Seattle is a beautiful city, but it isn’t necessarily cheap. However, there are many ways to visit Seattle on a budget and still enjoy the best of the city. There are a variety of free and cheap things to do in Seattle whether you live here or are visiting.
As a long-time Seattle resident, I like to get out on a weekly basis to discover new things to do, but I don’t always have the money to go to expensive museums or fancy restaurants. Based on that, I started creating a list of some of the best free things you can do in Seattle as well as inexpensive things to do in Seattle.
This guide lists 33 of the best free and cheap activities in Seattle no matter what your budget is. Save this post for the future so you can slowly start to explore them all!
1. Stroll the Seattle Waterfront
Walking along the Seattle waterfront is one of the best free things to do in Seattle because there’s so much to see. You can walk along the piers and look for sea life or sit on the benches and people watch.
I also recommend stopping in Miner’s Landing just next to the Seatle Great Wheel on Pier 57 when you visit Seattle on a budget. There’s a carousel inside, an arcade, and multiple shops to browse. If you get hungry, grab an appetizer at The Crab Pot and ask for a table outside to have a view of the water.
2. Have a Picnic at Gasworks Park
Gasworks Park gives you a wide-open view of South Lake Union and downtown Seattle, so it’s the perfect place to have a picnic. There’s no need to make expensive dinner reservations on the lake when you can eat here at no cost as one of the best free things to do in Seattle.
You can bring food from home or stop at a nearby grocery store or restaurant to get it to go. I recommend bringing a few blankets and getting a spot at the top of the hill for the best view of the city.
If you stay here for sunset, you’ll see why it’s one of the best Seattle Instagram spots. Boats sail by and seaplanes take off as the sun goes down over the city at one of the most scenic yet inexpensive things to do in Seattle.
3. Take a Selfie With a Troll
The Fremont Troll is cute to some, terrifying to others. Either way, you should visit one of the most famous free tourist attractions in Seattle located in Fremont under the Aurora bridge on 36th St.
The troll is technically open 24/7, but it can get popular during the day time. If you want a solo photo with it, I recommend going earlier in the morning before the crowds come.
While you’ll find plenty of adults here, it’s one of the more common free things to do in Seattle with kids, so there will be plenty of children running up and down the Troll.
4. Play Beach Volleyball at Alki
While Seattle has beaches, they’re not the typical sandy beaches that come to mind for most people. However, Alki Beach in West Seattle is one of the few places in the area that does have sandy beaches and one of the more active things to do for free in Seattle.
While the water is a bit cold for most people to swim in, you’ll see plenty of people sunbathing on the beach. Another cheap thing to do in Seattle is to play beach volleyball, as there are various nets along the beach.
If you’re not the athletic type, it’s fun to just watch some of the people playing as well. I’ve been impressed with the skills some of these players have.
Once you’re done on the beach, you can explore West Seattle more by taking an electric bike tour.
I also encourage you to check out Alki Point, where Seattle was originally settled. There are many facts about Seattle that come from this area alone.
5. Admire the Seattle Spheres
The Seattle Spheres are a beautiful collection of glass sphere buildings filled with trees and plants. There are over 40,000 different plants here, and you’ll learn more about Amazon when you visit.
Two Saturdays per month, you can make a reservation to go on a free tour. Make sure to bring your camera when you visit.
If you don’t mind spending a little money, you’ll find plenty of free and cheap things to do in Seattle that will entertain you for hours.
6. Visit the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Discovery Center
One of Seattle’s most famous residents is Mr. Bill Gates, so it’s no surprise he and his wife Melinda have a visitor’s center about their foundation. I’m always a fan of what they stand for, and this foundation is no different. Their goal is to reduce poverty, improve healthcare, and give people access to educational opportunities.
You can book a free tour here to see what happens on a daily basis at the foundation if you’re looking for what to do in Seattle for free. There are also a variety of educational exhibits to explore on your own during one of the more educational cheap activities in Seattle.
