Seattle is a city of innovation, natural beauty, adventure, and culinary delights, and it doesn't have to be expensive.
In fact, there are many activities residents and visitors can do for free! Discover local gems like the Silent Reading Party, marvel at the Public Library's architecture, or take advantage of free museum days at institutions such as the Seattle Art Museum. Whether you're on a solo adventure in the Emerald City or bringing the whole family, you're bound to have a good time exploring the city's sights.
1) Pike Place Market
Considered to be Seattle’s original farmer’s market established in 1907, Pike Place Market has grown into a staple community for farmers, craftsmen, local business owners, and residents of the city. This nine-acre historic downtown area features five downtown markets, 225 artisans, and dozens of specialty food shops with local and imported goods. You’re sure to find a treat or two somewhere.
2) Pioneer Square
Dating back to 1852, Pioneer Square is Seattle’s first neighborhood. This incredibly historic neighborhood has grown into an urban blend of flourishing local businesses, shops, art galleries, premium restaurants, parks, and evening hot spots.
Some highlights include Pioneer Square, King Street Station, and Waterfall Garden Park enclosed behind Occidental Square Park. Check out their neighborhood calendar for a list of free, key-friendly events such as the Waterfall Park Underground Tour and the West Seattle Art Walk.
3) Seattle Art Museum, Asian Art Museum, and Olympic Sculpture Park
When it comes to free things to do in Seattle, you can't overlook these amazing museums and sculpture park. The Seattle Art Museum operates as more of an institution comprised of three art museums and installation areas: The Seattle Art Museum, the Asian Art Museum, and the Olympic Sculpture Park.
Located downtown, the Seattle Art Museum hosts domestic and international artwork, revolving installations, and esteemed global exhibitions.
Located one mile north of the museum stands Olympic Sculpture Park, which is a renowned nine-acre sculpture park and the largest greenspace in downtown Seattle. The Asian Art Museum is currently under renovation but will anticipate reopening in fall 2019. The original SAM home, this gorgeous Art Deco building possessing an impressive Asian art collection sits in beautiful Volunteer Park.
To visit for free, check out SAM museums and installations on the first Thursday and Friday of each month.
4) Frye Art Museum
The Frye Art Museum hosts local and international artwork that reflects on contemporary issues as well as contemporary takes on historical periods and events. The museum operates as a nonprofit corporation and is free to guests. Permanent collections primarily include 18th century onward art exhibits, but there are also revolving exhibits, musical performances, and film screenings.
5) The Silent Reading Party
The Silent Reading Party hosted at Hotel Sorrento encourages guests to read in silence together for a kooky but productive evening. No one will talk to you, but there are plenty of people, so keep in mind that showing up early is key.
Unwind on the couch or by the fire while live piano music softly plays in the background and waiters quietly bring menu options. The party takes place on the first Wednesday of the month from 6 pm to 8 pm in the Fireside Room in the chic hotel.
6) Ballard Locks
Considered one of Seattle’s top destinations, Ballard Locks or the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, provides visitors with beautiful views, fun watersports, and spots for biking and walking. Erected in 2017, the locks connect the Puget Sound with Lake Union and Lake Washington.
Boats and kayaks can travel through, and walkways provide visitors the ability to cross the ship canal. Visitors can also check out the fish ladder to gain a glimpse of huge, spawning regional fish species. Also, the locks feature the Carl S. English Jr. Botanical Garden for another Seattle natural oasis within the urban setting.
7) Hugo House Open Mic
Works in Progress is held on the first and third Monday of each month at the Hugo House Cabaret. Starting at 7 pm, this open mic welcomes writers of all genres and years of experience. Guests can read their work, mingle, and generally discover local literary community updates. You can order from the bar, but admission to read is free. This event is not suitable for kids.
8) Bellevue Arts Museum
The creation of the Bellevue Arts Museum in 1975 blossomed from an initial art fair held in 1947. After undergoing various renovations, the museum now stands as a pioneer in the fields of art, craft, and design.
The museum offers a public forum for the art community to discuss visual art and culture, particularly in the local region. Visitors can make their own art, sketch, wander through the sculpture garden, and more.
BAM is free every first Friday of each month, extending its hours from 11 am to 8 pm with exclusive lectures, presentations, speakers, and presentations available.
