While I absolutely love living in Seattle, I’ll be the first one to admit that it’s not cheap ($8 lattes, anyone?). However, there are still many ways to explore Seattle on a budget while enjoying the best of the city. You don’t have to go to the newest restaurant or get a tour of the Space Needle to have a good time, as there are a variety of free and cheap things to do in Seattle, whether you live here or are visiting.
Now that I have two little kids, I’m an expert on finding inexpensive things to do in Seattle, as going out as a family of four can quickly add up. We go out on a weekly basis to look for cheap activities in Seattle, which is luckily easier than you might think. From fun places to visit outdoors that don’t cost a thing to going on day trips to cheap destinations, you’ll love exploring the area without breaking the bank.
This guide lists 33 of the best free and cheap activities in Seattle, no matter what your budget is. I also list exactly what each activity costs so you can quickly plan your day out. 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.
If you can time it right, go at sunset to watch everything light up at night. It’s one of the best cheap things to do in Seattle at night.
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. You may even see a hot tub boat cruise by you!
3. Take a Selfie With a Troll
The Fremont Troll is cute to some and 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 daytime. 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. After, you can head into Fremont to grab pierogies at Pel Meni Dumpling Tzar. You’ll want to spend at least one afternoon here if spending 3 days in Seattle.
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.
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.
Once you’re done on the beach, you can explore West Seattle more by taking an electric bike tour.
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.
On the first and third Saturdays of each month, you can make a reservation to go on a free tour. Make sure to bring your camera when you visit, as you’ll want to show others this amazing area.
If you don’t mind spending a little money, you’ll love this cheap thing to do in Seattle that will entertain you for hours. You can also easily take public transportation in Seattle to get here quickly and on the cheap.
In town on vacation? Here’s how to get from downtown Seattle to the Seattle Airport.
6. Watch Sunset at Kerry Park
While there are plenty of beautiful Seattle waterfront restaurants to eat at, they aren’t cheap at all. Instead, pack a picnic and head to Kerry Park in Queen Anne to see one of the best sunset views in Seattle. It’s also the perfect free date idea in Seattle if you want to save money.
You’ll be able to see downtown Seattle as well as the waterfront and West Seattle, and the best part is it doesn’t cost you anything. This is easily one of the best free things to do in Seattle when you feel like being outside. I’ve lived here forever but still love coming to Kerry Park to practice my photography.
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.
Seattle’s Ballard district is home to the famous Ballard Locks, also known as the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks. The locks were constructed in 1917 to facilitate the movement of ships and boats between the freshwater Lake Union and the saltwater Puget Sound. Nowadays, travelers flock to the locks to learn about the region’s history and see boats of various kinds go through the locks during one of the most interesting cheap things to do in Seattle.
The Carl S. English Jr. Botanical Gardens are also open to tourists, and they include a wide range of plants and flowers that bloom at different times of the year. They’re also one of the more interesting things to do for free in Seattle, as they hold free walking tours each day.
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.
Want to up your experience? Book a Ballard Locks cruise to see the locks up close.
8. Visit the Stunning Seattle Central Library
The first time I walked by the Seattle Central Library, I had no idea it was a library because, on the outside, it looked like a beautiful building with unique architecture. Located in the heart of Seattle, the Central Library was created by the renowned architect Rem Koolhaas and is worth a stop. It’s fun to poke around in, interesting to look at the architecture, and a comfortable place to hang out for a while.
They also host free events throughout the year, so check out their calendar in advance. This is one of my favorite things to do in Seattle in the spring when it may still be rainy.
9. Visit the Frye Art Museum
The Frye Art Museum is the place to go to see artwork from local and international artists, and it’s completely free. Showcasing the finest examples of modern and contemporary art, the museum is located in the trendy First Hill district of Seattle.
Charles and Emma Frye donated their personal art collection to the city of Seattle, which led to the establishment of the museum in 1952. The museum’s commitment to showcasing innovative exhibitions and programs that highlight cultural variety continues to the present day. The Frye Art Museum is a must-see for anybody interested in Seattle’s booming art scene because of its gorgeous setting and free entry.
They also have events during the year, such as small concerts by different musicians. It’s a free thing to do in Seattle as well as 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.
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. If you’re from out of town, you’ll also find it at the airport, which is a treat I always indulge in.
While eating it is one thing, you can see how it’s made for yourself at the cheesemaking kitchen in Pike Place Market. I only did this for the first time this year, and I found it to be a fascinating process. I’ll warn you in advance, though – you’ll want to buy all things cheese once you see what they offer.
While you’re there, I recommend grabbing a sandwich for lunch. My favorite is the flagship, basil, and tomato grilled cheese sandwich (I get it every time!). 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.
Cost: Free to visit (+ cost of any purchases)
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 for one hour of a free rental.
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 (I love getting Mexican food at Cactus) before you get on the water as fun, cheap things to do in Seattle.
Hungry? Check out the foods Seattle is known for to find your new favorite.
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 the restaurant 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.
If you do find yourself hungry or thirsty after, they have an extensive selection of food and drinks (and they’re also a very kid-friendly Seattle brewery if your family is with you).
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, as well as a warm thing to do in the winter in Seattle.
14. Spend the Afternoon at the Seattle Art Museum
The Seattle Art Museum (also known as SAM) is a major cultural institution in the city. The museum’s permanent collection includes more than 25,000 paintings, sculptures, and decorative artifacts from all over the world and throughout history. You can experience art and culture in new and interesting ways thanks to the museum’s significant collection as well as a wide variety of temporary exhibitions and educational activities offered year-round.
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.
