while the lofty entrance fees might discourage you from visiting, you can take advantage of the monthly free entrance days on the first Thursday of every month! Not every museum participates, but the following museums offer free admission on the first Thursday of the month for general admission, and while special exhibits are still normal charge, this can be a great budget option to see them:
Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience
Seattle Art Museum (SAM)
Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI)
Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture
Kid’s Discovery Museum (on Bainbridge Island)
Living Computers Museum + Labs
Wander through Frye Museum
If you won’t be in Seattle on the first Thursday of the month, but still want to soak in some free art, you can visit the Frye Art Museum for free anytime. This museum may seem small, but it’s full of beautiful paintings and profound exhibits sure to intrigue you and makes for a great afternoon or evening activity before grabbing drinks in the nearby Capitol Hill Neighborhood. If you aren’t sure where to go, download the local happy hour locator app called Cocktail Compass and see what discount drinks are nearby.
Take an Urban Hike in One of Seattle’s 400+ Parks
Co-operated by the city and the University of Washington, the Arboretum is a 230-acre park with easy and accessible trails and beautiful foliage year-round. The park has several entrances with parking access, a visitor’s center with a gift shop and restrooms, bike trails, and also a Japanese Garden with a small entrance fee. Some of my favorite times of year to visit are in the cooler rainy winter, when the winter garden comes to life, the springtime with the azaleas and cherry blossoms bloom, and of course in the fall when the Japanese Garden is in vivid color. You can also rent canoes from the University of Washington or kayaks from local business Aqua Verde Paddle Club and paddle through the marshy shores of Lake Washington along the edge of the park for a different vantage point in the summertime.
Compared to the other parks on this list, Ravenna Park may seem small, but it is one of our favorites for escaping the city and stretching our legs on a nice walk or run. If you are just in town for a visit, you can probably skip this one, but if you’re new to the area or have been to Seattle many times, it is definitely worth coming by. Check out the nearby local bookstore Third Place Books, and pick up a bottle of wine from the neighborhood market to make it a full day. This park also has a playground, tennis courts, and a baseball diamond.
Located on the northern end of Lake Union, Gasworks Park is the perfect place to come on a sunny day to get a great view of downtown Seattle. This park is unique as it was built on the site of the old city gas plant, and when the park was built many of the old equipment was incorporated into the design. Gasworks Park includes a playground, some trails, and a huge hill that is perfect for flying kites and having a summer picnic. Bring a blanket, snacks, and a bottle of wine to sit on the hill and enjoy the view with the locals, or rent a bike from a local rental service like Jump or Limebikes and ride around the park, then continue on the Burke Gilman trail along the water towards Wallingford, Fremont, and Ballard neighborhoods for more things to do.
This is the largest park in Seattle and was previously an old Fort. It is one of the most beautiful parks in the city, with fern-covered forest floors, meadows, a dramatic bluff overlooking two miles of beaches, and a lighthouse which is all accessible on foot. You can hike the 2.8 mile loop around the park to see everything, or drive right up to a free parking lot by the beach to explore some tidepools and see the lighthouse.
Green Lake Park
This park is a pretty and flat park around its namesake lake, with a nearly 3-mile path looping around that is a favorite for local runners and bikers. You can also rent paddle-boards and swim in the community pool or the lake itself in the summertime, though we wouldn’t recommend the latter ourselves.
A beach on the edge of Ballard, Golden Gardens is a popular park in Seattle and for good reason. Not only is it a gorgeous setting in its own right, you can also use fire pits along this coastal park shore from 4 pm to 10 pm daily on a first come first serve basis and enjoy the beach with friends over a bonfire, but don’t miss the steep trails rising up behind the beach as well to get your heart pumping with a nice urban hike.
One of the biggest parks in Seattle, Seward is a great place to go for an urban hike to escape from the city. The park has a stretch of old growth forest, bike trails, playgrounds, an ampitheater and lake shore beaches that overlook views of Mount Rainier. This is the perfect park to visit in the summertime, and is located south of downtown Seattle, so a car is likely needed to access the park.
