Although Seattle is one of the most expensive cities on the west coast, there are still tons of things to do in Seattle that are completely free. This even includes visits to some of the top attractions.
I’ve lived in Seattle for over ten years, and I’ll let you in on the popular free things to do in Seattle plus a few local’s secrets.
One thing is certain: if you love the outdoors, art, quirky places, and hidden gems, then you can have a great time even with a limited budget. So what does Seattle, one of the best places in Washington state, have to offer in terms of free activities? Keep reading to find out!
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33 Best Free Things to Do in Seattle
Center for Wooden Boats
Take a pea boat out for a spin on Lake Union.
Seattle is surrounded by water and, thanks to the Center for Wooden Boats, it’s not hard to get out on it. This South Lake Union museum has spectacular wooden boat exhibits and info about Seattle’s maritime culture. But its main draw for budget-conscious visitors is their free pea boat rentals.
Book a boat to take out on Lake Union year-round. The boats can fit up to five adults and you’ll have an hour to explore the lake in the heart of the city. Pretty views of parks, the skyline, and seaplanes taking off will keep you company.
Seattle Free Walking Tours
Learn all about the city from local experts.
The free Seattle walking tours are one of the best free things to do in Seattle for first-time visitors. You’ll get the lay of the land from a local, complete with interesting facts about the city, suggestions for places to eat, time for photo ops, and more.
You can book free tours at any time of the year, and they offer a Seattle 101 tour and a tour of Pike Place Market. Go on a public outing or opt for a private tour for your group. Either way, it’s a good opportunity to learn a bit about the Emerald City before you go off to explore on your own.
Take Advantage of Free Museum Days
Get acquainted with some of the city’s best museums.
If your visit falls on the first Thursday of the month, this is a great opportunity to go museum hopping. On First Thursdays, a majority of the best museums in Seattle offer free admission and stay open late.
Among those participating in First Thursdays are the popular Seattle Art Museum, the Burke Museum, the Museum of History and Industry, and the National Nordic Museum.
A few other museums also offer free access on different days, like the Seattle Asian Art Museum which is free on the last Friday of the month. Interested in going on a little day trip? The Washington State History Museum in Tacoma is free to visit on the third Thursday of every month.
📚 Related Reading: Are trying to do Seattle on a budget? For more budget-friendly tips like where to eat and where to stay, read my guide to traveling to Seattle on a budget next!
Attend dozens of free summer events at a cool park in downtown Seattle.
Located between First Hill and Downtown Seattle, Freeway Park is one of Seattle’s many cool urban green spaces. Visit anytime to admire this architectural gem, especially if you’re here during the summer. The Freeway Park Association programs a variety of free community events in the summertime.
Listen to live music at one of several concerts, try out a yoga or Zumba session, and attend dance lessons. You can also watch a series of outdoor movies, attend festivals, paint sessions, and so much more. Because of the variety of fun events, Freeway Park is easily one of the top free things to do in Seattle.
Explore the Neighborhoods
Find hidden gems among the city’s unique collection of neighborhoods.
Each of Seattle’s neighborhoods is so different from one another that exploring them is a necessity. This is especially true if you want to get a good feel for the city. Wander through the University District, Capitol Hill, Phinney Ridge, and beyond. You’re sure to find hidden gems and unique spots in all of them.
You can check out the shops, neighborhood parks, and chat with locals for free. But if you prefer some fuel from your exploration, I highly recommend adding a little coffee shop crawl into your itinerary for Seattle too.
Pike Place Market
Wander through Seattle’s famous, lively, and maze-like market.
Pike Place Market isn’t just one of Seattle’s top attractions, it’s one of the best things to do in Washington state. Come to experience this mix of a farmers market, artisan marketplace, and foodie paradise. It’s a maze of things and people to look at, and it costs nothing to enter, making it one of the top free things to do in Seattle.
