Visitors can explore Seattle on a budget and take in free attractions such as the world-renowned Pike Place Market, the city's most-visited tourist attraction, or the facilities of the Seattle Art Museum, which offer free admission days throughout the month. For a low-cost transportation option, visitors can get around the city using bus and light rail services offered by the King County Metro Transit system. Some attractions are free only on certain days – please check before you go.
1.Pike Place Market
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Pike Place Market is one of the United States' oldest continually-operating public farmers' markets, originally opened to the public in 1907. The market is the world's 33rd most-visited tourist attraction, attracting over 10 million annual visitors, and is named after its central street, which runs between Pike Street and Virginia Street. The market overlooks the beautiful Elliott Bay waterfront and offers more than 200 vendors within a nine-acre historic district area, selling fresh produce, meats, dairy, and a variety of specialty goods, including antiques and comic books. Over 80 restaurants and food vendors also serve a variety of international cuisines, from quick-casual vendor service to full-service fine dining. The market is open to the public every day of the year with the exception of Thanksgiving and Christmas, though individual vendor and restaurant hours may vary.
85 Pike Street, Room 500, Seattle, WA 98101, Phone: 206-682-7453
2.Frye Art Museum
© Frye Art Museum
The Frye Art Museum is a free-admission art museum located in Seattle's First Hill neighborhood, open to the public Tuesdays through Sundays during the morning and afternoon hours, with the exception of major national holidays. The museum was established in 1952, housed within a building designed by architect Paul Thiry. Today, the museum displays significant works of sculpture and painting from the modern era, including the former private collections of Seattle art lovers Charles and Emma Frye. Major artists represented include Eugène Isabey, William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Franz von Lenbach, and Félix Ziem, with recent contemporary additions to the museum, including works by Toyin Ojih Odutola and Ellen Lesperance, among others.
704 Terry Ave, Seattle, WA 98104, Phone: 206-622-9250
3.Olympic Sculpture Park
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Olympic Sculpture Park is an award-winning free public sculpture park owned and operated as part of the Seattle Art Museum, originally opened to the public in 2007. The park spans nine acres along the city's downtown seawall beachfront at Myrtle Edwards Park and was designed by Weiss/Manfredi Architects on the site of a former industrial area. As one of downtown Seattle's only urban green spaces, the park is open to the public daily between dawn and dusk, with free tours available at select times throughout the year. Both permanent and temporary rotating exhibits are showcased at the park, including Mark di Suvero's Bunyon's Chess, Louise Bourgeois' Eye Benches I, II, and III, and Beverly Pepper's Persephone Unbound.
2901 Western Ave, Seattle, WA 98121, Phone: 206-654-3100
4.The Northwest African-American Museum
© The Northwest African-American Museum
The Northwest African-American Museum is Seattle's premiere African-American cultural and art museum, located in the city's predominantly African-American Central District within the 1909 Colman School building. It was opened to the public in March of 2008 and strives to presents cultural links and black experiences throughout the Pacific Northwest through a variety of permanent and temporary exhibits and free public programming. Prominent works on display include pieces by Seattle African-American artists James W. Washington and Jacob Lawrence. Visitors can explore the 17,000-square-foot museum for free as part of Free First Thursday events between 11:00am and 7:00pm.
2300 S Massachusetts St, Seattle, WA 98144, Phone: 206-518-6000
5.Silent Reading Parties
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Silent Reading Parties are a free monthly reading event at Seattle's beautiful Sorrento Hotel, hosted each first Wednesday of the month at 6:00pm. The 1909 Italian-style hotel is a landmark building within Seattle's downtown district, located near the Seattle Art Museum and CenturyLink Field. Since 2011, it has hosted silent reading parties within its Fireside Room, allowing visitors to bring books of their choice and cozy up on overstuffed couches and chairs to peruse the pages of their favorite story or volume. Fires roar for warmth and waiters offer drinks and snacks, with light ambient background music provided on the hotel's grand piano. Visitors are advised to arrive at least one hour in advance of events, as lines tend to form prior to opening times.