Volunteer Park & Volunteer Park Conservatory
This is the perfect place for a rainy day in Seattle. Check out this park right in the cool Capitol Hill neighborhood, pump up your heart rate by climbing to the top of the tower with sweeping views of the city and some interesting info-graphics on the city’s parks history, snap a picture of the Space Needle perfectly framed by the wheel sculpture in front of the SAM Asian Art Museum, or hide away from the gloomy weather inside of the Conservatory. Entry to the conservatory is $4, or free on the first Thursday and Saturday of the month.
Looking to hike a little more outside of the city? Check out these day hikes near Seattle for trails further out of the city with incredible views!
Visit Theo Chocolate for a Tour + Free Tasting
Did you know that the first organic, fair trade, bean to bar chocolate maker in North America was located right here in Seattle? The Theo Chocolate factory not only makes great ethical chocolate, but is also open for tours and classes daily. You can tour the chocolate factory for $12, or sign up in advance for a free community tour on the third Thursday of each month, but these open 2 month in advance and sell out quickly so plan ahead. Theo also offers monthly classes on chocolate pairings with cheese or whisky, and even truffle making lessons. If you’re not interested in a tour or class, you can also stop by any time to sample their unique and delicious chocolate bars and they are available for purchase as well.
Klondike Gold Rush Museum
Visit a National Park right in the heart of downtown Seattle at the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park. You can visit the park for free from 10 am to 5 pm daily to learn about Seattle’s history and the role the city played in the Klondike Gold Rush. They also offer guided tours of Seattle’s oldest neighborhood in Pioneer Square District.
Head Out of Town For a Summer Hike via Trailhead Direct
King County Metro offers an affordable shuttle service to at least 4 different routes as of the 2019 season in the immediate area surrounding Seattle in the warmer months. From about April to October, which will be slightly different given the trail, you can ride round trip to and from the trailhead for only $5.50 and avoid the logistics of driving out and fighting the crowded parking on some of the most popular local hikes on weekends and holidays. Hikes accessible from these shuttles include Mt Si, Mailbox Peak, Poo-Poo Point (named for the train whistle echoing through the mountains), and Cougar Mountain, among others. To pay the shuttle you can use exact change, a pre-loaded Orca Card, or instantly buy shuttle tickets on the free Sound Transit app from your phone.
Visit Snoqualmie Falls + Lavender Fields
Just a short 30 minute drive outside of Seattle is Snoqualmie Falls. Parking is free in the lot across the street, and the view of the upper falls is just a short walk from the parking lot. You can also hike a mile to the lower falls for a different vantage point. In the summertime, just a short drive down the road is Snofalls Lavender Farm. Most of the lavender farms near Seattle are in Sequim nearly two hours away, and many charge a higher entrance fee or price for the u-cut lavender, so this little boutique farm close to town is a great option! Cut your own lavender bouquet and pick up some handmade lavender soaps to bring with you.
Getaway for the weekend with our perfect 3-day itinerary to Vancouver, BC
Pretend you’re at Hogwarts by Visiting the Suzello Library
This library on the campus of the University of Washington actually looks like it was designed for a Harry Potter film. If you are in the neighborhood make sure to stop by and snap a photo of the larger than life library, but be sure to keep your voice down, as this is a favorite study spot for students at the university. If you are visiting in spring be sure to also check out the famous Japanese Cherry Blossoms in the quad just around the corner. If you are lucky enough to catch them blooming you won’t be alone, but it is a sight worth seeing. In general, the UW campus is incredibly beautiful and worth a walk around to see any time of year. Be sure to stop by the Burke Museum or the Henry Art Museum while you are there!
Take Yourself on 4 Different Art Walks Around the City
Seattle is a beautiful city, full of both natural and artistic beauty. Why not stretch out your legs and enjoy both of those on a self-guided art walk? You can walk through Olympic Sculpture Park along the waterfront just North of Pike Place Market, or check out Pioneer Square’s historic free art walk. Check out Fremont neighborhood’s art installations as you walk off brunch on your way to Theo Chocolate Factory, or maybe just mosey around Pike Place Market itself, which often hosts mural scavenger hunts throughout the year. We wrote all about these on a guest post over on Anna’s website Stuck on the Go. Take yourself on one of these four free art walks in Seattle that are self-guided!
