The following free things to do in Seattle and around the Puget Sound region include indoor and outdoor attractions, tours, museum, parks and gardens, free music, outdoor activities, and more. We offer many different types of events, suitable for young and old, when you have kids in tow, need to stay indoors, or want to get outside. Whether you want to have fun or learn something new, we’ve got dozens of ways to entertain yourself without opening your wallet. Many of these free things to do in Seattle-Tacoma metro area (and beyond) are open to the public every day.
Free outdoor attractions in the Puget Sound region
(Listed alphabetically by city. Seattle attractions listed by name.)
Multiple cities. Use a labyrinth walk for contemplation, stress reduction, spiritual development, or simply to enjoy the day. Located throughout the Puget Sound region; some are located in church yards and many are located at public parks. Find a labyrinth in a city near you: 40+ Walking labyrinths in Washington State (greaterseattleonthecheap.com)
Multiple locations. There are many lighthouses throughout the Puget Sound region, some fully-functioning. Most lighthouse grounds are open year-round and free to visit, though donations are gladly accepted for upkeep of the grounds and historic buildings. More info: 16 Puget Sound lighthouses you can visit for free (greaterseattleonthecheap.com)
Puyallup. Puyallup Fish Hatchery (36 miles S of Seattle) sits on 80 acres and welcomes visitors year-round during daylight hours. The Educational Center is open on Saturdays from 10 am to 2 pm and staffed by volunteers from the Puyallup Historical Hatchery Foundation. Each October, the hatchery hosts a Salmon Homecoming to welcome the salmon returning to Clarks Creek with music, tours, and games for all ages. The rest of the year, you are invited to walk the trails and enjoy the beautiful sylvan setting of this historic treasure.
Seattle. Beecher’s Cheese at Pike Place Market offers visitors a view from the street into the Beecher’s cheesemaking kitchen. Grab a beverage or a nosh, then watch the cheesemakers in this centuries-old craftsmanship using today’s technology. Open daily except holidays and cheesemaking hours vary.
Seattle. Seattle Center is an art, recreational, cultural, and civic center, originally constructed for the 1962 World’s Fair (known as Century 21). Many of the city’s best (and pricey) attractions are here: Space Needle, Seattle Opera, Chihuly Garden, MoPOP, Seattle Rep, and many more. But there are also many free things to see and do, including strolling the 74-acre grounds, viewing public artworks, the International Fountain (synchronized to music), a playground, and skate plaza. Grounds open daily. Seattle Center Armory Food & Event Hall is open 362 days a year (closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day).
Seattle. Center for Wooden Boats on South Lake Union next to the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) has free activities include browsing dock exhibits, exploring boats, and Sunday sail boat rides. Dock open daily; museum closed Monday-Tuesday.
Seattle. Chittenden Locks in Ballard, simply called Ballard Locks but officially named Hiram M. Chittenden Locks are the Nation’s busiest, handling over 40,000 commercial and recreational vessels as they transverse the city. The entire complex includes two locks, a spillway, and a fish ladder for migration of salmon. In addition, there are beautiful gardens around the facility, open daily. The fish ladder is a special feature of this park. In the fish ladder viewing gallery, you can watch salmon migrate mid-June through September. During the rest of the year, it’s still an interesting structure to see. Check out these videos of Ballard Locks operations:
- Ballard Locks Time-lapse on Memorial Day weekend (6:05)
- Ballard Locks: aerial footage of largest cruise ship transit (3:06)
- Ballard Locks emptied for annual cleaning—and treasure hunt (1:52)
- Ballard Locks: how to information for boaters (14:12)
Seattle. Commodore Park offers great views of Salmon Bay along the south side of Seattle’s Lake Washington Ship Canal (across from Ballard Locks). Water flows through the spillways and ships and boats of all sizes can be observed traversing the Ballard locks. There is a short, comfortable walk along a promenade, featuring cozy shelters in case you are caught in a downpour. The walk ends at the canal, where the fish ladder is clearly visible.
Seattle. Elliott Bay Trail is a 5-mile trail located along on Seattle’s waterfront north of Pier 70 and passes through three parks:
- Olympic Sculpture Park is a 9-acre former industrial transformed into open and vibrant green space that provides you a unique opportunity to experience BIG art outdoors against the beauty of the Olympic Mountains (weather permitting) and Puget Sound.