900 Madison St, Seattle, WA 98104, Phone: 206-622-6400
6.The Museum of Flight
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The Museum of Flight is a private aerospace museum in the Seattle suburb of Tukwila, located within King County International Airport. The American Alliance of Museums-accredited facility was founded in 1965 and has become the world's largest private aerospace museum today, attracting more than 500,000 annual visitors. It boasts a collection of more than 150 significant aircraft, including a restored Lockheed Model 10-E Electra matching the craft Amelia Earhart disappeared in, the first flight-quality Boeing 747, the first Boeing VC-137B SAM 970 presidential jet, and the Caproni Ca.20, the first fighter plane constructed for World War I. Other exhibits include a restored Boeing manufacturing plant barn and interactive artifact exhibits and archives detailing the history of flight and vessel construction. The museum is open to the public for free the first Thursday of each month between 5:00pm and 9:00pm.
9404 E Marginal Way S, Seattle, WA 98108, Phone: 206-764-5700
7.The Henry Art Gallery
© The Henry Art Gallery
The Henry Art Gallery is the official art museum of Seattle's University of Washington, located within the college's campus. The museum was originally founded in 1927 as Washington's first public art museum, housed within a building designed by architects Bebb and Gould. It was named in honor of Horace C. Henry, who donated sizeable collections accumulated following a visit to the Chicago World's Fair. Today, the museum showcases collections of contemporary art and historical photography, housing a collection of more than 25,000 artworks and artifacts. A unique LED-illuminated skysace, Light Reign, hangs over the museum's galleries, designed by James Turrell. The museum is free to the public Sundays and every first Thursday of the month, with free passes available for Seattle residents through the city's public library system.
15th Ave NE & NE 41st St, Seattle, WA 98195, Phone: 206-543-2280
8.The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture
© The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture
The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture is the official state museum of Washington, originally founded in 1899 as the Washington State Museum, though its roots date back to the Young Naturalists Society, which was established two decades prior. Today, the museum is housed on the campus of the University of Washington and showcases a collection of more than 16 million specimens and artifacts across significant ornithology, biology, geology, and anthropology collections. Three long-term exhibits display the evolution of the state over 545 million years and present the fifth-largest collection of American indigenous art in the world. The museum is open to the public for free each first Thursday evening of the month until 8:00pm.
1413 NE 45th St, Seattle, WA 98105, Phone: 206-616-3962
9.Living Computers: Museum and Labs
© Living Computers: Museum + Labs
Living Computers: Museum + Labs is a one-of-a-kind computer and technology museum and lab space located within Seattle's SoDo neighborhood, open to the public for free each first Thursday between 5:00pm and 8:00pm. The museum was established in 2006 by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and showcases computer technologies dating back to the 1960s, including the largest collection of restored minicomputers, microcomputers, mainframes, and supercomputers in the world. Visitors can interact directly with the museum through interactive touch experiences and interfaces, exploring cutting-edge technologies such as self-driving cars, virtual reality, and robotics. Artifacts are also showcased that have been used in major motion pictures and television series such as Mad Men and Tomorrowland.
2245 1st Ave S, Seattle, WA 98134, Phone: 206-342-2020
10.The Seattle Art Museum
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The Seattle Art Museum is Seattle's premiere public art museum, showcasing more than 25,000 significant classic and modern artworks throughout three museum facilities in the city's downtown region. The museum operates its main downtown Seattle campus, along with Capitol Hill's Seattle Asian Art Museum and the open-air Olympic Sculpture Park on the city's Puget Sound waterfront. Notable collections include works by Italian painters such as Camille Pissarro and Luca Giordano, along with 20th-century American works by Mark Tobey and Jacob Lawrence and a substantial collection of Aboriginal Australian works. Modern installation pieces including Stage One by Cai Guo-Qiang, Wake by Richard Serra, and Eagle by Alexander Calder. The museum is free to the public on the first Thursday of each month. Its main campus' permanent exhibits are also viewable on a pay-what-you-can basis.