Admire all the fresh produce (and accept all free samples!). Watch the flying fish throw, find the bronze pig market mascots, and take the obligatory photos in front of the gum wall. If you need a moment to rest from all the market activity, wander to Secret Garden for a breather before returning to the maze once more.
Green Lake Park
Get active at a popular north Seattle park.
Spend a day or even a few hours at Green Lake Park. This north Seattle park surrounds a calm lake where you can kayak, stand up paddle board, boat or swim.
Green Lake Park is one of Seattle’s most recreation-friendly parks. It has basketball courts, open meadows for frisbee, volleyball nets, and baseball and softball fields. There’s also a 3-mile loop around the lake for biking, dog walking, or rollerblading. If you’re looking for free things to do in Seattle for active or sporty types, a visit here is worth it.
Free Sites & Seattle Attractions
Watch boats, salmon, and wildlife at a popular outdoor attraction.
The Ballard Locks are one of the more popular free things to do in Seattle. Boat enthusiasts will enjoy watching the boats move from a freshwater lake to saltwater Puget Sound via the Lake Washington Ship Canal. Engineering fans can admire the mechanics of the locks that make this all possible.
The Fish Ladder on the south end of the attraction has a viewing window to watch salmon jumping up river during the spawning season. Sea lions, herons, and seals frequent the area around the Ballard Locks so you can watch for other wildlife here too. And once you’ve finished at the locks, don’t miss the botanical garden nearby. Altogether, this makes the Locks one of Seattle’s free attractions that shouldn’t be missed.
Marvel at the Seattle Public Library’s coolest building.
The Central Library in downtown Seattle is the most beautiful in the city. This Seattle Public Library was designed by a Dutch architect and is made entirely of glass and steel.
It has several clever design features inside too, including a book spiral and the super Instagram-able “red room.” Book lovers, architects, or anyone who happens to be downtown and looking for cool Seattle landmarks should check it out.
Enjoy the myriad of activities to do along one of Seattle’s bustling waterfront.
The Seattle Waterfront is one of the top destinations for visitors, and you can enjoy it even without paying for some of the attractions.
Make sure you snag photos of the Seattle Great Wheel and the ferries going to and from Bainbridge Island and Bremerton. Stop in Ye Olde Curiosity Shop and admire all the strange oddities within before carrying on to Pier 62. There, you can play giant checkers, Jenga, and other fun outdoor games.
Want to explore further? Walk or rent a scooter and ride down to Olympic Sculpture Park or even further to Myrtle Edwards Park with pristine views the whole way.
Enjoy sculptures, sights, and festivals at a top Seattle attraction.
The Seattle Center is Seattle’s other star attraction, right alongside Pike Place Market. Within are notable attractions like the Space Needle.
While riding to the top of the Space Needle, and visiting the Museum of Pop Culture and the Pacific Science Center are not free, there’s still a lot to do at the Seattle Center without spending a buck.
People watch by the International Fountain, admire cool sculptures, and take pictures of the Space Needle. You can also watch the Seattle Center monorail, and enjoy a number of their free events and cultural festivals.
If you are looking for things to do with kids, take them to the incredible “Artists at Play” playground or the Skate Plaza for hours of fun.
🛎️ Need a Hotel? The Maxwell Hotel was one of my top picks for people who want to be close to the Seattle Center during their stay. Learn about some of my other hotel and neighborhood picks in my article on where to stay in Seattle.
The Amazon Spheres
Take a tour of a building filled with exotic botanicals from around the world.
Pay a visit to the Amazon Spheres to see an indoor garden filled with an unusual variety of exotic plants. These architecturally unique buildings were created as a workspace for Amazon employees. Interestingly, they were modeled after other sphere-like conservatories around the world.
You can always admire them from the outside, but if you’re not an Amazon employee and you want to see the inside, you’ll need to make reservations in advance. Tours are offered are on the first and third Saturdays of the month, and reservations open 15 days in advance. If this is something high on your list, make sure you act quickly because tickets go fast.