- Myrtle Edwards Park offers a 1.25-mile winding bike and pedestrian path along Elliott Bay, with fantastic views of Puget Sound. If clear weather, the Olympic Mountains and Mount Rainier provide majestic alpine vistas. Even on cloudy days, there is plenty of nautical traffic on Puget Sound.
- Centennial Park is an 11-acre green space with several interesting features: 4,100 linear feet of shoreline, tackle shop, rose garden, bike and pedestrian path, outdoor exercise equipment, picnic tables and restrooms, a view of the grain terminal, and views of Mount Rainier and the Olympic Mountains (weather permitting). You might also see occasional seal and sea lion activity in Elliott Bay.
Seattle farmers markets in several neighborhoods are open year-round: Saturdays in the University District and Sundays in the Ballard, Capitol Hill, and West Seattle neighborhoods. More info: Farmers markets in the Puget Sound region.
Seattle. Seward Park in south Seattle features an easy, flat, paved perimeter path around an old-growth forest with beautiful, natural views of Lake Washington, including Mount Rainier on days the “mountain is out”. The Park is also home to The Seward Park Environmental & Audubon Center. Check their calendar for events; something fun and interesting is always happening, such as guided nature walks or science workshops. Many are free; some have a low fee. coyotes and made coyote scat ice cream. Other Super Saturday topics include “Bugillions” of Bugs, Urban Gardening, and Science of Snow.
Seattle. Waterfront Seattle (Dzidzilalich) is undergoing a multi-year transformation from 2017-2025 that includes replacing the Elliott Bay sea wall (completed 2017), building a new underground tunnel (opened February 2019), and removal of the aging Alaska Way viaduct concrete roadway (completed 2019). A new street, Elliott Way (opened 2023) spans 17 blocks from Pioneer Square to Belltown, between Alaskan Way and Bell St. Elliott Way has the honorary name Dzidzilalich (pronounced: dzee-dzuh-lah-leech), which means “little crossing over place” in Lushootseed, one of the languages of the Coast Salish people. Still to be completed is a new park promenade and two-way protected bike path along Alaskan Way (anticipated late 2024) and rebuilding Pier 58 (anticipated 2025). Waterfront Park at Pier 62 hosts fun public events, look for them on our Calendar of free and cheap things to do every day (greaterseattleonthecheap.com).
Snoqualmie. Snoqualmie Falls (30 miles E of Seattle) at 268-feet is one of Washington state’s most popular scenic attractions, especially fall through spring after abundant rain and/or snow melt. There’s a two-acre park and short trail to the lower observation deck. Open daily. Check their website for weather conditions.
Tacoma. Chihuly Glass Walking Tour in Tacoma. This free audio tour and map from Tacoma Art Museum allows users to learn more about Dale Chihuly’s artwork throughout the Museum District. Open daily.
Tacoma. Tacoma Link Light Rail. Getting around Tacoma is easy on the Tacoma Link Light Rail with free service from one end of downtown to the other. Catch a ride every 12 minutes during the day at six stops. Open 365 days a year.
Tacoma. Tacoma’s Ruston Way Waterfront offers a stunning two-mile path along the saltwater banks of Puget Sound. It’s a great place in any weather for walking, jogging, rollerblading, and fishing. Open daily.
Free indoor attractions in the Puget Sound region
Multiple cities. Seattle is ranked as one of the most literate cities in the country. It may come as no surprise that we have many independent bookstores. Any of them make a great outing. Check out list of Independent bookstores where you can get recommendations for your next great read, attend author events, buy gifts, or just browse the shelves.
Multiple cities. Free fun things to do at the library. We’ve got the lowdown on libraries in the Puget Sound region and all the free, fun things you can do that go way beyond checking out books to read. You’ll find music, movies, crafts, games, museum passes, activity kits, and much, much more. Hours vary but you can find libraries open every day of the week (excluding holidays).
- Seattle. Seattle Public Central Library glass and steel structure was designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas. Inside, the library features underground parking and a collection capacity of 1.45 million books on 11 floors, and a four-level “Books Spiral” with most of the nonfiction collection in a continuous loop. The library offers a range of services, a large computer lab, interesting community events in the 275-seat auditorium, and open spaces for reading and study. Free self-guided tours detailing the architecture and services are available in print, audio, or by cell phone. Open daily except major holidays.
