Free Things to Do Seattle – 19 Must-Try Activities

Ready to escape to the land of Oz? With sparkling Eliot Bay views, an iconic waterfront Ferris Wheel, and lush rose gardens, it’s no wonder Seattle is nicknamed the Emerald City.

While this jewel of the Pacific Northwest is more than fit for royalty, that doesn’t mean you must spend a fortune on your visit. Follow along to discover the best free things to do in Seattle.

Jet City offers so much more than Space Needle tours! Sharpen those savings skills as you enjoy the best museums, parks, and markets for free.

From a fresh air art walk past the famous troll to mesmerizing displays of glass blowing, there’s wonder everywhere you look.

Explore Washington’s role in gold fever at the Klondike Gold Rush National Park, or plan for a homemade picnic at Gas Works Park.

No matter if you’re more inclined to stop and smell the Primroses or lace up those hiking boots, you’ll be pleasantly pleased by the free options in Seattle.

Seattle Hotels

Hold up there! Before we dive into all of the free things to do in Seattle this weekend we suggest you reserve some A+ accommodations. Regrettably, there still isn’t a way to score a free suite, however, Tripster is proud to provide a bevy of Seattle Hotels for every budget and style.

Rest easy in modern furnishings in downtown Seattle or enjoy complimentary shuttle and breakfast services in Bothell. As always, make your booking worry-free knowing you are guaranteed our lowest rates online.

an image of a building with vibrant exterior paint
photo credit: Belltown Inn via Facebook

Free Things to Do Seattle

Fremont’s Sculptures

While the entire Fremont neighborhood is studded with public art and sculptures, there’s none more famous than the troll. A popular spot for late-night gatherings and permanently ushered into pop culture history with its appearance in 10 Things I Hate About You.

This iconic 18 ft cement masterpiece makes the perfect spot for a Seattle selfie. Return during daylight hours to stroll the streets of this hip area, as its plethora of bohemian shops, bars, and restaurants are ideal for browsing. Have wheels? Be sure to check out the canalside to amble down Burke-Gilman Trail.

Seattle Center

Got your heart set on seeing the Space Needle but can’t afford to fork over the cash for a ride? Head on over to the Seattle Center for the perfect vantage point, plus an abundance of other free activities. This sprawling multi-cultural edifice provides entertainment for hours with its gushing International Fountain, funky sculptures, and free festival events.

Related Post: Things to Do with Kids in Seattle: 23 Fun Activities to Try

In fact, their 74-acre campus offers a wide range of public and community programs and hosts over 12 million visitors each year. Your little skater can practice their olllies at the Plaza, or work off some steam monkeying around on the playground.

Seattle Washington Skyline
Seattle downtown and Space Needle view, Washington, USA

Art Walks

Looking to inject a little creativity into your date night plans? Save those dollars for some delicious draft brews or cocktails when you take part in any of Seattle’s art walks. This city-wide event takes place throughout a variety of neighborhoods in the Emerald City.

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Once a month, local businesses and galleries open their doors to the public for an evening of art, revelry, and creative exchange. Browse alleyways and galleries adorned with paintings, portraits, and mixed media, or people watch as the merriment spills out to the streets.

The most popular art walk is the Pioneer Square Art Walk. However, there are also art walks throughout Capitol Hill, West Seattle, and Georgetown.

Pike Place Market

Considered by many the ‘heart of Seattle,’ there’s no place more enticing than Pike Place Market. While window shopping is free, there’s no guarantee you won’t be tempted to nosh on a crispy falafel or treat yourself to freshly baked Russian piroshkie.

Spanning nine historic acres, every inch of this over centuries-old market is filled with local artisanal vendors, farmers, and craft goods. Founded in 1907, the Market is one of the oldest and largest continuously operating public markets in the country.

Stroll through the market’s many stalls as you plan out your next menu or chat with the purveyors about their products. For an even more in-depth look at the market consider booking a Chef Guided Tour of Pike Place Market or Taste Pike Place Market Tour.