Seattle Parks and Gardens
Visit a historic Japanese garden in south Seattle.
Kubota Garden is several miles outside of downtown in the Rainier Valley neighborhood. This historic Japanese Garden is an uncrowded, peaceful escape. Their paths meander around ponds, over bridges, past waterfalls, and through forested glens and open meadows. Make sure you add it to your itinerary if you want to see one of the prettiest places in Seattle.
Picnic and play at a huge park near Lake Washington.
Go to Seward Park if you like picnics, leisurely walks, bike rides, or want to relax on the shores of Lake Washington. Located in Rainier Valley, this peninsula park boasts great views of Mount Rainier. You’ll find both paved and forested trails throughout. Because the park is so large, it rarely feels too crowded.
Seward Park is one of Seattle’s best parks, and one of the top free things to do in Seattle, particularly if you’re visiting with a group of friends. It’s a great, low-key way to spend a day.
There are plenty of shady spots by the water, picnic shelters, a fun playground for kids, and an Audubon Center to enjoy in the park.
Retreat to a city park to hike, watch wildlife, and enjoy great views.
Sure, there are some incredible hikes near Seattle, but you don’t need to head out to the national parks to go on a hike. There are plenty of hiking trails visitors can enjoy without leaving the city, and Discovery Park has some of the best of them.
Hike along the beach to the historic West Point Lighthouse, and enjoy the views of the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound from the bluffs. Or stick to the forest paths to listen to a symphony of birdsong. At 534 acres, Discover Park is Seattle’s largest city park and an easy retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Woodland Park Rose Garden
Stroll through an enchanting flower-filled garden.
The Woodland Park Rose Garden contains thousands of roses of different varieties. Flower lovers will adore this pretty, sweet-smelling spot. The garden is manicured and well-maintained. You’ll find fountains, little ponds, a gazebo, and other floral surprises.
The best time to visit the Rose Garden is when the roses are in bloom in the summertime. But it’s a good spot to visit at any time of the year when you need a moment of peace in a pretty place.
Olympic Sculpture Park
Take a walk through a waterfront park with unique, contemporary sculptures.
If you enjoy abstract public art and sculptures, you’ll get a good dose of them at Olympic Sculpture Park. It’s a part of the Seattle Art Museum and consists of a winding, gravel trail that twists past notable sculptures like The Eagle and the Eye Benches.
While wandering the Olympic Sculpture Park, you’ll also have views of other Seattle favorites. These include the Space Needle, the Puget Sound, the Olympic Mountains, and the waterfront.
📚 Related Reading: Be sure to bookmark my full list of the best things to do in Seattle for even more ideas to add to your itinerary!
Alki Beach Park
Spend a day beach bumming in West Seattle.
Alki Beach Park and the surrounding area are about as close as Seattle gets to a California-esque beach town. You don’t need to do much to have a fun day beach bumming around Alki but you have lots of options regardless.
Play volleyball, bike, rollerblade, or take a scooter ride along the paved path. Admire views of the Seattle skyline, enjoy a picnic on the sand, and watch the sunset behind the Olympic Mountains.
Gas Works Park
Check out a hilly park with stunning skyline views and steampunk-looking buildings.
If you’re on the hunt for those coveted Seattle skyline views, go to Gas Works Park. From Gas Works, you’ll have clear views of downtown Seattle, Lake Union, the Space Needle, and Mount Rainier.
But the park is more than just a viewing point. Gas Works has grassy knolls, perfect hills for kite-flying, and interesting architectural structures. It was once the site of an oil plant, and the old buildings are still there, looming over the park like something out of a sci-fi movie.
Washington Park Arboretum
Admire trees, flowers, and a Japanese garden at a huge preserve.
The Washington Park Arboretum is a stunning 230-acre preserve in Madison Park. The majority of it is completely free for year-round visits.