Everett & Seattle. Our regions is a world-class glassblowing center. There are many glass studios you can visit to browse, buy gifts, or take classes. The following free glass blowing demos:
- Schack Art Center, 2921 Hoyt Ave, Everett, WA. The center features an art gallery, gift shop, hot shop, and art classes. From the center’s main art gallery, visitors can watch glassblowers at work in a state-of-the-art hot shop.
- Glasshouse Studio & Gallery, 311 Occidental Ave S, Seattle, WA 98104. Visit the glass art gallery, watch glass blowing demos, or take an exclusive tour. Free demos 6 days a week.
- Blowing Sands Glass Studio & Gallery, 5805 14th Ave NW, Seattle, WA 98107. Art gallery and glass studio where you can buy unique glass art works and watch glass blowing demos.
- Seattle Glassblowing Studio & Gallery, 2227 5th Ave. Seattle, WA 98121. Art gallery and interactive glassblowing studio where you can learn about glassblowing techniques. Free demos 7 days a week.
- Avalon Glassworks, 2914 SW Avalon Way, Seattle, WA 98126. Glass art gallery and working hot shop where you can talk to the artists, see the process, and buy gifts of glasswork made on-site. Free demos 5 days a week.
- More info: Ultimate guide: glass museums, glass blowing studios, classes, and events (greaterseattleonthecheap.com)
Seattle. Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center within Discovery Park is a center Native American services and events. The permanent and rotating art exhibits include works by and about Native Americans, including traditional works as well as local and internationally recognized contemporary artists. Free admission, donations accepted. Open weekdays.
Seattle. Georgetown Steam Plant. 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. Drop-in tours are available. Open 2nd Saturday.
Seattle. Pike Place Market has many retail shops, nook, and crannies to explore. Open 363 days a year, closed only Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. A lot of guides recommend highlights such as the Gum Wall, Rachel the Pig, and the “first” Starbucks. Our list points out some of the more obscure places at Pike Place Market to while away time. Can’t get to the market? Enjoy these video tours:
- Pike Place Market sights and sounds (15:38)
- Pike Place Market Walking Tour (16:10)
- Pike Place Market Guided Food Tour #1 (13:32)
- Pike Place Market Guided Food Tour #2 (19:54)
Seattle. Starbuck’s Roastery & Tasting Room in Seattle on Capitol Hill features the rarest coffees and exacting preparations for the coffee aficionado in an ever-evolving menu of coffee, flights, cocktails, and food. There is no guided tour, so plan on exploring on your own. The Roastery has exclusive coffee offerings and merchandise items available only in the store. Weekday early mornings is the quietest time. The rush starts late morning, and the space can stay busy until close.
Seattle. Uwajimaya Grocery Store in Seattle’s Chinatown is a unique shopping experience with a focus on Asian produce, meats, and vast selection of seafood, plus sauces, noodles and rice, vinegars and sake, deli and catering offerings, beer and wine, cookware, gifts, and a Pacific Rim food court. Need thinly sliced meats for hotpot? Check. Looking for fish sauce or mirin? Check-check. How about a ginger grater? Easy-peasy. Founder Fujimatsu Moriguchi named his business Uwajima-ya, after the town of Uwajima where he learned his trade and adding ”ya”, which simply means “store” in Japanese. Fifteen of his descendants are involved in the business today.
Tacoma. Chihuly Bridge of Glass is a 500-foot-long pedestrian overpass that links the Tacoma Glass Museum to downtown Tacoma. Crossing over to Pacific Avenue, continue to the U.S. District Courthouse in the historic Union Station building featuring several more Chihuly sculptures. The Tacoma Glass Museum is free every 3rd Thursday in the evening. The courthouse is a federal facility, so only open weekdays, closed federal holidays, and requires government issued I.D. to enter—they’re happy to direct you towards Chihuly’s works.
Tacoma. Griot’s Garage & Retail Store in Tacoma features leading-edge car care products and a rotating display of vintage autos and cool cars. Every 1st Saturday they host a Cruise-In Car Show with coffee, donuts, and cool cars. Open daily.
Free tours in Seattle (and beyond)
(Listed alphabetically by city.)
