Below is a list of museums in Seattle, Bellevue, Tacoma, and surrounding cities that have free admission every day.
Always free museums in Seattle
Check out the following list of Seattle museums that offer free admission every day. They are listed in order going roughly north to south.
Center for Wooden Boats on South Lake Union is a hub of hands-on learning year-round. Boat rentals, classes and workshops, field trips, lectures, and opportunities for direct experience on the water and at the docks are just a few of the things you’ll find when you visit. Admission to The Center for Wooden Boats is always free! Walking the docks, exploring the boats and browsing the exhibits is always free of charge. Some programs, such as boat rentals, have associated fees, and others have suggested donations.
The Steamer Virginia V is a National Historic Landmark and a treasure of Seattle’s maritime history. The craftsmanship and engineering behind the Virginia V is a blueprint for success. The focal point is a magnificent steam engine settled in the all-wood hull. In 2002, the VV Foundation put the Virginia V back in service 80 years after her first voyage. She remains operational thanks to the hard work of volunteer staff and financial support from loyal members and generous donations from people like you. Open Boat Days: Thursdays-Sundays, 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm, provided the boat is docked at homeport on Lake Union. Check the website schedule before swinging by to make sure there are no conflicting events. Admission is free. Also check their calendar for public events held throughout the year.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Discovery Center aims to motivate and inspire people to take action—in their own unique ways—to improve the lives of others. Through displays, interactive exhibits, and programs, we work to spark conversation about global and local issues and highlight the important progress being made in Seattle and around the world. We designed the Discovery Center as a place where people can share ideas, explore their interests, and experience the power of optimism about the world’s future. Open Tuesday – Saturday, 10am to 5pm. Closed Sunday and Monday. Open Sundays during Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends. Closed on New Year’s Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Olympic Sculpture Park is downtown Seattle’s largest green space. Stroll along the 2,200-foot Z-shaped path that zigzags from the pavilion to the water’s edge to tour the park and view the world-class sculptures against the spectacular backdrop of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. As a former industrial site, the sculpture park’s nine acres have undergone extensive restoration, achieving a range of environmental goals including brownfield redevelopment, creation of a Chinook salmon habitat and a pocket beach, extensive use of native plantings, and the capture and use of on-site rainwater. The sculpture collection features major works by influential artists from the past half-century up to the present day. Open 365 days a year, the Olympic Sculpture Park opens 30 minutes prior to sunrise and closes 30 minutes after sunset. Admission is free.
Frye Art Museum in Seattle hosts a permanent collection of late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century European paintings as well as temporary exhibitions of works by internationally renowned and emerging artists. Admission to the Frye and parking are always free. See a list of current exhibitions and upcoming exhibitions. Frye Art Museum is located at 704 Terry Avenue, Seattle, Washington 98104 (Google map), near Boren Avenue and James Street, just steps from downtown Seattle.
Last Resort Fire Department Museum in Seattle (LRFD), located in Pioneer Square at the Seattle Fire Department Headquarters, features the largest collection of antique motorized fire apparatus in the Pacific Northwest. LRFD is dedicated to the acquisition, restoration, preservation and display of classic antique motorized fire apparatus. The rigs can be seen in parades, car and truck shows, fire station dedications, fire prevention exhibits and the annual Fire Festival in Pioneer Square. Fundraising activities include fire prevention displays, weddings, prom rides, office parties, retirement parties, Santa Claus arrivals, static displays and other community events. Open every Thursday from 11:00am – 3:00pm, except Holidays. Admission is free.
Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park in Seattle preserves the story of the stampede to the Yukon gold fields and Seattle’s crucial role in this event. The Visitor Center offers visitors a chance to step back in time and journey to the Yukon gold fields of Canada as thousands did in 1897 and 1898. Interactive exhibits highlight Seattle’s role in this international event. Touch screen computers allow visitors to experience the gold rush through the eyes of actual stampeders by referring to their journals and personal accounts. The park is free and open daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.
The Seattle Metropolitan Police Museum is the main depository for all historical artifacts from the Seattle Police Department and King County Sheriff’s Office and also displays privately owned artifacts and collections from both agencies. Artifacts include historic photographs, documents, weaponry, uniforms, badges, riot control equipment, nightsticks, restraints, investigative devices, vintage communication equipment, a jail cell, a communications center, and a variety of other cultural and technological displays from both agencies dating back to the late 1800’s. It is with great sadness that the Seattle Metropolitan Police Museum has announced the closure of its Pioneer Square educational facility at 317 Third Avenue South, effective October 25, 2017. However, the off-site Collections Management, Research. and Fleet Restoration facilities remain fully operational. They are also in the process of developing an enhanced website and a computerized inventory system to better share their vast collection with the public.
The Northwest Nikkei Museum is dedicated to preserving the heritage and history of the Pacific Northwest’s Nikkei community. Run and operated by the all-volunteer Northwest Nikkei Museum Committee, the NW Nikkei Museum gives Japanese Americans an opportunity to write and record their history in their own words to pass on to future generations. Their permanent exhibition, located at the Japanese Cultural & Community Center of Washington, 1414 S. Weller Street is titled “Unsettled/Resettled: Seattle’s Hunt Hotel”. The exhibit seeks to shed light on the experiences of Seattle Japanese and Japanese Americans during resettlement and raise awareness of the long-lasting consequences of Executive Order 9066, one of the most unjust and unconstitutional acts of government in American history. Open Monday through Friday from 9:30 am- 5:00 pm. Admission is free.