1300 1st Ave, Seattle, WA 98101, Phone: 206-654-3100
11.The Seattle Public Library
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The Seattle Public Library is the official public library system of Seattle, originally established in 1890. Today, the city is home to 26 branch libraries, including its new 11-story Central Library building, which opened in 2004 with funding from the Libraries for All initiative. Beautiful artwork is showcased throughout the library, including works by Ann Hamilton, Tony Oursler, Mandy Greer, Margaret Tomkins, and George Tsutakawa. Public features include a 275-seat auditorium, a unique Books Spiral, and children's and teens meeting and reading areas. Visitors can also utilize the library's computer labs, ESL and LEAP programs, and special collections, including a Seattle history collection and an aviation history collection.
1000 Fourth Ave., Seattle, WA 98104, Phone: 206-386-4636
12.Seattle Farmers Markets
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Seattle Farmers Markets are hosted by the Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance throughout Seattle and the greater Washington area, striving to support small farm businesses and foster healthy eating habits throughout all of Seattle's neighborhoods. The organization has operated seven farmers markets throughout the city's neighborhoods since 1993, including year-round Saturday markets within the city's University District and year-round Sunday markets within the city's Capitol Hill and West Seattle neighborhoods. Farmers markets also operate weekly in Columbia City, Lake City, Phinney, and Magnolia. All markets provide a chance to shop for fresh produce, meats, dairy, and artisanal foods, with market bites and wines and beers sold for visitor dining.
13.Gas Works Park
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Gas Works Park is a National Register of Historic Places-listed public park in Seattle's Wallingford neighborhood, located along the northern shores of Lake Union. The park preserves 19.1 acres of the former Seattle Gas Light Company plant, the United States' last operating coal gasification plant. It opened to the public in 1975 as Myrtle Edwards Park, named for a late city council member, and incorporates several elements of the former plant, including pieces that have been repurposed as children's play structures. Other attractions include an artificial hill for kite flying and a public sundial sculpture. Visitors can explore the park between 6:00am and 10:00pm daily.
2101 N Northlake Way, Seattle, WA 98103, Phone: 206-684-4075
14.The Museum of History and Industry
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The Museum of History and Industry is a history and cultural museum in Seattle's South Lake Union neighborhood, showcasing the story of the city's founding and development through a variety of interactive exhibits. The nationally-renowned museum is open to the public for free on the first Thursday of each month between 10:00am and 8:00pm, with the exception of ticketing for special temporary exhibits. Visitors can explore the museum's True Northwest: The Seattle Journey exhibit, which showcases the city's pioneer history and urban development, and its Maritime Seattle exhibit, which details the city's nautical and trade history. The city's 20th and 21st century expansion as a major center for technology and innovation is also chronicled at the Bezos Center for Innovation.
860 Terry Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109, Phone: 206-324-1126
15.KEXP at Seattle Center
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KEXP at Seattle Center hosts the audio and video broadcasting studios of renowned Seattle public radio station KEXP, known as a major national alternative and independent rock radio station and concert operator. Visitors can explore the station's facilities at the Seattle Center as part of free guided tours, offered daily to the public at 2:00pm. The center's Light in the Attic Record Store carries exclusive KEXP releases and hard-to-find albums from thousands of independent music labels, while its La Marzocco Cafe and Showroom showcases rotating curated specialty coffees from around the world presented by coffee roasters throughout Seattle. Visitors can also watch live in-studio performances at the station's Live Room Viewing Gallery with acclaimed and upcoming international indie rock artists.
