10 free things to do in Seattle

Seattle can be expensive! Looking for something interesting to do in the city, without spending too much money?

Here’s a list of 10 of the many things this city has to offer.

Gas Works Park

Gasworks

Photo Credit: Scooter Lowrimore via Flickr, Used unmodified under CC BY 2.0 license

Gas Works Park is a park converted from an old industrial plant that was used to convert coal to gas. It has many interesting indoor and outdoor structures, picnic areas, and a great view of Lake Union. This is an especially popular spot during fireworks shows.

Fremont Troll

The Fremont Troll, Seattle

Photo Credit: Sue via Flickr, Used unmodified under CC BY 2.0 license

Clutching a real Volkswagen Beetle, the Troll monitors the activity under the bridge with his never-blinking metal hubcap eye. It’s acceptable to climb on and around the sculpture.

Hiram M. Chittenden Locks (aka Ballard Locks)

Boats in the lock

Photo Credit: jc.winkler via Flickr, Used unmodified under CC BY 2.0 license

This is a great place to watch boats come and go from the higher elevation fresh water lake to the lower elevation salt water of the Puget Sound. There is also a fish ladder with a viewing area to watch fish like salmon go upstream, visitor center, and the Carl S. English Jr. Botanical Garden to wander through.

Burke-Gilman Trail

Burke Gilman Trail

Photo Credit: Gene Bisbee via Flickr, Used unmodified under CC BY 2.0 license

This 18.8 mile trail from Seattle to Bothell takes you through several Seattle neighborhoods and close to many parks and waterfronts, the University of Washington, and other connecting trails. It is used by many cyclists, runners, and walkers for exercise, commuting, and fun.

University of Washington campus

White pink Cherry Tree and Collegiate Gothic Art Tower, University of Washington, Seattle, USA

Photo Credit: Wonderlane via Flickr, Used unmodified under CC BY 2.0 license

The UW (say it like a local: “U-Dub”) is known for picturesque cherry blossom trees at least 80 years old. They usually bloom in mid- to late March, but that is dependent on the weather, as is the amount of time the petals stay on the trees. Even if you miss these blooming beauties, there are other landmarks to see on campus (like the Drumheller Fountain), or you can take a free walking tour led by students.

Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market

Photo Credit: Travis Wise via Flickr, Used unmodified under CC BY 2.0 license

A classic tourist destination featured on movies, but still popular with locals, the Market has attractions from the weird to the historic. The gum wall in Post Alley is a favorite, as is visiting the original Starbucks, watching fish being thrown, and watching buskers perform. You can also take self-guided tours or explore your own path. (Say it like a local: “The Market” or “Pike Place,” after the name of the street it’s on, never “Pike’s”)

Frye Art Museum

Frye Museum Entry Pool

Photo Credit: Joe Wolf via Flickr, Used unmodified under CC BY-ND 2.0 license

Other Seattle museums have free days but this one is always free – admission, parking, and hour-long tour included. The Frye Founding Collection alone has 232 paintings, which are joined by additional artwork in the Museum Collection and a variety of changing exhibitions.

Seattle Center

100_3834

Photo Credit: Hourann Bosci via Flickr, Used unmodified under CC BY-SA 2.0 license

The Seattle Center is home to many festivals, events, and landmarks like the Experience Music Project (EMP) and the Space Needle. Neither of these are free, but there are plenty of free activities and opportunities year-round, like running (or dancing) through the water of the International Fountain (be sure to watch one of its five water programs synchronized to music), watching outdoor movies, or taking a self-guided tour of the many things the Center has to offer.

Klondike Gold Rush – Seattle Unit, National Historic Park

Klondike Gold Rush NHP

Photo Credit: Bart E via Flickr, Used unmodified under CC BY 2.0 license

This completely indoor park is free, consisting essentially of only a visitor center/museum, but is well worth a visit. The self-guided exhibits are highly interactive, and engage visitors of any age. The park also offers showings of educational videos, walking tours of the Pioneer Square Historical District, and demonstrations of mining techniques used during the gold rush (program schedule and offerings may vary throughout the year).

Ye Olde Curiosity Shop

Mummy II

Photo Credit: Michael Scheltgen via Flickr, Used unmodified under CC BY 2.0 license

In existence for more than 100 years, this shop (which is more like a museum) contains collections of shrunken heads, fleas in dresses (plugas vestidas), two mummies, taxidermy specimens of creatures with extra limbs or heads, dollar bill origami, and many more oddities.

Have you been to any of these places? Do you have other free or must-see attractions in Seattle?

Additional reading:
Read about Taylor’s experience (and see her amazing pictures) from her Seattle visit when we went to Gas Works Park, the UW campus, the Fremont Troll, and Woodland Park Zoo.

Want more posts like this? Leave a comment and let me know which places you would like to see featured, and be sure to sign up to stay updated on all the latest posts!

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