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm
7. Walk Through the Ballard Locks
If you’ve ever wondered how locks work, you don’t have to travel all the way to the Panama Canal. The Ballard Locks are a National Historic Site and are also the busiest locks in the United States. They’re also one of the more interesting things to do for free in Seattle.
It’s fun to stroll along the locks and watch vessels of different sizes get through as the locks do their job. You can even see salmon here during the summer months. They also hold outdoor concerts, making it one of the best things to do in Seattle in the summer.
Hours: Daily from 7 am to 9 pm
8. Get Your Coffee High in the Sky
There are several places you can get a view of the city from the air, such as the Space Needle. However, a trick when you’re looking for free things to do in Seattle is to visit the 40th floor of the Columbia Tower.
Here you’ll find a Starbucks that has arguably one of the most views in the city for a coffee shop. While they probably would prefer you to buy a latte or pastry while you’re here, it’s not required and cheaper than a Space Needle ticket. This is one of my favorite things to do in Seattle in the spring when it may still be rainy out.
9. Visit the Frye Art Museum
The Frye Art Museum is the place to go to see artwork from local and international artists. They also have events during the year, such as small concerts by different musicians.
As it’s a free thing to do in Seattle, it is a great activity to do on a rainy day in Seattle. You can stop at the cafe when you need coffee or a bite to eat during your visit to the museum.
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 11 am to 5 pm, Thursday, 11 am to 7 pm
Tip: Buy a CityPASS – One of the best ways to save money in Seattle when you want to see the main tourist attractions is to buy a CityPass. For one price, you’ll have nine days to visit the Space Needle, Seattle Aquarium, and more.
10. Taste Some of Seattle’s Best Cheese
Locals know that Beecher’s Cheese is one of the best cheeses in Seattle, and you’ll frequently find it at dinner parties. You can see how it’s made for yourself at the cheesemaking kitchen in Pike Place Market.
While you’re there, I recommend grabbing a sandwich. My favorite is the flagship, basil, and tomato grilled cheese sandwich. They’re open daily, but the hours vary so you may want to call in advance, as it’s one of the most popular free things to do in downtown Seattle.
11. Ride a Wooden Sailboat
If you’re looking for what to do in Seattle for free and want to go on a wooden sailboat, visit The Center for Wooden Boats on Lake Union on Sundays. Sign-ups begin at 10 am and it’s first come first serve.
Once you sign up for your spot and know your sailing time, you’re free to explore the South Lake Union neighborhood. You can watch seaplanes take off or grab lunch before you get on the water as fun cheap things to do in Seattle.
Hours: Sundays from 11 am to 3 pm
12. Visit the Microbrewery Museum
Pike Brewing is one of my favorite Seattle breweries to stop at when I’m downtown, but having a few pints can add up. If you’re on a budget in Seattle, you can visit the free Microbrewery Museum that’s open when Pike Pub is open.
This has the largest collection of beer-related memorabilia and art in the world. I’ve been here multiple times and always find new pieces to admire in their collection. When you need a fun, cheap Seattle activity, stop here for an hour or so.
Hours: Daily, 11 am to midnight
13. Learn About the Klondike Gold Rush
In the 1800s, Seattle had a large fire followed by going through a depression. Luckily, business began flourishing in the city again as people stopped in Seattle on their way to Alaska for the gold rush.
The Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park shows what life was like during that time in Seattle. Located in Pioneer Square, this is a good way to spend an hour or two when saving money in Seattle.
The other half of this park is actually in Skagway, Alaska, so if you’re ever there make sure to check it out. You’ll love free tourist attractions in Seattle like this when trying to save money.
Hours: Daily, 10 am to 5 pm
14. Spend the Afternoon at the Seattle Art Museum
Tickets to the Seattle Art Museum normally cost about $30 for adults, but there are a few ways you can visit when you’re looking for cheap things to do in Seattle. The first Thursday of every month is free to everyone, and special exhibits are only $10.
Additionally, seniors get in for free on the first Friday of every month. Kids 14 and younger can also get in for no extra cost on any day of the week.
Hours: Friday-Sunday, 10 am to 5 pm
15. Ride the Ferry
Riding the ferry is one of the cheapest things to do in Seattle that provides plenty of entertainment. There are numerous ferries to take in the area, but the most popular one from Seattle goes to Bainbridge Island.