Ellensburg. The Wild Horse Wind/Solar Facility (130 miles E of Seattle) offers a first-hand look at how the wind and sun in Kittitas County are turned into electricity from the facility’s wind turbines. Enjoy 360-degree views of Mount Rainier, Mount Adams, Mount Hood, and the Columbia River Basin. Weather permitting, free guided 45-60 minute walking tour depart daily, April-October. No reservation needed. Dress for the weather. Closed-toed shoes are REQUIRED. Tours can be cancelled or modified at any time due to inclement weather, high winds, or any unsafe conditions.
Federal Way. Pacific Bonsai Museum connects people to nature through the living art of bonsai. The Museum boasts the most diverse public collection in North America. You can enjoy a 30-minute guided tour every Sunday. No reservations required. Donations are always gratefully accepted.
Issaquah. Boehm’s Candies offers free self-guided window tours anytime during business hours. Watch (and smell!) candy makers as they work on the day’s production. Information posted at every window describes each area’s purpose, as well as gives some history of Boehm’s. The best times to visit are usually Monday through Friday between 9:00 am – 3:00 pm.
Redmond. Microsoft Visitor Center offers self-guided, interactive tours during regular business hours. Experience some of the latest technology products, explore hands-on exhibits, and learn about the people whose ideas and creativity that make Microsoft a world leader in computer and software technology. Most people get through in 30 to 60 minutes, but you can take as much time as you like. No registration is required. However, be sure to check their schedule on the website or call before you head over; they may be closed if a private event is scheduled.
Renton. King County election ballot counting, is one of the more inspired and unique free tours where you get to see democracy in action at the King County Election office in Renton. The viewing loop is open during business hours with extended hours on Election Days. The Elections office recommends visiting during an election, which usually take place in February, April, August, and November. No appointment is needed for the FREE public viewing loop. For a list of current elections, visit http://www.kingcounty.gov/depts/elections/elections. For direction to the Elections Office, visit http://kingcounty.gov/depts/elections/about-us/contact-us/directions.
Seattle. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation near offers free public drop-in tours. Advance registration is not required. After your tour, be sure to visit the interactive gallery to see new ideas, suggestions, and inventions from other visitors. Tours available Tuesday-Saturday.
Seattle. Filson has manufactured outdoor clothes and accessories for more than 100 years using the best raw materials and construction techniques for garments, bags, and gear that last for generations. Filson factory tours are offered twice a week at their store located in the SODO district, near the sports stadiums. Visit the Filson tour page to sign up for a tour.
Seattle. Geocaching tour of Fremont. Print out a GeoTour passport and take a self-guided tour to find nine geocaches in the Fremont neighborhood. The entire walking GeoTour takes 2.5 to 3 hours to complete. On weekdays (excluding holidays), end your day at the Geocaching HQ visitor center and peruse the geocache museum.
Seattle. Hiram M. Chittenden (aka “Ballard”) Locks are situated in the Ballard neighborhood along the Lake Washington Ship Canal, which bisects the city of Seattle and connects Puget Sound to Lake Washington. Take a free self-guided tour using a brochure that you can pick up at the visitor center, open daily in summer, closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays in winter. Free guided tours are available March-November.
Seattle. Historic Seattle walking tour is a free self-guided Walking Tour of Seattle’s Pioneer Square Historic District. Pick up a Tour Map in the visitor center at the Klondike Gold Rush Museum, 319 2nd Ave South. In addition, free ranger-led tours are offered during summer, on a first come basis.
Seattle. KEXP is one of the most influential listener-supported radio stations in the world at 90.3-FM. Visit their home at Seattle Center. 45-minutes tours are offered daily at 2:00 pm (excluding most holidays), and additionally at 10:00 am during summer. Reservations are encouraged. Walk-ins are welcome, but subject to availability.
Seattle. Olympic Sculpture Park features enormous outdoor sculptures against the spectacular backdrop of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. The Park is always free and open 365 days a year for a self-guided stroll. Guided tours are offered weekends, spring through fall. No reservation needed but check the tour calendar on their website for schedule udpates.
