Are you ready to explore the Seattle (and Washington!) without breaking the bank? Keep on scrollin’ to read 30 of the best free and cheap things to do in Seattle!
While Seattle is an expensive city to live in, one thing that we loved about living in Seattle is how easy it was to find free and cheap things to do, both in nature (and Seattle’s full of lots of beautiful nature!) or outside of nature. We have had some of the best weekends of our life here and 90% of them cost us nothing or very little.
From day trips to the mountains, to strolling around neighborhoods, to grabbing a cup of coffee, there are so many ways to enjoy Seattle on a budget without feeling like you’re missing out on any of the fun. Here are
PS: Want more ideas of things to do in Seattle? Check out our Seattle Bucket List and 3 Days in Seattle guide!
Leave No Trace Principles
Before embarking on your adventure, please review the Leave No Trace principles to ensure you leave every place better than you found it, so that others can enjoy these beautiful places for many years to come!
- Plan ahead & prepare. Make sure you research and prepare for every adventure so that you know the rules, stay safe, and to minimize resource damage.
- Travel & camp on durable surfaces. Stay on the trail and only camp in designated areas, as well as the required length away from water sources.
- Dispose of waste properly. Whatever you pack in, pack it out! Make sure to carry out your trash, as well as any trash you find. If you have a dog, please do not leave poop bags on the trail. For human waste, use a trowel to dig a hole far from water sources or use a wag bag (sometimes required).
- Leave what you find. Do not take any items from the trail with you, including rocks, plants, or artifacts.
- Minimize campfire impacts. Know the rules of where you can and cannot have campfires and if allowed, use designated fire rings. Use local firewood to prevent bringing any pests or diseases to the area you’re visiting and make sure to fully extinguish your fire.
- Respect wildlife. Keep your distance from wildlife, control your pets on the trail, and never ever feed them! Make sure to keep your food stored properly as well (we like this bear canister).
- Be considerate of other visitors. Be respectful to others on the trail. Hikers going uphill have the right of way on hikes and it’s always courteous to let those quicker than you pass. Avoid playing music out loud, talking loudly, and having your pets bother others.
1. Wander around Discovery Park
Discovery Park was the first nature experience we had in Seattle and the views of the water and Olympic Mountains still amaze us every time. It’s hard to believe that you’re so close to the city with how lush and tranquil it is!
We love to park at the South Parking Lot and walk the Loop Trail to the South Beach Trail to the lighthouse. Grab a blanket, pack a picnic, and enjoy a nice afternoon or night along the water (the sunsets are pretty amazing here too!).
2. Go to a museum for FREE!
There are quite a few ways to enjoy some of Seattle’s museums for free! For locals, the library offers the chance to get free tickets to 15 different museums (like MoPop)! You can reserve your free ticket here and see all of the rules that apply.
For non locals or locals who aren’t library members, many museums, such as the Seattle Art Museum and the Museum of Flight have one day a month where anyone can enjoy the museum for free!
3. Try a new coffee shop
It’s no secret that we love coffee and lucky for us Seattle is home to tons of great coffee shops! But what’s even better is that coffee makes for a fun and cheap activity if you’re looking to meet up with friends or get out of the house.
Check out our 10 must-visit coffee shops in Seattle to plan your next coffee adventure!
Cost: Varies, but usually $5 or less
4. Watch a movie at Cinerama
Note: due to COVID-19, Cinerama is closed for the forseeable future.
If you’re looking for an indoor, rainy day activity, treat yourself to a movie at Cinerama. This is not the cheapest item on the list, BUT it’s a pretty awesome movie experience if you’re looking for a cheaper night out.
Cinerama has been a Seattle staple since 1963 and with a new state of the art sound, projector, and screen system, it’s worth every penny! Make sure to try the chocolate popcorn! They also have a handful of local snacks as well. 🙂
Cost: $17 per ticket
5. Enjoy the best view of the city at Kerry Park
We may be biased because we got engaged there, BUT we LOVE the view from Kerry Park! While going up in the Space Needle is cool, at Kerry Park you get an amazing view of the Space Needle, downtown, the Puget Sound, and on a clear day Mount Rainier (gahhh!). We still squeal everytime we walk up to the park and see this view
6. Get a hole in one at Flatstick Pub
We love Flatstick Pub! This mini golf bar with food (the Pioneer Square location has tacos!) and other games is so much fun to go to on a date night or with friends.
They now have 3 locations around Seattle and Kirkland, each one with its own vibe. Even if you don’t like to golf, you’ll have a blast here! Just make sure to make your tee time in advance.
Cost: $6-8/person depending on location
7. Enjoy a beach bonfire
Alki Beach and Golden Gardens they have bonfire pits that you can reserve (it’s first-come, first-served and they go FAST!) starting at 4 PM daily. Unfortunately this is one of the few activities we have yet to enjoy for ourselves, but we have witnessed them from afar and always wanted to have one!