Coast Guard Museum Northwest in Seattle. Ask for directions at the Main Gate at Pier 36. See thousands of Coast Guard related items, including large models of Coast Guard cutters, vessel plans, photographs, patches, and books, plus many interesting maritime artifacts (uniforms, ship wheels, lighthouse lenses, buoy lenses, ships bell, sextant…). Staffed entirely by volunteers. Admission is free. Hours: Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9AM-3PM (closed Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday).
Georgetown Steam Plant in south Seattle. Seattle City Light public utility company is pleased to be able to share this National Historic Landmark. Before you go, read the safety, photography, parking, and other information on their website. A National Historic Landmark, the Georgetown Steam Plant represents an important development in the early history of electrical engineering in the United State. The plant’s two vertical Curtis turbines, manufactured by General Electric in 1907, helped establish the steam turbine as capable of producing large amounts of power more cheaply and efficiently than other generators of the time. It’s also an early example of reinforced concrete construction using the “fast track” process advocated by the project’s lead engineer and designer, Frank B. Gilbreth, as well as a significant example of Neo-Classical architecture, common among federal, municipal and industrial structures of the 1890s-1910s, with an emphasis on monumentality, scale and structural expression. City Light operated the plant until the 1970s. Today, it continues to provide a great current and historical vista in Georgetown. Tours and open houses of the plant have been made available to the community, and it continues to be used as a teaching facility to train the next generation of steam power engineers and hobbyists. Open to the public the second Saturday of every month from 10:00am to 2:00pm, with free guided tours at 11:00am and 1:00pm. Admission is free and no reservations are required.
Log House Museum in West Seattle is a renovated turn-of-the-century log structure, which once served as a carriage house, or stable, to the Fir Lodge, one of the first year-round homes built on Alki Beach. This old building, built of Douglas fir logs, has been a home to various Alki families for most of the past 90+ years. At one time it even housed an antique store. The building was renovated by the Southwest Seattle Historical Society in 1995 and converted into the Log House Museum. The landscaping is all done with native planting. Open Thursday-Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. No admission charge. Suggested donation: $3 adults, $1 children.
Always free museums north and east of Seattle
Microsoft Visitor Center in Redmond explores the vision, products, culture, and history of Microsoft. The exhibits display everything from the latest Microsoft Research innovations to the very first personal computer. Explore hands-on exhibits featuring some of the company’s most exciting technologies for home and business. Open to all employees and visitors to the Microsoft campus. Microsoft Visitor Center, 15010 NE 36th Street, Microsoft Campus Building 92, Redmond, WA 98052.
Northwest Railway Museum in Snoqualmie (about 30 miles east of Seattle) consists of several locations, the 1890 Snoqualmie Depot, the Centennial Trail Exhibit, and a Railway History Center. The Snoqualmie Depot has been restored to its turn of the century grandeur. What were once waiting rooms and a freight room are now exhibits about railroad history and the railroad experience. There is no admission charge to visit the Snoqualmie Depot; hours are 10am to 5 pm. The Snoqualmie Depot is located at 38625 SE King Street (faces SR 202 or Railroad Avenue) in Snoqualmie, WA. The Centennial Trail Exhibit is on a public walkway, is free and never closes. The Railway History Center is available for a nominal fee by guided tour departing most Saturdays during the Regular Season at 12:30pm.
Always free museums south and west of Seattle
Naval Undersea Museum on the Kitsap Peninsula. The museum’s five galleries of permanent exhibits provide a comprehensive introduction to the Navy’s undersea history and operations, including ocean environment, torpedo technology, mine warfare, submarine technology, diving, and salvage. The museum holds over 39,000 artifacts, which includes items of historic, technological, and cultural significance related to the U.S. Navy’s undersea history, exploration, and technical development, including submersibles, torpedoes, mines, submarine equipment, diving gear, ROVs, and models. Location: 1 Garnett Way, Keyport, WA 98345, , next to the Naval Undersea Warfare Center Keyport and between the cities of Poulsbo and Bremerton. Hours: October-April, Wednesday-Monday 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM, CLOSED on Tuesdays; May-September, daily, 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM. Closed: Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day, and Easter. Admission is FREE.
Pacific Bonsai Museum in Federal Way connects people to nature through the living art of bonsai. A grand outdoor setting with the elegance of a fine art museum, the Museum boasts over 150 bonsai and the most diverse public collection in North America with trees from Canada, China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and the United States. Featuring sixty trees at a time and open to the public six days a week, this cultural gem offers contemporary and traditional exhibitions, group tours, and education. Weyerhaeuser Company opened the Collection in 1989, in conjunction with the Washington State Centennial celebration. The Collection was established to symbolize Weyerhaeuser’s long-term commitments to its customers, its community, and its forest resources. In 2013, the Company gifted the entire collection to a new non-profit, The George Weyerhaeuser Pacific Rim Bonsai Collection, now known as the Pacific Bonsai Museum. Admission by donation. Pacific Bonsai Museum, 2515 S. 336th St., Federal Way, WA 98003.
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