There are plenty of things to spend your money on while you’re in Seattle, but if you’re on a tight budget, you’ll find lots to do for free as well. Just walking through this city with its many delights, including fantastic people watching and free busker entertainment can make for a good time. From sailing to scenic walks and exploring world-class museums, come enjoy Seattle without paying an arm and a leg.
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Going sailing will usually set your budget back quite a bit, but The Center for Wooden Boats in Seattle may be one of only a few places you can sail for free. At its Lake Union location, visitors not only can take all sorts of classes and lessons, but every Sunday, they can head out onto the water with volunteer skippers and crew on spirit boats, schooners, electric boats, steamboats and occasionally yachts without paying a dime. It’s been a Seattle tradition for over a quarter-century, all year-round, rain or shine. Sign-ups for the one-hour trips begin in person at 10 a.m. that Sunday – be sure to arrive early, especially on a holiday weekend or a sunny day.
Pike Place Market
Pike Place Market is the oldest continually operating farmers’ market in the U.S., opened all the way back in 1907. An open-air market, it features a wide range of fresh produce, flowers and seafood, along with underground retailers that sell unique goods, including vintage items, handmade arts and crafts and more. You don’t have to buy anything just to enjoy its ambiance, and the entertaining buskers. There are usually plenty of free food samples, and watching the fishmongers toss the fresh catch of the day to the crowd always makes for a good time.
Capture a Selfie at the Famous Fremont Troll
The Fremont neighborhood is just north of downtown, and offers the opportunity for a selfie with a troll, the Fremont troll that is. The 18-foot-tall, one-eyed troll lives under the Aurora Bridge, holding onto a Volkswagen Bug. The two-ton sculpture that’s been there for nearly three decades now, is made of concrete, wire and steel, with a hubcap serving as his one good eye. He was created by a team of local artists as part of a competition to promote urban renewal. Though the judges dismissed it as a “hideous fiend,” locals loved it and the troll ultimately won the right to lurk in the space under the bridge for all eternity. A picture here, of course, is free, and makes a perfect souvenir for capturing the quirkiness of this funky community.
Hit the Beach
There are some fabulous beaches around Seattle, including two-and-a-half-mile Alki Beach in West Seattle. Thanks to its idyllic location on the Puget Sound, visitors enjoy dazzling views of the water, the boats, the ferries that cruise by, and what may be the very best city skyline view. Enjoy a tranquil stroll on the trail that parallels the beach, or just relax and take in the scene, it doesn’t cost a thing.
Stroll Through Parsons Gardens
One of Seattle’s best kept secrets, there is no admission to Parsons Gardens which can be found in the Queen Anne neighborhood not far from downtown. While this hidden oasis is usually missed by passersby, you’ll feel as if you’ve discovered your very own secret garden where you can take a stroll among the flowers or enjoy a picnic on the lush lawn, all in relative seclusion.
Catch an Amazing Sunset From Discovery Park
The largest city park in Seattle can be found atop Magnolia Bluff. It overlooks the city and the Puget Sound, and from here you’ll get a jaw-dropping view of both the area’s mountain ranges, the Cascade Mountains to the east and the Olympic Mountains to the west. Thanks to its higher elevation, it’s also considered one of the best places for watching the sun go down.
Check Out the OBAMA Museum
If you’re looking for something free and different, very different, head to the Official Bad Art Museum of Art, “OBAMA.” Set inside Café Racer, it displays paint-by-numbers, black velvet paintings, the famous portrait of dogs playing poker and other works meant for your amusement. It was designed for those who appreciate the absurd, with the interior painted in a shade that might remind you of a Cheeto, while bad art covers each and every wall. On the first Thursday of every month, you can enjoy the house band, “God’s Favorite Beefcake,” which is made up of runaways from the Seattle performance group Circus Contraption, too. While some loyal customers thought the “museum,” would change its name following the 2016 election, museum co-founder Marlow Harris says TRUMP (Tacky Room of Ugly Museum Pieces) just wouldn’t be acceptable to management, though they might have considered BERNIE, Banal Examples of Rare and Nonsensical Illustrations and Exhibits.
Free Museum Days
While the majority of Seattle’s museums do charge an admission fee, you can take advantage of free museum days which happen on the first Thursday each month. That includes the Seattle Art Museum, the Seattle Asian Art Museum, the Northwest African American Museum, the Museum of History and Industry, and the Museum of Flight.
Enjoy a Space Needle Worthy View Without the Price
If you want to get a Space Needle view with paying the high admission cost to ride the elevator to the observation deck, visit Kerry Park on Queen Anne Hill. Not only will you get an amazing panoramic view of the entire Seattle skyline, but you’ll get the Space Needle too. If you’re here on a clear day, Mount Rainier provides a breathtaking backdrop. After dark, it’s transformed into something almost fantastical, with the illuminated ferries that glide across the water and the Space Needle shining atop its 500-foot pedestal.