View looking up at the sign for Pike Place Market on a sunny day with a blue sky in Seattle, Washington, USA
photo credit: Erin Hervey via Unsplash

Seattle Public Library

Calling all bookworms! Do you gaga for the smell of a fresh paperback? Make your bibliophile dreams come true when you swing by the Seattle Public Library. With dozens of branches and heaps of services including writing classes, storytime, and Youth drop-in chess classes, there’s always something brewing.

Take advantage of personalized book recommendations, free music concerts, or book discussions with Seattle Reads. Architecture fiends must check out the Central Library location downtown. Instantly eye-catching, this branch is a sparkling gem of glass and steel designed by a Dutch architect. The interior is just as flashy, featuring a book spiral and a social media-ready ‘red room.’

Visit a Public Park

Sunny skies, glittering views of Lake Washington, and captivating worlds of metal and bronze. Seattle’s parks make the perfect backdrop for a day of free fresh air fun. Pack up a blanket, stock up on snacks, and prime yourself for a day of nature, wildlife, waterfalls, and art:

  • Gas Works Park  – awe-inspiring vistas of the downtown core and incredible people, seaplane, and boat watching make this famed park a go-to spot for some outdoor R&R. Once the former site of the Seattle Gas Light Company gasification plant, today couples and families alike flock here to fly kites or peak at the sundial.
  • Seward Park – a favorite of locals, Seward Park makes for a near-perfect picnic spot with views of the shore of Lake Washington and Mount Rainier. Filled with both paved and forested trails you can feel free to wander or bike around post-lunch siesta.
  • Washington Park Arboretum – located on the shores of Lake Washington this veritable Eden is jointly managed by the University of Washington Botanic Gardens and the City of Seattle. Take a whole day to thoroughly traverse its over 200 acres overflowing with native Northwest plants and flowers. Enjoy their world-class collection of oaks, maples, and camellias, or tackle the 1 mile Lookout Trail.

Related Post: How to Make the Most of One Day in Seattle

  • Discovery Park – need a break from the hustle and bustle of the city? Immerse yourself in the natural beauty and wildlife of the Pacific Northwest when you choose to hike along the historic West Point Lighthouse and savor sweeping views of the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound from the bluffs. Discovery Park is Seattle’s largest city park and offers heaps of hiking, and outdoor water recreation activities.
  • Waterfall Garden Park – gurgling cascades, crystal clear waters, and native Japanese trees pepper this popular park also known as UPS Park. This private pocket-sized park was once the original United Parcel Service building in Pioneer Square. Today it offers a peaceful respite to the public.
  • Olympic Sculpture Park – Part public park, part contemporary art museum, Olympic Sculpture Park is simply a Seattle must-visit. Stretch those legs and sneak some artistic whimsy into your vacation plans when you tour 9 acres of this outdoor sculpture museum, indoor pavilion, and Puget Sound beach. Be sure to snap photos of Alexander Calder’s famous red Eagle, and appreciate the breathtaking views of the Space Needle, Olympic Mountains, and Puget Sound.
  • Kerry Park – this small public park located on the South Slope of Queen Anne Hill might not look like much but stop by here at golden hour and prepare to be blown away by the splendor of a Seattle sunset married with the city skyline. Observe the brightly lit ferries gliding across the ebony water in awe. Kerry Park’s iconic view has been widely publicized and has intrigued many amateur photogs to camp out here for the perfect shot.
Walking path in Madison Park Seattle, Washington, USA
photo credit: Madison Park, Seattle via Facebook

Amazon Spheres

You can thank your favorite provider of groceries, books, and late-night movie binges when you take a futuristic trip inside these white metal and glass spheres. Developed to be a unique workspace and preserve our connection with nature, the Amazon Spheres are stunning to behold.

Wander around their circumference and marvel at over 40,000 species of plants from regions as far-flung as cloud forests. Learn how horticulturalists were able to build a living plant wall, or see if you can spot the Brazilian Peacock Plant.

