The following list of Seattle-Tacoma events and attractions cost more than $15, our threshold price for “cheap” entertainment. (Some cost A LOT more.) However, these popular events are cited as some of the best of the best in entertainment in the Puget Sound region. So, if you want to splurge, these are some of the events to consider when planning how to budget your entertainment dollars.
Volunteering at events is one way to reduce you cost and get more out of it by participating behind the scenes. Being a volunteer can sometimes include free or reduced admission or other benefits. If available, we’ve provided a link to volunteer information. Note that volunteer positions are often filled well in advance of the upcoming event.
We also provide a similar free or cheap option, if the ticket price on these events is just too much splurge for your wallet.
Emerald City Comic Con
Emerald City Comic Con is held in spring at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle. The comic and pop culture show features content creators and provides an opportunity for fans of their work to interact directly with artists, writers, and celebrities, as well as view exhibits, explore games, and participate in cosplay.
- Emerald City Comic Con one-day ticket: $35-45.
Why it’s worth a splurge: Even if you aren’t into comics, this event is a fun day of looking at graphic novels and chatting with their creators. Get a Thursday ticket if you can; it’s is cheaper and less crowded. Where to go instead: If the price is just too high, then we recommend you visit comic book stores around the region. If you visit the first Saturday in May, you can get a free comic book.
Taste Washington food & wine event
Taste Washington every spring in Seattle features over 200 wineries, dozens of restaurants, celebrated chefs, and exhibitors in the city’s ultimate tasting event of the year. The all-inclusive ticket includes all wine and food samples. It is a 21+ only event.
- Taste Washington one-day ticket: $95 GA, $230 early admission PLUS additional dinners and seminars.
- Taste Washington volunteer opportunities are available.
Why it’s worth a splurge: it’s the most food and wine you’ll get in one day in one place. The wineries and chefs seem to pull out all the stops, so if you drink wine and like food, it’s a day like no other. Where to go instead: Go wine tasting at wineries and shops around the region or hit up a food festival. You could try several for the same price as a TW tickets.
Seattle International Film Festival
Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) is held every spring in theaters throughout Seattle. The 25-day film festival is the largest in the United States. SIFF offers movie goers the opportunity to see hundreds of feature-length films, shorts, and documentaries from master filmmakers as well as emerging artists from around the world.
- SIFF Six-film package is $75 ($12.50 ea).
- Twenty films $240 ($12 ea).
- Full series pass is $1,350.
- SIFF volunteer opportunities are available.
- Get more info about tickets discounts on the Greater Seattle on the Cheap SIFF page.
Why it’s worth a splurge: movies you won’t see anywhere else that can provide thoughtful and engaging entertainment. Where to go instead: Several groups around the region host Meaningful Movies, which are free (with suggested donation) and always thought provoking, followed by a discussion. So, you get an interesting movie as well as meet interesting people.
Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery Summer Concert Series
The Summer Concert Series at the Woodinville winery outdoor amphitheater has hosted artists across a wide variety of genre, such a James Taylor, Stevie Wonder, ZZ Top, Josh Groban, Alison Krauss, Norah Jones, John Legend, and Sarah McLachlan. All concerts are held rain or shine.
The amphitheater seats 4,300 people. General Admission seating is festival-style on the lawn. Bring your own blanket and/or chair. Reserved seating is also available, located directly in front of the stage with chairs provided. Picnic food and non-alcoholic beverages are allowed but be sure to read the rules and restrictions. A variety of foods, as well as wine is available for purchase.
More info about Ste. Michelle Winery: https://www.ste-michelle.com/.
- General admission prices range roughly from $40-$90 but are priced according to each artist.
- Reserved seats are higher of course with some reserved seats priced at $150 or more.
Why it’s worth a splurge: Sitting on the grass in summer listening to great music with friends doesn’t get much better than that. Where to go instead: We keep a list of places where you can enjoy free summer concerts in locations throughout the Puget Sound region. Or anytime you want to groove, check our list of free and cheap live music venues.
Wild Waves Theme Park
Wild Waves Water Park and Theme Park in Federal Way is the largest water park in the Northwest, located 25 miles south of Seattle. Wild Waves has over 60 amusement rides, plus water slides and pools. During summer it’s a water park. At Halloween and Christmas, it’s a theme park with holiday entertainment and special attractions.
If you use the park four or more times during the year, a season ticket offers great value. For example, visit four days in summer, or visit two days in summer plus Halloween and Christmas.
- Wild Waves Season pass: $80.
- Season passes are discounted if you buy them early, usually before Memorial Day.
- Get more info about passes and discounts on the Greater Seattle on the Cheap Wild Waves page.
