The Seattle area is full of amazing attractions to share with visiting family and friends or plan your staycation. Filling days with outings to our many captivating museums, boat tours, the Seattle Great Wheel, the Space Needle and more, eating out along the way, is great fun, but can quickly add up to a lot of money. Unless you’re fortunate enough to have an unlimited budget, a balanced day (and budget) can include one or two fabulous, pricey events, matched with some fun free or low-cost activities.
Keep your eyes out for festivals around the region on summer weekends, filled with free entertainment, arts and crafts vendors for browsing, and food vendors. Outdoor movies and performances are another free or low-cost way to enjoy summer days and evenings.
Walking through Pike Place Market, the Seattle waterfront and other local hot spots is free, minus what you’re tempted to buy. A visit to one of our many scenic parks and beaches provide welcome relaxation and fresh air, and we’re lucky to have lots of beautiful choices including Discovery Park, Lincoln Park, Washington Park Arboretum and many more in Seattle and the surrounding area.
One of Seattle’s favorite attractions, the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks in Ballard, provides a fascinating look at boats traveling between Puget Sound and fresh water, with windows to watch salmon swim up the fish ladder, and beautiful ornamental gardens. The grounds feature a visitors center, tours and outdoor weekend concerts in summer, all free.
One of the region’s most popular attractions, Snoqualmie Falls, is well worth the drive. More than 1.5 million visitors come to see the magnificent, 270-foot falls every year, and the 2-acre park with observation deck, Salish Lodge and the trail to the lower observation deck are all open daily, free, including free parking. The trail from the parking lot to the viewing platform is wheelchair accessible, and leashed pets are allowed.
Boat rides are a quintessential part of local culture. Scenic, low-cost boat rides include the King County Water Taxi from the Seattle waterfront to Alki, a quick 10-15 minute ride for $2.50-$5.75 each way. Other passenger-only ferries include Kitsap Transit’s Bremerton/Seattle and Kingston/Seattle routes, Mondays through Saturdays, $1-$10/one way. All passenger ferries are open to bicycles at no charge, space available. Washington State Ferries are another affordable option for foot passengers, with fares ranging from $2.50 to $8.50 for scenic, round-trip rides or a variety of day trip destinations and adventures.
Our region’s array of captivating museums are totally worth admission that can top $30 a person, but if you’re planning for a group visit, free first Thursdays at many local museums are worth planning your schedule around. Other inexpensive museum outings include the Frye Art Museum on First Hill and Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park in Pioneer Square, both always free, and many other small, interesting museums around the region, including Shoreline Historical Museum, Bainbridge Island Museum of Art and Bainbridge Island Historical Museum. Admission is $5 or less at venues including Edmonds Historical Museum, Renton History Museum and White River Valley Museum in Auburn.