Seattle. Self-guided Central District tour | HistoryLink. Seattle’s Central District (aka the Central Area) has been a hub for Black business and culture since the 1960s. The ethnic and racial makeup of the Central District has always been in flux: predominantly Jewish and Italian neighborhood prior to World War I gave way to Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans by the 1930s. World War II brought significant numbers of Black Americans to the Pacific Northwest. The practice of “redlining” that developed after the war forced Black Americans to make their homes in this neighborhood, alongside Asian Americans and Latinx Americans. The resulting community developed a wealth of arts and cultural organizations, businesses, and services. The Central District is home to the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute, Mount Zion Baptist Church, and several historic Black homes. While the city’s development and population growth have disproportionately impacted residents and business in the Central District, 23rd Avenue persists as a center of community pride, art, spirit, and joy.
Seattle. Self-guided Pike Place Market walking tour will give you a more intimate look at the city’s year-round farmers market and epicenter for fresh produce, specialty foods, independent businesses, crafts market, and owner-operated bakeries, fish markets, butcher shops, produce stands, and specialty groceries. Open 363 days a year, closed Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Seattle. STG theater free guided tours are offered three Saturdays a month at a different Seattle Historic Landmark theatre: The Paramount, The Moore, and The Neptune. No reservation needed, just show up. Visit their website for schedule and location.
Art & Music free things to do
Free art walks from Everett to Tacoma. Art Galleries in Seattle-Tacoma and around the Puget Sound region hold art walks every month with participating merchants offering food, drinks, gifts, and other fun.
Free live music calendar. Many popular spots in Seattle-Tacoma and the Puget Sound region offer live music with free admission. We include 21+ bars and lounges with no cover charge. Our free music calendar is updated on a rolling basis throughout the year.
Free museums in the Puget Sound region
(Listed alphabetically by city.)
Bainbridge. Bainbridge Island Museum of Art (BIMA) just a few steps from the Seattle/Bainbridge ferry terminal features a permanent collection and rotating exhibits of contemporary art & craft from the Puget Sound Region. Check their website, admission may apply for special events. Open daily except Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Bremerton Bug & Reptile Museum is a kid-friendly museum that lets you explore LIVE, bizarre and interesting bugs under the microscope, with glasses that let you see like a bug, and observing the 8-foot-long Ant Farm. Open daily.
Bremerton. Puget Sound Navy Museum portrays shipboard life and chronicles naval heritage in the Pacific Northwest, including exhibits about the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, the USS John C. Stennis, Special Operations Submarines, and more. Closed Tuesdays and some holidays.
Bremerton. Valentinetti Puppet Museum. Highly rated collection showcases the variety and craftsmanship of puppet artists from around the world. Free to visit; donations accepted. Open Wednesday-Saturday.
Keyport (Kitsap). Naval Undersea Museum between the cities of Poulsbo and Bremerton provides a comprehensive introduction to the Navy’s undersea history and operations. Open daily in summer, closed Tuesday in winter. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day, and Easter.
Seattle. Coast Guard Museum Northwest at Pier 36. Ask for directions at the Main Gate. See thousands of Coast Guard related items, including large models, photographs, and artifacts. Staffed entirely by volunteers. Open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Seattle. Free 1s Thursday museum admission is offered at many popular Seattle museums, including Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, Living Computers: Museum + Labs, Museum of Flight, Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI), Nordic Heritage Museum, Northwest African American Museum (NAAM), Seattle Art Museum (SAM), and Wing Luke Asian Museum. First Thursdays.
Seattle. Frye Art Museum on First Hill 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. Closed Mondays.
Seattle. Klondike Gold Rush Museum in Pioneer Square is a National Park Historical Site that preserves the story of the stampede to the Yukon gold fields and Seattle’s crucial role in this event. Experience the lure of Yukon gold fields in Canada as thousands did 1897-1898. Open daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.
Seattle. Microbrewery Museum inside the Pike Pub in the Pike Place Market neighborhood features one of the world’s most extensive collections of beer art and memorabilia spanning the globe and thousands of years of beer history from ancient Sumer to present day. Open daily until midnight.
Seattle. Northwest Nikkei Museum in the Chinatown International District is dedicated to preserving the heritage and history of the Pacific Northwest’s Nikkei community. Their permanent exhibition sheds light on the incarceration of Japanese in prison camps because of Executive Order 9066, one of the most unjust and unconstitutional acts of government in American history. Open Monday through Friday.
Snoqualmie. Northwest Railway Museum consists of several locations, the 1890 Snoqualmie Depot, the Centennial Trail Exhibit, and a Railway History Center. The Depot is restored to turn of the century grandeur. The Centennial Trail Exhibit is on a public walkway. Bot are free and open daily. The Railway History Center is available for a nominal fee by guided tour on Saturdays, April-October.