Why it’s worth a splurge: If the location is convenient, it’s a nice option for the kiddos during summer as well as some family fun around the holidays. One season ticket does it all. Where to go instead: In Seattle, check out free sprayparks, wading pools, beaches. Elsewhere in the region, find King County Parks with swimming beaches or pools, or search for swimming (fresh or salt water) in Washington State Parks.
Getaway: Gorge Amphitheatre concerts & festivals
The Gorge Amphitheatre, aka The Gorge at George is located near the town of George, Washington, about 150 miles east of Seattle. Perched on a hillside overlooking the Columbia River, it is considered one of the most scenic concert venues in the country. The amphitheater seats nearly 30,000 people and hosts world class concerts and music festivals.
Events are held rain or shine. Summertime temperatures can range from a breezy 50°F at night to 100°F under clear, sunny skies during the day. So, check the weather report for the period you will be at the Gorge and be sure to bring appropriate clothing, sunscreen, and other necessary supplies.
- Gorge Amphitheatre event ticket prices vary widely per concert or festival.
- Buy tickets through LiveNation.com or Ticketmaster to guarantee validity.
The cost of attending a Gorge concert or festival often includes an overnight or weekend stay, since most people don’t want to make the 2½ hour drive back to the city after the event concludes. No overnight parking is permitted in the venue parking lots. However, there are a few options:
- Book a modest hotel in Quincy, or a little farther away in Ephrata, Ellensburg, or Wenatchee.
- RentTheGorge offers a variety of rentals from homes to campsites.
- Camping options at the Gorge range from $60-$800 per vehicle. Prices are lower for campsites without a tent and limited amenities (portable toilet, pay shower) and higher for sites with all-inclusive or “glamping” options (tent or cottage plus upgraded amenities such as flushing toilets, free hot showers, lockers, and linens, etc.). Not all options are available for every event. Some options are very limited and sell out well in advance.
Why it’s worth a splurge: It’s one of the best outdoor concert venues in the country–some say in the world. Where to go instead: Get a concert ticket for a headliner show at the Washington State Fair in Puyallup. Even if it’s close to the price of a winery concert, a Puyallup fair concert ticket includes entrance all day at the State Fair–so it’s really two events in one. And the drive home isn’t nearly as far, so you avoid the overnight costs.
PAX West gaming convention
PAX West gaming convention is held in summer at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle. PAX video and tabletop gaming conventions feature major game publishers, independent developers, panels by industry experts, competitions, concerts, and parties.
Founded in Seattle on 2004 by Washington natives Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik, authors of the popular web comic Penny Arcade, PAX conventions are now held in cities across the country throughout the year.
2021 PAX West information
- When: September 3-6, 2021
- Where: Washington State Convention Center in Seattle
- Tickets: 1-day $60. Weekend pass (4-day): $230.
- Volunteer opportunities (PAX West “enforcer”)
- FREE PAX Online: https://www.greaterseattleonthecheap.com/pax-online-gaming-convention/
Why it’s worth a splurge: Like Emerald City Comic Con, PAX West is a fascinating microcosm of pop culture, even if you aren’t into games. Where to go instead: museums in the Puget Sound region where you can explore gaming and related technology are the Microsoft Visitor Center, Living Computers museum + labs, Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI), and Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP). The Microsoft Center is always free. Living Computers and MOHAI are free every first Thursday.
Seattle International Beer Festival
Seattle international Beerfest (SIBF) in summer at Seattle Center. This 3-day indoor/outdoor festival is a tremendous opportunity to sample 200+ beers, including pilsners and lagers, porters and stouts, cask ales, specialty brews, and every other style of craft brew you can imagine (and some you probably haven’t). No other festival in the state will get you more taste opportunities to taste such a wide variety of beer in one place. There are ample food choices from event food booths, the Seattle Center Armory, and restaurants in the area.
- Seattle Beer Festival ticket: $35 (ten tastes).
- Extra tastes are available for purchase.
- Seattle Beer Festival volunteer opportunities are available.
Why it’s worth a splurge: If you like beer, this is the best event in the Puget Sound region where you can sample the most kinds and the most unusual beers. Where to go instead: There’s no comparison, really. Volunteer some hours with the festival to bring your cost down. You can also do flights at local breweries and pubs, but the selection is limited compared to this festival. However, a close alternate is the Washington Beer Open House, which happens every spring (usually March) at brewers around the state; prices vary per location, but average $3-$10 for brews and tastings. So, you could end up spending more than at SIBF. More info: https://washingtonbeer.com/washington-craft-beer/washington-beer-open-house.php
Seafair Weekend Blue Angels Air Show & Hydroplane Races
Seafair Weekend the first Sunday in August is the culmination of Seattle’s summer festival. It’s an exhilarating event, complete with thundering hydroplane boats on the water, an air show overhead featuring the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, pro wake boarders performing incredible stunts, food vendors, beer gardens, live music, and activities for the whole family. You can bring a picnic and languish on the grassy shores of Lake Washington, enjoying the spectacle and the people watching.