You can drive your car on the ferry, but I recommend leaving it in Seattle and walking on. This is the cheaper method, and you’ll be able to explore the restaurants and stores on Bainbridge Island. You can look up ferry schedules online.
Cost: $24.70 roundtrip for vehicles, $8.95 per adult for walk-ons
16. Visit a Farmer’s Market
One of the best ways to eat healthy and to support the local community is to shop at a farmer’s market. There are markets all over the city, so check out the area you’re in for days and times they’re open for cheap stuff to do in Seattle.
You can find a variety of fresh produce, beautiful flowers, fresh-baked bread, honey, art, and more. If you’re trying to save money in Seattle, I recommend grabbing a bag of fresh fruit and splitting it as a snack.
17. Eat at Dick’s
If you’re visiting Seattle on a budget and you want to experience a classic Seattle eating experience, stop by one of several Dick’s locations for one of the tastiest cheap activities in Seattle. These burgers have been around since 1954 and have only grown in popularity.
The incredible thing about Dick’s is how low their prices still are. A plain hamburger is only $1.60, and the most expensive burger is only $3.65 (which includes two patties). The only downside is there’s always a line, but you’ll see why when you taste them (and see how it barely affects your wallet). Dick’s is by far one of the best places to eat in Seattle on a budget.
18. Tour T-Mobile Park
Baseball games are fun, but getting tickets for good seats on top of the prices of stadium food and drinks quickly adds up. One way to get around this is to book a stadium tour at T-Mobile Park if you’re in Seattle on the cheap.
You’ll get to see the visitor’s clubhouse, press box, field, luxury suites, and dugout. If you really want to stay for a game, they do have cheap seats in the outfield available for purchase.
Cost: $12 for adults, $10 for children
19. Take a Water Taxi
For a different way to get from Seattle to West Seattle, take the water taxi. You won’t have to worry about traffic and will have a scenic commute as you cross Puget Sound. This is a fun activity when you’re visiting Seattle in one day.
The ferry runs during the morning and afternoon, with a break during the middle of the day. You should do this at least once – who knows when you’ll see an Orca whale, after all. The ride is a fun way to explore the water on a cheap Seattle trip.
Cost: $5.75 for adults, $5.00 if you have an Orca card
20. Try Local Wine
There are plenty of wineries around the Seattle area, and many have cheap wine tastings available.
Here are some of the places to get the most for your money:
- DeLaurenti (Pike Place Market) – $5 on Saturdays for four tastings
- West Seattle Wine Cellars – free on Thursdays from 5:30 pm to 8 pm
- European Vine Selections (Capitol Hill) – free every Saturday 3 to 6 pm
Don’t underestimate how much there is to do outside in Seattle for little to no cost at all.
21. Stand-Up Paddleboard on Lake Union
Nothing is better on a sunny day than taking a kayak ride around Lake Union. At the Northwest Outdoor Center, you can also rent stand-up paddleboards by the hour.
If you’re new to kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding, I recommend taking one of their classes. They’ll teach you the basic skills so you’ll feel more confident to do it on your own. This is one of the best cheap activities in Seattle if you want to save money but be active.
22. Walk Through the Washington Arboretum
One of the more beautiful places in Seattle in the fall and the spring is the Washington Arboretum. There are over 230 acres of wetlands, gardens, and outdoor areas to explore here.
You’ll see many people walking, running, and biking on the paved rails here. The area is also popular for photographers, so you might see tons of tripods and photoshoots going on.
23. Get Lost at Discovery Park
Discovery Park is my favorite Seattle hike that’s close to the city, as you don’t have to go far to be in nature. This 534-acre park covers a variety of terrain, including the forest, meadows, and the beach.
The park is popular in the summer, so you’ll want to go early to get a parking spot. This is a popular spot for parties and barbeques in addition to people working out.
You can also go on an electric bike tour around the park for a different way to see the area.