Tacoma. Free 3rd Thursday museum admission is offered at several Tacoma museums, including Tacoma Art Museum (TAM), Tacoma Museum of Glass, and Washington State History Museum. Third Thursdays.
Free parks and gardens
(Listed alphabetically by city.)
Bellevue. Bellevue Botanical Garden is 53-acres of cultivated gardens, restored woodlands, and natural wetlands featuring plants that thrive in the Pacific Northwest marine climate and a delightful visit any time or the year. Open daily, including holidays.
Federal Way. Pacific Bonsai Museum is a grand outdoor setting with the elegance of a fine art museum, featuring 60 bonsai at a time from their collection of 150. Admission by donation. Open 6 days a week, closed Mondays.
Lakewood. Fort Steilacoom Park south of Tacoma offers 340-acres of trails, which you can navigate on foot or by bike. Open daily.
Seattle. Cheshiahud Lake Union Loop is a series of connected lakefront parks and open spaces, including Gasworks and Lake Union Parks, more than 35 pocket parks, plus other street ends and waterways that ring Lake Union. Open daily.
Seattle. Discovery Park Loop Trail at Discover Park is a designated National Recreation Trail, 2.8 miles long ans passes through both forest and open meadows, offers extensive views, good prospects for bird watchers, and can be enjoyed year-round. The Loop Trail begins near the Visitor Center. Find the trailhead next to a signboard at the north end of the parking lot. The sign has a park map and may have paper copies of the trail map available for the taking or can be downloaded before you go. Open daily.
Seattle. Green Lake Park, located north of the ship canal, is the city’s iconic urban park and natural preserve for hundreds of species of trees, plants, and birds. The 2.8-mile path around the lake is well-maintained and a popular recreational spot for walkers, as well as runners, bikers, and skaters. Nearby cafes and restaurants are the perfect spot to fuel up before you head home.
Seattle. Kubota Garden in the Rainier Beach neighborhood features a stunning 20-acres of hills and valleys, the streams, waterfalls, ponds, rock outcroppings and an exceptionally rich and mature collection of plants. Guided Tours are offered on the 4th Saturday. Open daily.
Seattle. Neighborhood Tree Walks features a list of downloadable maps for every corner of the city. Each map is also featured on the TreeWalk app. Learn about the trees in your neighborhood. You can also volunteer to write a new walk.
Seattle. Online Google map of trees at Green Lake in Seattle helps you identify the significant trees along the 2.8 walking path around the Green Lake. For each tree, there is a popup with photos detailing the tree’s size, habitat, location, and leaf and flower forms. Your walk can start at any of several starting points on the paved path that circles the lake. Available daily.
Seattle. Seattle Chinese Garden and South Seattle College (SSC) Arboretum are hidden gems in the city. The 4.6-acre Chinese Garden is one of the largest Chinese gardens outside of China. The adjacent 5-acre SSC Arboretum for the school’s Landscape Horticulture Program, sits on the edge of a bluff with stunning views of downtown Seattle, Elliott Bay, and the West Duwamish Greenbelt. Open daily.
Seattle. Downloadable Walking Maps designed by the City of Seattle for both residents and visitors help anyone tailor walking routes to their interests and fitness level. Each route on the map has been labeled with the approximate amount of time (in minutes) it takes to walk the route.
Seattle. Washington Park Arboretum provides miles of trails for exploration and contemplation any time of year. Of special interest are three loop trails: Lookout Loop, Pinetum Loop, and the Arboretum Loop Trail. The trails are marked on the Arboretum map. Open daily. Try this virtual walk through the Arboretum (25:41).
Tacoma. Point Defiance Park is 760-acres and features a natural forest, saltwater beaches, and spectacular views. The Primary trails through the park are foot trails (no bicycles). Five Mile Drive outer loop is closed to vehicle traffic in the morning so that pedestrians, runners and cyclists can enjoy this forest experience free from motorized vehicles. The Visitors Center is open during summer. Guided walks are available throughout the year, several are free or have a nominal cost. Open daily.
Tacoma. W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory at Wright Park in Tacoma opened in 1908. It is only one of three public Victorian-style conservatories on the West Coast. Their permanent collection features ferns, palms, figs, bromeliads, orchids and many other rare, unusual and endangered plants. Free admission; suggested $3 donation. Open Tuesday-Sunday.