Wander through delightfully pink cherry blossoms in the spring and sunset-colored foliage in the fall. Admire rhododendrons, azaleas, hydrangeas, hundreds of varieties of native trees, and others from as far as New Zealand. There are dozens of trails to explore, and benches and clearings for quiet reflection throughout.
If you visit the Arboretum, make it on the first Thursday of the month so you can also have free admission to the Seattle Japanese Garden. This attraction lies in the southern part of the preserve.
Seattle Art, Culture, and Markets
Fremont Public Sculptures
Seek out eclectic art around the Fremont neighborhood.
Fremont is one of the most fun Seattle neighborhoods to hang out in. It features a Seattle landmark that fans of the movie 10 Things I Hate About You will recognize: the Troll beneath the bridge.
While the troll is a popular destination for photo ops, Fremont has no shortage of other public sculptures to seek out. Take a walking tour to spot Lenin, the Fremont Rocket, Rapunzel, the dinosaurs, and other quirky statues in this artsy neighborhood.
Enjoy Art Walk
Admire local art and mingle with other art-loving locals.
Art Walk is a city-wide event spread through different neighborhoods in Seattle. Businesses and art galleries host open houses where the community can come see, appreciate, and buy art made by local and area artists.
Each neighborhood has its art walk on a different day, but they all happen once a month. The most popular is the Pioneer Square Art Walk. It happens every first Thursday and takes advantage of all the vibrant galleries in Seattle’s first neighborhood.
Other notable art walks to attend include the Capitol Hill and West Seattle Art Walk on second Thursdays. There’s also the Georgetown Art Attack on second Saturdays.
Watch a live demonstration of the incredible art of glassblowing.
If you’ve seen the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum or the wares at Seattle markets, you’ve probably gathered that Seattle has a thing for glass art. The Seattle Glassblowing Studio in Belltown is not only a great place to take a glassblowing class (one of my top Seattle date ideas!), but they also offer free live glassblowing demonstrations. All you have to do is register online and you’re set to go and watch a master glassblower craft something beautiful.
📚 Related Reading: The Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum made our list of the best things to do in the USA!
Klondike Historical Museum
Learn about Seattle’s role in the gold rush at a Pioneer Square history museum.
Seattle has a fascinating gold rush history you can learn all about at the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. It’s located in Pioneer Square and features exhibits, artifacts, videos, and tons of historical information. The museum details how Seattle was an integral part of many gold rushers’ journey to Alaska.
Come here and take a self-guided tour to learn all about it. Or ask one of the enthusiastic park rangers to dive deep with you into some of the city’s important early days.
Shakespeare in the Park
Attend a fun, outdoor performance of a Shakespeare play.
During the summer, Seattleites get treated to a series of free Shakespeare performances at parks in and just outside of the city. The Wooden O and Greenstage are two popular performing arts companies that put these on. You can check which performance they’ll be doing, where, and when on their websites.
The Shakespeare in the Park series is casual and fun. Make sure to bring some blankets, lawn chairs, and snacks to enjoy the show, and arrive early to make sure you get a good view.
Frye Art Museum
View 19th century and contemporary art in a small, intimate museum.
Art Lovers will enjoy any visit to the Frye Art Museum in Seattle’s First Hill neighborhood. Here you’ll find a permanent 19th-century art collection that was donated by art collectors Charles and Emma Frye. There are also rotating exhibits of contemporary art by local and global artists.
The museum is on the smaller side, but they pack a lot of quality pieces inside and their exhibits are phenomenal. The museum also offers short 30-minute tours, lectures, virtual events, meditations, concerts, and more.
Explore the city’s vibrant farmers markets.
Washington has so many great farmers markets and Seattle has some of the best of them. Full of fresh produce, seasonal flowers, artisan-made goods, and street performers, they’re the perfect places to spend early weekend mornings or unwind after work midweek.