Taste Your Way Around Ballard With a Brew Passport
Get to know one of the coolest neighborhoods in Seattle with by touring the breweries and tasting the Pacific Northwest’s finest hops. Visit all 11 breweries which are just within an one mile radius and get a stamp in your passport at each to receive a prize, or visit just 6 for a smaller prize redeemable at any of the locations you visit. Cheers!
Visit the Ballard Locks
After you have tasted your way around the Ballard neighborhood and visit this architectural marvel. The Ballard locks are free to visit and you can watch the locks fill or drain water, allowing boats to pass through the channel all throughout the day. There is a botanical garden on one side of the locks along the Ballard waterfront, and on the Queen Anne side there is also a salmon ladder. You can watch for salmon jumping up the ladder outside, or head downstairs to see them swimming through and read more about the lifespan of the Pacific Northwest salmon.
Take the Ferry to Bainbridge Island
You can walk onto the ferry or drive up, but if you’re in a car be sure to come up to the top deck for great views of downtown Seattle on the ferry to Bainbridge Island. This can be a great and inexpensive day trip from the city. Stop by the local shops in downtown Bainbridge and grab some crepes, then check out the free art museum. Make sure you stop by the creperie before you leave!
See the Georgetown Steam Plant
Head south to the oldest neighborhood in Seattle to see the historic Georgetown Steam Plant. The steam plant is open for visitors on the second Saturday of every month, with two guided tours per day. The city light company recently announced plans to revamp the plant as an arts center and museum, so there is sure to be a lot more to see and do in the near future.
Make a day out your visit by swinging by arguably Seattle’s best brewery Georgetown Brewing, or taste your way around a few smaller local breweries. Make sure you don’t leave without finding the giant Hat and Boots sculpture in Oxbow Park and snapping a picture for your Insta!
Eat Your Way Around Pike Place
While the famous waterfront market may be known for its fish-throwing and dank alley filled with chewed gum, there’s a lot more to see, and more importantly to eat at the Pike Place Market. Spending the afternoon tasting your way through the local food stalls is a surefire way to experience the flavor of Seattle. Our recommendations?
- Start off with a rose-vanilla latte with oat milk (or whatever coffee you like) at Ghost Alley Espresso
- Grab some jumbo fried shrimp from just up the stairs
- Crumpets from The Crumpet Shop
- Walkaway cup from Ellanos Yogurt (may we suggest Marionberry Pie?)
- Bbq Hum Bao from Mee Sum Pastry
- Macarons + fresh bread/pastry from Le Panier
- Mac n Cheese from Beecher’s Cheese
- Wash it all down with a Champagne Float from Shug’s Soda Fountain
Sail on Lake Union with the Center for Wooden Boats
The Center for Wooden Boats is located right on the southern tip of Lake Union, just next to the Museum of History and Industry (Mohai) and is always free to visit the docks and the museum. In addition, they offer free boat rides every Sunday in a variety of maritime vessels, from 4 – person little boats to yachts and a few others in-between. Get to the museum by just before 10 am to sign up for your spot, and then spend the morning at brunch or exploring South Lake Union before your free boat ride, which runs for about an hour between 11 am and 3 pm.
Enjoy a Live Local Performance with SoFar Concerts
These intimate concerts are the best kept secret in every major city! SoFar stands for Songs From A Room, and they are inexpensive and intimate gatherings at a secret location you only learn moments before the start time. You can check the general locations and time beforehand, and sometimes more information is available like the type of music, if food/snacks will be available, or if the location is a public location or private residence. The artists are generally local and play a paired down set, almost acoustic, so its very chill. You can actually attend a SoFar concert in most major cities, so check it out when you’re back home too.
Take the Water Taxi to Alki Beach
While this is literally a form of public transportation to get you to Alki Beach without driving down and around to West Seattle, the Alki Beach Water Taxi is probably one of my favorite cheap things to do in Seattle. I love boats and being on the water, and this quick little water taxi is always fun for me, plus it boasts an amazing view of downtown Seattle, especially at sunset. Once you arrive in West Seattle grab a bite to eat at the famous Marination before catching the free shuttle to Alki Beach where you can play volleyball, watch for Orca whales, and sample more local fare.
So, that wraps our list of the most fun and unique free and cheap things to do in Seattle. Which one are you most interested in trying? Did we miss anything, or do you have any questions? Be sure to leave us a comment below letting us know!
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