24. Kayak on Lake Washington
Head to the Washington Activities Center behind Husky Stadium if you feel like kayaking on Lake Washington. You can rent kayaks, canoes, and rowboats from spring to fall. They also have gear like life jackets available for rent.
I recommend going during the weekday or early on weekend mornings, as this is one of the more popular cheap things to do in Seattle when it’s nice outside.
Cost: Kayaks – $16/hour, canoes and rowboats – $12/hour, discount for UW students and employees
25. Take a Walk Around Greenlake
Spending an afternoon at Greenlake is a common way to pass the time for people of all ages when you need cheap stuff to do in Seattle. There’s a paved path with different lanes for walkers and bicyclists, and leashed dogs are welcome here as well.
The lake is about three miles around, making it a good place to train for a race or to get a leisurely walk in. Watercraft rentals are available during the summer. You’ll also find plenty of pick-up games going on in the grass, and a wading pool is available for kids.
26. Go Camping in the Wilderness
Hotels can be expensive, so consider getting away from the city and going camping instead for free and cheap things to do in Seattle. There are dozens of spots to go camping in Washington all over the state (read my tips for camping for beginners before you go!)
Some campsites are easy drives from Seattle if you only want to do a quick night away. Others are over the mountains by lakes or on islands with beautiful views.
27. Have a Bonfire at Golden Gardens
Golden Gardens is one of the other sandy beaches in the Seattle area, which means it’s always packed during the hotter months. You can have a picnic here, walk on the paved sidewalk, or go in the water if you’re brave enough.
One of the biggest draws of the park is being able to throw bonfires at night. It’s a fun way to spend a warm summer night.
28. Watch an Outdoor Movie
Locals don’t like to waste any days during summer in Seattle by being indoors, so you’ll see multiple outdoor cinemas to catch a movie at. Westlake Park and Marymoor Park play movies for all ages with a mix of newer and classic flicks.
Peddler Brewing Company also plays movies in the summer so you can enjoy a few pints while viewing a movie. If you’re 21 or older, check out the Seattle Outdoor Cinema for one of the best things to do in Seattle on a budget.
29. Rent a Bike
Remember when you were a kid and used to be out on your bike every weekend? Now you can relive that feeling without the cost of owning a bike when you’re in Seattle on the cheap. There are several bike rental companies available around the area.
You can rent a bike for the day, for the weekend, or even for a week. This is a great way to get exercise and beat traffic. You can also take a tour of the city if you want more guidance.
30. Visit Jimi Hendrix Park
One of the greatest legends to come from Seattle was Jimi Hendrix, and Seattle gave him his own park as a tribute. This area is shaped like a guitar and gives you the history of his life.
While this is a small park, it’s worth paying a visit to. You can also explore the Northwest African American Museum next to it when you’re done.
31. Explore Magnuson Park
Magnuson Park is a fun way to spend a summer day outside. You can fly kites, play on the playground, or watch sports games take place, and it’s great for things to do in Seattle on a budget.
There’s a boat launch here, so boating and kayaking are popular activities as well. You can even go windsurfing when it gets windy enough outside.
32. Visit a Volcano
If you’re looking for day trips near Seattle, head out to Mt. St. Helens National Park. People get a thrill from visiting this area, as it’s an active volcano. While it hasn’t erupted since 1980, you can still see steam rising from the crater.
I recommend stopping at the Visitor’s Center to see pictures of how the volcano used to look and learn about the history of the area. You can also see any current observations they have. There are also many Mt. St. Helens hikes you can do in the area.
Cost: $5 per adult or $15 per family, kids 6 and under are free
33. Walk Through a Rainforest
If you want to get out of Seattle and have a change of scenery, visit Olympic National Park. This park is located on the Olympic Peninsula and provides some beautiful hikes.
Many people are unaware that you can visit a rainforest while you’re here. The Hoh Rainforest gets around 140 inches of rain each year, providing bright green plants and trees all around.
Cost: $30 per car (good for 7 days)
As you can see, there are plenty of free and cheap things to do in Seattle! Whether you’re visiting Seattle on a budget or just want to save money like a local, save this post to use in the future.