Glassblowing Demonstrations

In addition to coffee, Boeing, and rain, Seattle is also known as a mecca of glass art. In fact, the Seattle metro region boasts more glass-blowing shops than anywhere else in the world outside of Venice, Italy. While there are many locales in which to watch these artistic displays of creativity, color, and power, perhaps none is more famous than the Chihuly Garden and Glass hot shop.

Related Post: Seattle Outdoor Activities: 9 of the Most Epic Adventures

Lovers of these brightly colored intricate orbs can examine the properties of glass through live demonstrations and Q&A sessions. Gather around the retrofitted 1967 Airstream trailer and observe these masters mold molten glass from a 2175º furnace.

Glassblower at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri, USASee Ballard Locks

Considered one of Seattle’s top tourist attractions, the Ballard Locks serve an invaluable Seattle function. Also known as Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, this system allows ships to move between Puget Sound and the Lakes Union and Washington. Construction began on the locks in 1911 and was ultimately finished in 1917.

Take in the sailing ships and boats moving through, or swing on by the famous fish ladder that allows salmon to reach the waters of the Squamish River. Fiending for a closer look at these finned creatures? The Locks have a Salmon Education Center complete with a viewing window and video wall so you can watch these creatures swim out open to the shore of Lake Washington and beyond.

For a more thorough history and look at the locks, join in on a free public scheduled walking tour which starts at the visitor center. Tours start anytime and registration is not required.

Frye Art Museum

The Frye may be tiny, but this petite palace of modern and contemporary art is home to a number of staggering works that celebrate late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century European and American art. In addition to many moving oil paintings by German artists, the Frye Art Museum also hosts a number of seasonal exhibitions and events that explore themes of identity, American culture, nature, and more.

Related Post: What are the Top Things to Do in Seattle When It Rains?

Savor the darkly emotive paintings of Marsden Hartley, or engage in the cunning humor of Katherine Bradford’s works. The Frye Art Museum is always free and guests can even take part in 45-minute guided tours on Saturdays and Sundays at 1 p.m.

View of the white stone exterior of the Starbucks Reserve Roastery with a crowd of people surrounding it in Seattle, Washington, USA
photo credit: Herry Sutanto via Facebook

Klondike Gold Rush National Park

Ready to play prospector? No one can resist the allure of golden nuggets of glory! Travel back to the 1890s when you pay a visit to this amazing museum run by the National Park Service. The Klondike Gold Rush National Park is a love letter to this wild period of American history where hoards of gold diggers bound for the Yukon flooded Seattle’s ports.

Located in the charming brick Cadillac Hotel building, visitors can take their time making their way through two floors of exhibits complete with historic artifacts, photos, and news clippings. Follow the journey of would-be Klondike Kings and Queens with immersive films, or check out temporary exhibits in the Kerr Room.

Close up of sailboat sailing through the Puget Sound with mountains in background near Seattle, Washington, USA
photo credit: Benjamin Massello via Unsplash

Rugged mountains, teeming waters of Puget Sound, and some damn delicious coffee may all be hallmarkers of Jet City. Visitors from all over the world congregate in the Washington Capitol to reconnect with nature, art, and culture.

While Seattle is as cosmopolitan as cities come, this doesn’t mean your Pacific Northwest vacation needs to break the bank.

Give your credit card a rest when you tap into the city’s many free attractions, landmarks, and events.

Brush up on the life cycle of Sockeye and Chinook at Ballard Locks, or attempt to turn your black thumb green with an illuminating visit to the flora of the Amazon spheres.

Cozy up with a good hardcover at the Central Library, or pick out your next great pretend art purchase during an evening Art Walk.

Whether you are in the mood for a romantic picnic on the shores of Lake Washington or can’t wait to capture the enigmatic presence of Alexander Calder’s famous Red Eagle, a Seattle trip is always within reach.

Tell us, What Are Your Top Things to Do in Seattle for Free?

Did we miss any of your favorites?

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Written by Isis Maya Nissman

A New York native, Isis-Maya spent most of her professional life working in TV production until a vacation whisked her away to Central...

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