472 1st Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109, Phone: 206-520-5800
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Discovery Park is a 534-acre public urban park along the Puget Sound shoreline of Seattle's Magnolia neighborhood, showcasing two miles of beautiful protected tidal beaches and a variety of urban ecosystems. The park is Seattle's largest urban park, open to the public daily for free between 4:00am and 11:30pm. It is constructed on the land of the Fort Lawton Historic District and is home to the 2.8-mile Discovery Park Loop Trail, a National Recreation Trail that connects with several other area walking and cycling trails. As one of the city's best wildlife-watching spots, the park is home to more than 270 species of native, migratory, and sea birds, along with coastal populations of California sea lions and harbor seals. Other amenities on site include the United Indians of All Tribes Daybreak Star Cultural Center.
3801 Discovery Park Blvd, Seattle, WA 98199, Phone: 206-386-4236
17.Belltown Art Walk
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Belltown Art Walk is a community art walk in Seattle's Belltown neighborhood, held the second Friday of each month between 6:00pm and 9:00pm. The free art walk event showcases the neighborhood's vibrant local arts scene, with area art galleries, studios, and dive bars opening their doors to visitors to showcase free art exhibitions and live music performances. Many galleries offer complimentary wine, beer, and snacks throughout the evening, with many area restaurants and bars offering discounted food and drink specials for the duration of the event. Visitors can pick up free maps of participating galleries and businesses at the Belltown Community Center, which offers a public reception with complimentary refreshments.
18.Capitol Hill Art Walk
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Capitol Hill Art Walk is a monthly free art walk taking place in Seattle's lively Capitol Hill neighborhood, showcased every second Thursday evening of the month starting at 5:00pm. As Seattle's official arts and cultural district, the neighborhood is home to a wide variety of cultural organizations, LGBT-friendly nightlife, and hip boutiques and performance venues.The event brings art lovers to the district's galleries, studios, and cultural businesses rain or shine each month, highlighting new art exhibition openings and special installations and pop-ups. Many businesses offer complimentary wine, beer, and snacks, with many restaurants and bars in the district offering food and drink specials and discounts throughout the evening. Seasonal pop-up markets are also offered periodically, along with special themed exhibit pop-ups.
19.The Ladies Musical Club
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The Ladies Musical Club is Seattle's oldest currently-operating musical organization, celebrating over 125 years in performance. The organization was originally established in 1891 by a group of 22 female classical musicians and strives to foster appreciation for music and culture throughout the city today through a variety of musical programming and education services for the city's diverse populations. More than 50 free public classical music concerts are hosted throughout the city by the organization between October and May, lasting approximately one hour. Visitors can obtain free tickets to performances at the city's Frye Museum the day of performances. Venues offering concerts include the city's Seattle Art Museum, University House Wallingford, Crossroads Community Center Theater, and Music Center of the Northwest.
1305 4th Ave #500, Seattle, WA 98101
20.Myrtle Edwards Park
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Myrtle Edwards Park is a 4.8-acre urban park near the Seattle neighborhood of Belltown, located along the city's beautiful Elliott Bay waterfront. The park was originally coined as Elliott Bay Park, but in 1976, it was renamed in honor of late city council member and environmental activist Myrtle Edwards. It is open to the public 24 hours a day, located adjacent to Seattle's Centennial Park, and is home to a 1.25-mile bicycle and pedestrian path offering spectacular views of nearby Mount Rainier and Puget Sound. Other attractions include the Olympic Sculpture Park, operated by the Seattle Art Museum. Annual events hosted at the park include the Seattle Hempfest.
3130 Alaskan Way, Seattle, WA 98121, Phone: 206-684-4075
21.The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks
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The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, also known as the Ballard Locks, are the United States' most-trafficked canal locks, located along Seattle's Lake Washington Ship Canal near the city's Ballard and Magnolia neighborhoods. The locks, which were opened in 1917 and named in honor of United States Army Major Hiram Martin Chittenden, were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. They are credited with reshaping vast areas of Seattle's waterfront coastline and changing the water level and flow direction of its lakes and rivers, allowing commercial and recreational vessels to traverse the city's harbor and warehouses. Today, they have become one of Seattle's most popular tourist attractions, welcoming more than one million annual visitors. A visitor center is offered at the locks, along with the beautiful Carl S. English, Jr. Botanical Gardens.