9) Seattle Public Library
The Seattle Public Library system has multiple branches, but the downtown Central Branch location stuns guests with its gorgeous glass windows. Of course, guests can peruse through different literary and media sections, but the architecture alone is worth seeing. There are also multiple special collections that display what life was like in Seattle in its earlier days.
10) The Center for Wooden Boats
The Center for Wooden Boats at South Lake Union offers boat rentals, classes, lectures, workshops, and other learning opportunities to have fun on the water. Because it is only one mile from downtown, the center is a central destination and easily accessible by foot, car, or public transit. Walking around the docks and associated exhibits are free of charge, although boat rentals and educational experiences have fees.
11) Ladies Musical Club Free Concert Series
The Ladies Musical Club of Seattle showcases more than 50 classical music concerts open to the public from October through May. Check the calendar for specific dates and locations around the Seattle metro area since they perform at different venues like the Seattle Public Library branches, the Frye Art Museum, and more.
Another of the top free things to do in Seattle is to explore the city's parks. Seattle's natural areas provide opportunities for walking, biking, hiking, boating, kayaking, and more! The local Parks and Recreation oversees over 485 parks wit over 25 miles of boulevards and 120 miles of trails. There are also plenty of tennis courts, play areas, gardens, athletic fields, and more. Some notable parks include:
13) Museum of Flight
With more than 175 aircraft and spacecraft, thousands of artifacts, numerous exhibits, millions of exclusive photographs, a spectacular library, the Museum of Flight is a must-see in Seattle. It’s considered the most expansive individual, nonprofit air and space museum worldwide.
Visitors can see preserved aircraft and spacecraft parts, entire planes, old uniforms, medals, instruments, and more. The library contains an extensive collection of reports, manuals, and journals. Also, guests can pay tribute to Vietnam veterans and fallen soldiers at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park.
14) Rose Garden Tour
The Woodland Park Rose Garden contains 2.5 acres of over 3000 roses. With over 200 species of roses and a well-maintained landscape, visitors can stroll and admire the architecture of the garden landscape. It's an enchanting escape that's easily one of the best free things to do in Seattle.
Fun Fact: Flowers are pesticide-free and spent flowers are fed to zoo animals. Admission to tour the garden is free, but if you park at the zoo, you will have to pay zoo parking prices unless the zoo is closed.
14) Pacific Bonsai Museum
The Pacific Bonsai Museum oversees an assorted collection of 150 bonsai with trees from Canada, China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and the United States. This distinguished outdoor museum displays traditional and modern sixty bonsai tree exhibits on any given visiting day. The museum is open free to the public every day except on Mondays and accepts admission based on donations to maintain the bonsai garden.
15) Shakespeare in the Park
If you’re a fan of Shakespeare’s plays, join the Seattle Shakespeare Company (Wooden O) for summer Shakespeare in the Park performances. See beloved plays like Romeo and Juliet or Twelfth Night in local parks. Donations after performances are encouraged, but admission is free. Just bring a blanket, some snacks, and enjoy!
16) Fremont Troll
The larger-than-life Fremont Troll sits beneath the Aurora Avenue Bridge and has made the Fremont neighborhood a little kookier since 1990. Mainly used for photo opportunities, the troll is definitely a unique piece of Seattle culture. The Troll’s Knoll nearby hosts a community garden and park.
17) Live Music Project
The Live Music Project opens the public to the Seattle Chamber Music Society's open rehearsals and recitals for free. Listen to unbelievably talented musicians rehearse and perform traditional and contemporary classical music. Check the calendar for dates and locations.
18) International District
Locally referred to as the ID, the International District has three areas: Chinatown, Japantown, and Little Saigon. Delight in traditional, top-rated Asian eateries for dishes like dumplings, pork bao, and pho. Stroll through shops featuring traditional imported goods, teas, herbs, artwork, and more. Gain more insight into the immigrant experience and food tours at the Wing Luke Museum, although there are associated fees.
19) Elliott Bay
Strolling along the Eliott Bay Waterfront area should be required when visiting Seattle. Offering beautiful views of the Puget Sound, The Seattle Great Wheel, the city skyline, visitors can enjoy countless activities by the water.
Discover Seattle's Budget-Friendly Wonders
With so many free things to do in Seattle, this city is a top destination for travelers of all ages. If you love art, the outdoors, water sports, history, and food, Seattle is the city for you. Which of these will you knock off of your bucket list?