They may be hard to get, but if you plan ahead, you’ll be treated to an awesome night at the beach. Please only use the designated fire pits–we see tons of people breaking this rule and it makes us sad. 🙁
8. Eat your way through Pike Place Market
Pike Place Market may be the biggest tourist attraction in Seattle, but we still have so much fun every time we visit.
With hundreds of vendors selling food, flowers, fish, crafts, and more, you could spend hours walking around and seeing everything it has to offer.
After visiting the market many times, we have a handful of go-to food spots that we love to eat at when we are there–check out our favorites here!
Cost: Free to visit, but bring some money for food!
9. Walk around the different neighborhoods
One of our favorite things about Seattle are the many walkable neighborhoods! From Queen Anne to Capitol Hill to Fremont to Ballard, each one has its own charm and we love to wander around the streets, check out the shops, and see the things that make them special.
For ideas of which neighborhoods to check out and what to do in each one, check out our 5 Seattle Neighborhoods to Explore blog!
Cost: Free to explore!
10. Enjoy the unique Gas Works Park
This former gasification plant is now one of Seattle’s most unique landmarks and the perfect place to have a picnic or fly a kite while soaking up views of downtown and Lake Union!
Gas Works Park is also where the paintball scene from 10 Things I Hate About You was filmed and from here you can see the houseboat from Sleepless in Seattle!
11. Go for a hike!
Our absolute favorite thing to do in Seattle is to drive a little bit out of the city and go for a gorgeous hike. Even just 30 minutes from the city you can find yourself on an amazing outdoor adventure. We have wayyy too many favorite hikes to count, but to narrow it down a tiny bit, here are 37 of our favorites!
Cost: Free, but there is a yearly fee for a Discover Pass ($35) and NW Forest Pass ($30)
12. Support local vendors at the farmers market
As we mentioned before, we love the different neighborhoods in Seattle and one of the reasons is because each one has its own farmers market! These markets happen on different days of the week and each one has different vendors to check out.
The majority of the markets are run by the Seattle Neighborhoods Farmers Markets, but make sure to check out Queen Anne too, which is the only independent farmers market in Seattle!
Cost: Free to visit, but bring some money for food!
13. Explore the Volunteer Park Conservatory
Love plants? Head to the Volunteer Park Conservatory for plant heaven! There are tons of plants here and wandering around the different rooms is a fun way to spend some time and learn a little bit about the many species that call this conservatory home (the cactus house is our favorite!).
After you explore the plants, go up the Volunteer Park Tower to see a cool view of the city!
Cost: $4/adult or free admission on the first Thursday and Saturday of each month!
14. Grab a cheap bite to eat
We are big fans of quick and cheap spots to eat–food trucks are our jam and we prefer no waiter service if possible. Seattle is definitely a pricier city when it comes to dining, but there are some amazing budget friendly places to eat ranging from Caribbean to tacos to Hawaiian food.
Read our Favorite Cheap Eats in Seattle blog to see our top spots!
Cost: Under $10/person
15. Walk around Green Lake
The 2.8 mile trail around Green Lake is the perfect way to spend a night after work or a weekend morning. You can also enjoy one of the many fields at the park to play a game of soccer or rent kayaks to go out on the lake!
16. Visit the Ballard Locks
When we first heard about the Ballard (or Hiram M. Chittenden) Locks, we were confused why they were so popular. But then we went and were blown away by how cool it is!
The locks connect the Puget sound to the Ship Canal and due to the height difference of the waterways, all boats must go through the locks, which raises and lowers them, to pass.
It’s incredible to watch! You can also see salmon migrate from June through September and there is a botanical garden!
17. Explore the Olympic Peninsula
The Olympic Peninsula is a Washington gem! With multiple rainforests, the ocean, snow covered mountains, rivers, and lakes, it’s probably the most diverse place in Washington!
While a bit of a trek from Seattle depending on where you go, it can make for a great long day trip or weekend trip and depending on what you do, it can be extremely cheap or free!
Check out our Olympic Peninsula guide for ideas on how to spend a weekend there, or just pick a couple items for a fun filled day trip!
Cost: Gas money + maybe a coffee (unless you stay the night)
18. Go for a free sailboat ride
Something really cool that we have learned about recently is the Sunday Public Sail at The Center for Wooden Boats. Every Sunday they host free 45 minute to 1 hour sailboat rides to the public on Lake Union.
Signups are in person every Sunday starting at 10 AM, but make sure to get there early to ensure you get a spot (especially on a nice summer day!).
19. Get a dose of nature at the Washington Arboretum
The Washington Arboretum is a gorgeous 230 acre park (especially in the fall!) near Lake Washington. It’s a great place to go for a walk and enjoy the unique variety of plants. The arboretum is free, but if you want to splurge there is also a Japanese Garden which costs $8 to enter.