3015 NW 54th St, Seattle, WA 98107, Phone: 206-780-2500
22.The Center for Wooden Boats
© The Center for Wooden Boats
The Center for Wooden Boats is a free-admission South Lake Union museum that strives to preserve the maritime history and culture of Seattle and the Pacific Northwest, offering hands-on exhibits year-round for visitors of all ages. The museum is open to the public Tuesdays through Sundays during the morning and afternoon hours, originally established in 1968 as an extension of a local family's boat rental business. Preserved historic vessels are showcased at the museum's docks, with dockside exhibits showcasing pre-industrial maritime technologies such as knot tying, signal flags, and manual depth determination. Annual year-round programming includes maritime workshops, lectures, and field trips, though visitors should note that many additional activities require a registration fee.
1010 Valley St, Seattle, WA 98109, Phone: 206-382-2628
23.Waterfall Garden Park
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Waterfall Garden Park is a unique secluded park that commemorates the birthplace of the United Parcel Service, originally founded in Seattle in 1907 as the American Messenger Company. The corporation operated solely out of Seattle until the early 1930s, when it changed its name to the now-ubiquitous UPS moniker and eventually moved its operations to Connecticut. Today, the city's Pioneer Square neighborhood is located at the site of the former corporation, with a quaint 22-foot manmade waterfall commemorating the site of the company's founding. Visitors can stop by the park at any time throughout daylight hours, with tables and chairs provided along an overlook patio. A plaque at the park site commemorates the company's centennial anniversary, celebrated in 2007.
219 2nd Avenue South, Seattle, WA, 98104
23 Best Free Things to Do in Seattle Year Round
- Pike Place Market, Photo: Courtesy of miles_around - Fotolia.com
- Frye Art Museum, Photo: Frye Art Museum
- Olympic Sculpture Park, Photo: Courtesy of klevit - Fotolia.com
- The Northwest African-American Museum, Photo: The Northwest African-American Museum
- Silent Reading Parties, Photo: Courtesy of MinDof - Fotolia.com
- The Museum of Flight, Photo: Courtesy of followbobbriggs - Fotolia.com
- The Henry Art Gallery, Photo: The Henry Art Gallery
- The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, Photo: The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture
- Living Computers: Museum and Labs, Photo: Living Computers: Museum + Labs
- The Seattle Art Museum, Photo: Courtesy of Anthony Torres - Fotolia.com
- The Seattle Public Library, Photo: Courtesy of anderm - Fotolia.com
- Seattle Farmers Markets, Photo: Courtesy of weyo - Fotolia.com
- Gas Works Park, Photo: Courtesy of ricktravel - Fotolia.com
- The Museum of History and Industry, Photo: Courtesy of Crin - Fotolia.com
- KEXP at Seattle Center, Photo: Courtesy of carbonyte - Fotolia.com
- Discovery Park, Photo: Courtesy of Camille Lamoureux - Fotolia.com
- Belltown Art Walk, Photo: Courtesy of Dene' Miles - Fotolia.com
- Capitol Hill Art Walk, Photo: Courtesy of seventyfour - Fotolia.com
- The Ladies Musical Club, Photo: Courtesy of ONE - Fotolia.com
- Myrtle Edwards Park, Photo: Courtesy of CascadeCreatives - Fotolia.com
- The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, Photo: Courtesy of David Johnson - Fotolia.com
- The Center for Wooden Boats, Photo: The Center for Wooden Boats
- Waterfall Garden Park, Photo: Courtesy of rostovdriver - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Ken - Fotolia.com