Most neighborhoods have farmers markets on different days and times of the week, so there are a lot of options to choose from. The Ballard Farmers Market on Sunday mornings happens year-round and is one of the city’s largest. It’s a good one to attend if you’re looking for a little bit of everything. Columbia City’s farmers market is smaller, more communal, and happens on Wednesday evenings from spring to early fall.
Make sure to look up if there’s a farmers market close to wherever you stay. This way, you can check out the bountiful produce of the region and get a taste of the local flavor of the neighborhood. Even if you don’t buy anything, the people (and dog) watching is a fun activity in itself.
Off the Beaten Path Activities in Seattle
Burke Gilman Trail
Bike along Seattle’s most popular bike trail.
With so many bike lanes, cycling is one of the best ways to get around Seattle simply and quickly. If you come to Seattle ready to bike, you’ll also be able to use one of the best trails in the city, the Burke Gilman Trail. It runs along the length of north Seattle and into Bothell.
The trail is great for getting from place to place, but it’s also a fun excursion through forests, neighborhoods, and greenbelts. While biking through it is the most popular way to use the trail, you can also walk, jog or skate through. It’s a great trail to use whether you’re looking for some exercise or want a pretty way to get from one neighborhood to the next.
Beach Naturalist Program with the Seattle Aquarium
Explore tide pools with knowledgeable beach volunteers.
🌐 Website | Hours: May-August, various dates and times
Love exploring the beach during low tide? The Seattle Aquarium offers a free program where you can go on low tide walks with volunteer beach naturalists. These experts can answer all your questions about the fascinating sea creatures of the Pacific Northwest.
These low tide walks occur at several beaches in the area, including Carkeek Beach, Golden Gardens, Olympic Sculpture Park Beach, and several in West Seattle. The program lasts from spring through summer and is worth visiting for marine enthusiasts.
Waterfall Garden Park
Take a break in a hidden park in the middle of the city.
Waterfall Garden Park feels a bit like a secret, even among locals. Tucked away in the Pioneer Square neighborhood amid restaurants, cafes, and pubs, this quaint park is the perfect spot for visitors.
Sit and enjoy lunch, read a book, or watch the man-made waterfall cascading over rocks. Also, visit Waterfall Garden Park if you need a moment of rest from all your adventuring. You’ll feel restored by the time you move on.
Theodor Jacobson Observatory
Go stargazing at a historic observatory.
Get a good look at the stars without having to drive hours from the city at the Theodor Jacobson Observatory at the University of Washington.
Tickets are free, and on your visit, you’ll listen to an interesting lecture by astronomy students before checking out the dome. Then, enjoy looking through the historic 19th-century telescope to spot things that the naked eye can’t see. The space is small and tickets are limited so be sure to email about tickets early to ensure you get a spot.
Skylark Cafe and Club
Watch open mics, listen to live music, and participate in trivia nights at a fun lounge.
Skylark Cafe and Club is a mainstay in the West Seattle neighborhood. This community hang-out hosts fun events nearly every night of the week. Come for the open mic, drag queen bingo, and trivia, which are all completely free.
They also host a few other low-cost events on other nights of the week (like their adult spelling bee – yes, really), and have a good food and drink menu. Still, if you’re looking for a fun evening with no need to splurge, the Skylark is a good way to experience Seattle’s nightlife without the nightlife prices.
Seattle Chinese Garden
Visit a hidden gem with traditional Chinese garden elements.
The Seattle Chinese Garden is a hidden gem that changes dramatically through the seasons. The Sichuan-style garden has ponds, bonsai, sculptures, a gorgeous peony garden, and a walled courtyard. In addition to the beauty of the garden, you’ll also have views of the cascade mountains, the downtown Seattle skyline, and Elliott Bay while you’re here.
There are so many free things to do in Seattle, so make sure you add some to your itinerary. Want more ideas for things to do in Seattle? Read my full list next!
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