Cost: Free or $8
20. Check out the view from Pier 66
For years we would see photos from this awesome spot along the Seattle waterfront and had no idea where it was taken from. We finally figured it out!
Pier 66 is really close to the Olympic Sculpture Park and has this awesome and large upper balcony area where you can get views of downtown, the Puget Sound, and the mountains! Another fun free activity to add on after checking out the pier is the Olympic Sculpture Park!
21. Get a hole in one at Green Lake Pitch & Putt
Adam loves golf, but it’s an expensive hobby. So instead of playing fancy courses, we stick to cheap public courses and one really cool spot in Seattle is the Green Lake Pitch & Putt, which is a short par 3 course that’s perfect for beginners, budget golf lovers, and kiddos!
Cost: $9 for adults, $7 for kids. Rental clubs are 50 cents each!
22. See the architecture at the Seattle Public Library
We love to check out bookstores and libraries whenever we travel. It’s fun to see the character and unique architecture that they can have. And the downtown location of the Seattle Public Library is no exception! The architecture is really cool and if you go to the top, you can get an awesome aerial view of the floors below!
23. Visit galleries at the Pioneer Square Art Walk
Fun fact: the first ever art walk in the USA was in Pioneer Square! Pioneer Square has been home to many artists since the 1960s and every Thursday, art lovers can do self guided tour the galleries in Pioneer Square for free.
24. See the cherry blossoms and tulips
This seasonal activity is one of our favorite traditions living in Washington! During the spring, usually around April, Washington’s gloomy winter is brightened up by cherry blossoms at the University of Washington and tulips in the Skagit Valley. Both are absolutely beautiful and worth dealing with the crowds to experience!
Cost: UW cherry blossoms are free, the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival is between $7-$10/person depending on which spot you choose.
25. Take the ferry to Bainbridge
Washington is home to 172+ islands and one of the closest ones to Seattle is Bainbridge. Just a 35 minute ferry ride from downtown Seattle brings you to the quaint little Winslow area of Bainbridge, home to bakeries, shops, and parks.
Whether you want to hop over to Bainbridge for breakfast or spend the whole day, taking the ferry is always a blast! (And the views from the ferry are hard to beat!) Check the ferry schedule here.
Cost: For walk on passengers it’s $8.50 for adults and $4.25 for kids and seniors (round trip)
26. Tour T-Mobile Park or CenturyLink Field
Seattle is home to 6 (soon to be 7) professional sports teams! And 3 of them–the Mariners, Sounders, and Seahawks–all play at stadiums walking distance from downtown.
During our first ever trip to Seattle, we toured Safeco Field, now called T-Mobile Park, and it was really cool to walk onto the field and see the locker rooms. You can also tour CenturyLink Field, home to the Seahawks and Sounders, which we haven’t done, but just from being in the stadium we know it would be awesome!
Cost: $12 for T-Mobile Park, $14 for CenturyLink Field for adults, between $8-$11 for kids and seniors at both parks.
27. Explore North Cascades National Park
North Cascades National Park is the least visited of the 3 national parks in Washington, which blows our mind because it is STUNNING!
From Diablo Lake to Washington Pass to everything in between, the North Cascades takes our breath away. And the best part? It’s free to enter! To plan your own North Cascades getaway, check out our guide! Warning: it is a bit of a trek from Seattle, but totally worth the drive!
28. Go brewery hoppin’
Even though we don’t drink, we have spent some time checking out breweries with friends and Seattle is full of a bunch of cool ones!
Although it’s not free to drink the beer, it’s free to hangout and could possibly be a cheap activity depending on how much beer you want to try. To see which spots are popular in Seattle, download our Seattle Bucket List!
Cost: Varies, but you can get a flight for under $15 at some spots!
29. Eat tons of chocolate on the Theo Chocolate tour
Kathryn took her parents on the Theo Chocolate tour when they visited one time and it was not only delicious, but really informative too! They teach you a lot about the chocolate making process and give you tons of samples along the way.
Kathryn’s dad still raves about this experience! You can even eat more samples in their store afterwards! Make sure to book your tour in advance.
30. Hike at Mount Rainier National Park
Last, but certainly not least, one of our favorite things in the whole world: Mount Rainier. Whenever we see Mount Rainier out on a clear day, we gasp…she is just so majestic!
There are many ways to explore Mount Rainier, including hikes outside of the park with great views (such as Naches Peak Loop), hikes within the park like Tolmie Peak, admiring her from the visitor centers, snowshoeing in the winter, and so much more! No matter how you spend your time at Mount Rainier, you’re guaranteed to leave in awe!
Cost: Varies depending on what you do, but if you actually enter the park, it’s $30/car. You can also get an America the Beautiful pass for $80/year which gets you into ALL national parks and 2,000 federal recreation sites (we HIGHLY recommend this!).
And that’s all folks! We hope you learned a thing or two about some free and cheap things to do in Seattle! Have a favorite budget friendly activity we missed? Let us know below!
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