10 Great Things to Do in Seattle for Free
Spend time enjoying the surprisingly large number of fun, fascinating and free events in Seattle.
No matter the occasion for travel, Seattle is home to bountiful cultural, culinary and creative displays, activities and events. The Pacific northwest offers abundant natural beauty among rich verdure of forest pines and majestic snow capped mountains bridled up against the contemplative waters of the Sound and neighboring islands, but Seattle is a microcosm of all of the best the region has to offer--and much of it may be experienced for free.
Leisurely educational sites for adults and children
Seattle hosts a variety of museums that offer free admission the first Thursday of each month, such as the Seattle Art Museum, Seattle Asian Art Museum, Museum of Flight (home of the original Air Force One), Wing Luke Museum and Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, featuring cultural artifacts from the Pacific Rim. For kids, there is the KidsQuest Children’s Museum, which is $1 from 5 to 8 pm on the third Thursday of each month. There you will find the giant indoor tree house as well as many hands-on activities for kids.
For outdoor fun, exercise and sight-seeing
There is a park for everyone in Seattle. Discovery Park, located in the bustling northern portion of the city provides over 500 acres of options for outdoor discovery whether hiking tree-lined trails, walking the rocky beach or visiting West Point Lighthouse. Enjoy beautiful vistas facing Mount Rainier and Puget Sound or peacefully observe wildlife or play tennis at the cultural center where kids can play too. For more spectacular sights, Gas Works Park, located at 2101 North Northlake Way, is a unique park to spend the day in. Amid a panoramic view of the skyline, visitors can examine the remains of the gasification plant formerly operating there. Myrtle Edwards and Green Lake Parks are great for those looking to run or bike to exercise among amazing views of the water and the mountains and Waterfall Garden Park at S. Main St. and Second Ave. S sports a 22 foot waterfall that pours into a Japanese pool inside the Pioneer Square neighborhood. Finally, Olympic Sculpture Park is as scenic for its nature, overlooking the Sound and the Olympic Mountains, as it is for art with more than a dozen outdoor sculptures by artists such as Alexander Calder, Claes Oldenburg and Roxy Paine. Most prominently the huge red eagle dominates the 9 acres outside the Seattle Art museum, located just south of the Space Needle at 2901 Western Avenue.
3. Hiram M. Chittenden Locks
Watch the waterways and fishery
The Hiram M. Chittenden locks or the Ballard Locks are a pleasant way to enjoy the waterways where ships travel from the Puget Sound to the harbor through the Lake Washington canal. On the south side are the fish ladders where migrating salmon may be found in summer time and a visitor center to learn more about the history and wildlife of the locks. Hungry travelers may partake of the many eateries there or picnic and stroll through the Carl English Botanical Gardens located at 3015 NW 54th Street. Open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
4. Pike Place Market
Dazzle the senses among hundreds of market vendors
This 100-year-old, 9-acre waterfront market is a city icon (the brass piggy bank is the official mascot) that has so much color and activity to thrill the senses between the noisy fishmongers and crowds to the hordes of fresh fruit, flowers and vegetables on display for feasting eyes and noses. With two levels, street and underground, market-goers can find most anything from food to fabric to art to puppies perusing the many stalls, including the original Starbucks and the Gum Wall. It is no wonder that it is one of the most popular tourist spots of the city.
The market is located at 85 Pike Street.
There is a parking fee.
5. Gallery Walk
Stroll through the art galleries
5. For a thoroughly delightful experience of shape, color and aesthetics, walk through Seattle’s local art galleries in Pioneer Square where you can see the Seattle art scene’s creations, including stunning glass creations at the U.S. Bank Building, the Sheraton Hotel and Benaroya Hall.
6. Benaroya Hall
The musical pleasures of the symphony and more
Music lovers must check the calendar of the Seattle Symphony’s free recitals, most notably the performance by the master of the 4,490 pipe Watjen Concert Organ, or tour the hall on Tuesdays and Fridays at noon and 1 p.m. Kids enjoy free music too on select dates.
7. Seattle Public Library
A unique architectural and cultural experience
The library may seem like an unlikely spot to consider for an outing, but this is no ordinary library. Uniquely designed by Dutch architect, Rem Koolhaas (one of the six of his significant American structures), this eight story colorful library located at 1000 4th Avenue offers downloadable audio self tours or guided docent tours as well as breathtaking views of downtown Seattle from the highest floor. Catch readings from famous authors or story time for kids.
8. Seattle Center
Bursting with Sights and Activities
Inhabiting the 1962 World's Fair location at 305 Harrison Street, here is the one-stop day-long outing to find top attractions in Seattle like the Space Needle and the International Fountain as well as major performance theaters, art galleries, the Fun Forest Amusement Park and the Seattle Opera. No visit to the Center is complete without enjoying one of the year-long weekend cultural festivals each weekend known as Festal to enjoy ethnic food, dance and culture--all for free. Parking, however, is not free.
9. China International District
Tour the sights and sounds of Asia
China International District, located east of 5th Avenue, is a wonderfully vibrant walk through the traditions, shops, and colors of a diversity of Asian communities from Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Korea, Laos, Cambodia and more. Authentic food, clothing and souvenirs are great takeaways from this day trip or meal-time visit.
10. Fremont Troll
Fun for the kids
Fun for the kids, visit the troll living under the Aurora Bridge in the fascinating Fremont neighborhood where legend has it trolls wandered in olden times according to some local residents. A concrete and wire public sculpture created in the 90s by artists Steve Badanes, Will Martin, Donna Walter, Ross Whitehead, the Fremont Troll can be found at 3405 Troll Avenue in North Seattle.
Not money but time is what the Seattle visitor requires: so much to see in this quaint city without a whole lot of expense.
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