15. Ride the Ferry
Riding the ferry is one of the cheapest things to do in Seattle, which 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 also take a ferry to Vashon Island, Whidbey Island (where you’ll find plenty of Whidbey Island activities), or San Juan Island if you’re looking for a longer day trip.
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 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.
Here are a few popular ones:
- University District Farmers Market: Located near the University of Washington, this vibrant market features a variety of local produce, specialty foods, and handmade goods.
- Ballard Farmers Market: Held every Sunday in the Ballard neighborhood, this market is a community hub for fresh and organic produce, farm-raised meats, and other goodies.
- West Seattle Farmers Market: This weekly market in the West Seattle Junction is a popular destination for fresh produce, baked goods, and locally made crafts, with a focus on sustainable and eco-friendly practices.
- Columbia City Farmers Market: Located in the heart of Columbia City, this neighborhood market offers fresh produce, artisanal foods, and live music and performances.
Cost: Free + purchases
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.
Cost: Under $10
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
Book your T-Mobile Park tour online before you go.
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.
Want to guarantee you’ll see a whale? Check out these best whale-watching tours in Seattle.
Cost: $5.75 for adults, $5.00 if you have an Orca card
20. Try Local Wine
Don’t feel like heading to Woodinville to taste 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 from 3 pm 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.
I did paddleboarding for the first time here and loved it because you don’t get too many waves since it’s in a lake. This is one of the best cheap activities in Seattle if you want to save money but be active.
Cost: $23 per hour
22. Walk Through the Washington Arboretum
One of the more beautiful places in Seattle in the fall and spring is the Washington Arboretum. Located just outside of downtown Seattle, there are over 230 acres of wetlands, gardens, and outdoor areas to explore.
You can explore a variety of gardens, including the Japanese Garden, which offers a serene and tranquil atmosphere, and the Pacific Connections Garden, which highlights the rich plant life of the Pacific Northwest. I recommend walking on the trails to get stunning views of Lake Washington and the surrounding areas.
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 at this popular cheap thing to do in Seattle.
23. Get Lost at Discovery Park
Discovery Park is my favorite easy 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 forest, meadows, and beach, and it’s easily one of the best free things to do in Seattle.
The thing I love most about this park is there are so many different areas to explore, so you can go on a short walk or a longer walk depending on what time constraint you have. The park is popular in the summer, so you’ll want to go early to get a parking spot. It’s also perfect for rainy day hikes, as many trails are covered.
Does the area look familiar? Several movies and TV series have used Discovery Park as a setting, such as the medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy” which was filmed in and around the park’s historic lighthouse, and the 1999 film “10 Things I Hate About You” has several scenes shot on the park’s beaches and trails.
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. You’ll also want to look at specialty tours that are offered – when I went here, we did a sunset to full moon tour, which was absolutely amazing.
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.
One of my favorite places to eat in Greenlake is Shelter Lounge, both for tasty brunch and handcrafted cocktails during happy hour. In the mood for coffee and/or chocolate? Head to Chocolati for a delicious latte and chocolate treat.
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, such as Moran State Park on Orcas Island (where I go every single year).
Here are some other inexpensive campsites around the area:
- Blake Island Marine State Park: Located just a short ferry ride from Seattle, this campground offers both primitive and developed sites, with access to hiking trails, kayaking, and beachcombing. Sites start at $12 per night.
- Lake Easton State Park: Situated in the Cascade Mountains, this campground offers tent and RV sites, with access to hiking trails, fishing, and water sports on the nearby lake. Sites start at $25 per night.
- Manchester State Park: Located on the Kitsap Peninsula, this campground offers both primitive and developed sites, with access to hiking trails, fishing, and beachcombing. Sites start at $15 per night.
27. Have a Bonfire at Golden Gardens
Like with the other Seattle area sandy beaches, Golden Gardens sees its share of visitors throughout the warmer months. Those who are feeling courageous can go swimming, take a picnic, or stroll along the paved walkway.
The ability to have bonfires at night is a major selling point for the park. It’s a great way to enjoy a summer evening.
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.
Cost: Free to $10
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, including the following:
- Seattle Electric Bike – Offers electric bike rentals for exploring the city, with hourly and daily rental options and guided tours.
- Montlake Bicycle Shop – Offers traditional bike rentals for exploring the city and nearby trails, with hourly and daily rental options.
- Recycled Cycles – Offers traditional bike rentals for exploring the city and nearby trails, with hourly and daily rental options.
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, and there are plenty of places to park your bike in the city.
You can also take a tour of the city if you want more guidance.
30. Visit the Original Starbucks
The first Starbucks opened in Seattle in 1971 (can you imagine a world without Starbucks?), and it is now a very popular stop for tourists and coffee connoisseurs alike in the historic Pike Place Market. While this isn’t technically the original location (it was located on Western Avenue), this store has retained its original rustic timber interior, hand-lettered signage, and famous Starbucks logo.
It’s easy to find because you will always see a line out the door, but I’ll tell you a local secret – the coffee tastes exactly the same as the dozen others around the city. For that reason, I don’t recommend waiting in line, but they do have a few unique Seattle souvenirs, such as a Pike Place Market Starbucks mug, that you can’t buy anywhere else. It’s still one of the best things to do in Seattle for cheap.
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 when looking for cheap things to do in Washington state.
32. Visit a Volcano
If you’re looking for day trips near Seattle, head out to Mount 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, such as recent earthquakes or steam coming from the crater.
There are also many Mount St. Helens hikes you can do in the area, which are particularly stunning during late spring and summertime. I recommend taking a getaway from Seattle to the area so you have more time to explore.
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 around Olympic National Park.
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.