- One-day Seafair Weekend tickets are $40.
- Seafair volunteer opportunities are available.
Why it’s worth a splurge: It’s the only place to see hydroplane races in the area. Check out Seafair Weekend discount ticket options to bring the cost down and pack a picnic lunch when you go. Where to go instead: If you want to see the Blue Angels, we keep a list of places where you can catch them for free. If it’s an air show you’re after, check out Gig Harbor Wings & Wheels about a month before Seafair Weekend. For hydros, head to the Hydroplane & Raceboat Museum in Kent.
Bumbershoot Labor Day Arts Festival
Bumbershoot is held every Labor Day Weekend at Seattle Center. It is one of the biggest and most-loved contemporary festivals in North America yet maintains its Northwest spirit and innovative roots. It is a special blend of world and nationally renowned talent, local artistry, and spectacle.
The multi-disciplinary arts festival is a microcosm of what is current across all art forms, an opportunity presented by few other festivals around the world. Bumbershoot showcases the best of music, comedy, dance, film, theatre, and literary, performing, and visual arts.
- One-day Bumbershoot tickets are $130.
- Bumbershoot volunteer opportunities are available.
Why it’s worth a splurge: It’s the most art in all forms you’ll see anywhere. Where to go instead: Folklife Festival Memorial Day weekend at Seattle Center is free and equally big, though donations are requested to help sustain this festival.
Live theater season tickets
Season tickets to a local theatre represents great entertainment value as well as supports the vibrant Puget Sound art community. Most theatre seasons run fall to spring. For lower cost when buying theatre season tickets, look for flex passes, half-season or mini-subscriptions (less than a full season), and preview tickets (prior to opening night).
- Visit theatre websites for details on season tickets and volunteer opportunities.
- Theatre suggestions include ACT Theatres, ArtsWest, Edmonds Driftwood Players, Intiman, Seattle Shakespeare Company, Tacoma Little Theatre, Tacoma Musical Playhouse, Taproot Theatre Company, and Thistle Puppet Theatre.
- For more theater suggestions, visit Theatre Puget Sound. Theater Puget Sound membership includes discounts to theatres and related businesses.
Why it’s worth a splurge: There’s really nothing like live theater. Seattle has a wonderfully vibrant theatre culture with many choices in content and price from classics to leading edge. Where to go instead: Volunteer with a local theatre. You don’t always get free tickets, but you get a behind-the-scenes look at stage production that is a priceless experience, plus meet interesting people.
South Sound Craft Beer Festival
South Sound Craft Beer Festival in fall at the Tacoma Dome focuses in craft breweries in Washington State. This is a newer festival, but one we hope continues to grow. One drawback is you are limited to stadium food, which is generally expensive and limited. You might want to consider a good meal before going to the festival and plan for a snack in Tacoma’s Theater District afterward (a few blocks north of the Dome).
- Sound South Beer Festival ticket: $25 (six tastes).
- Extra tastes are available for purchase.
- South Sound Beer Festival volunteer opportunities are available.
Why it’s worth a splurge: The best thing about beer festivals is the opportunity to taste brews you don’t necessarily find at restaurants and pubs. Where to go instead: we like to recommend volunteering for organizations where the ticket price is too steep for you. It’s one of the best ways to stretch your entertainment dollar, plus you get an inside look into the event or organization and meet other like-minded people.
Northwest Chocolate Festival
Northwest Chocolate Festival in fall at a Seattle venue is the largest gathering of artisan chocolate makers in the world. Exhibitors from 20 countries offer milk chocolate, dark chocolate, inclusion bars, decadent desserts, truffles, bonbons, molten chocolate cakes, and caramels. Some are new innovations and others are hard to find outside this festival.
- NW Chocolate Festival one-day ticket: $35.
Why it’s worth a splurge: The most chocolate you’ll find in one place at one time. Where to go instead: There are several places you can go on free or cheap chocolate tours, including every Saturday in Seattle’s Interbay neighborhood (between the waterfront and Ballard).
These Seattle-Tacoma festivals and events with an admission price of more than $15 are some of the best events all year around the Pacific Northwest. When you want to splurge on entertainment, these come highly recommended by attendees and fans.