Tacoma. Wright Park Tree Map (PDF) details the parks collection of more than 600 trees in the 27-acre arboretum. Open daily.
Hiking and Outdoor Activities
Beachcombing is a favorite activity for many in any season. Dress for the weather, of course. It’s a great family activity even for young children or fun, casual date experience.
Day hikes can be as short as an hour or two or one that keeps you away from home all day. It can be a stroll on a flat urban path or into the hills and forests around the region. It can be a family activity that includes children and pets or a personal reverie.
Geocaching is an outdoor treasure hunt to look for hidden caches. You find these “geocaches” using a smartphone app or GPS device. When you find a geocache, you sign the log, and share your experience with the geocache community. There are over 4,000 geocaches in the Seattle area and more than 3 million worldwide in over 190 countries. Geocaching HQ is located in the Fremont neighborhood and maintains the global list of geocaches, the primary geocaching mobile applications, and the Geocaching.com website to support the global game. To get started with geocaching, create a free account online or through the Geocaching® app from Groundspeak.
Identifying native plants. Bird and wildlife watching are great outdoor activities. Another type of “wildlife” that can make for a great past time is identifying native plants. Explore in parks such as Bellevue Botanical Garden, Daybreak Ethnobotanical Garden at Seattle’s Discovery Park, Kruckeberg Botanic Garden in Shoreline, Highline Community College campus in Des Moines, or farther out on Cougar Mountain, in Marymoor Park, at Snoqualmie Falls and many other locations.
King County Parks system covers 26,000 acres of public lands, one of the largest regional parks and trails systems in the country. It includes 200 parks, 175 miles of regional trails, and 180 miles of backcountry trails, plus ballfields, playgrounds and pools, as well as lush forests, quiet meadows, and many other Northwest ecosystems. Whatever your recreational interest, you’ll find a park for it: hike, bike, picnic, play, or explore. Find maps and other information on the and keep up to date on park activities at the King County Parks blog. Don’t know where to start? Here are seven of the best-known parks in King County: Burke-Gilman Trail, Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park, Interurban Trail, Marymoor Park, Rattlesnake Mountain, Sammamish River Trail, and Soos Creek Trail.
Orienteering is the sport of navigation using a map and sometimes a compass. You can practice orienteering alone or with friends or family as a casual outing. It’s easy for anyone to learn. There are permanent orienteering (or “O”) courses that provide an introduction to the sport, using designated checkpoints set up within a park.
Stargazing is the practice of observing the night sky. It’s a hobby enjoyed by many outdoor enthusiasts and amateur astronomers. It can be done any time of the year (cloud cover permitting) and is equally enjoyable alone or as a group activity with friends or family. We offer a list of organizations in the Puget Sound region where you can participate and learn more about stargazing.
Trail Link lists dozens of Puget Sound trails (over 1,000 miles total), including urban and rural routes, and trails suitable for running, dog walking, biking, and other interests. View Trail Link maps online, or download the free Trail Link smartphone app for info on the go.
Washington Trails Association (WTA) offers the the most comprehensive database of hikes in Washington state. Use their Hike Finder map to find hikes and trails with various features, such as kid-friendly.
Watch wildlife in Washington State. Watching wildlife is a popular activity for residents, as well as visitors. Washington State has 33 designated Wildlife Areas. Binoculars can get you “up close and personal” without getting too close, but binoculars are not required to enjoy this pastime. You need only to dress for the weather and have some idea where to look for wildlife.
(Listed alphabetically by city.)
Bellevue Arts Museum (BAM) volunteer. Dedicated to art, craft, and design, volunteer opportunities at BAM include customer support, administrative tasks, special events, and day-to-day operations. Volunteer benefits include museum store discount and free admission passes.
Everett Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum volunteer assist with events and flyovers at the 75,000 square-foot museum, which displays many warbirds that are the last of their kind.
King County Library System volunteer. Help maintain the libraries through outreach opportunities, helping with daily operations, tutoring, talks, and more.
Kitsap Peninsula Beach Naturalist volunteers lead beach walks in spring and summer to provide information to the public. Field trips, touch tanks, talks, and other educational opportunities are available as well.
Mukilteo Boeing Future of Flight volunteers get the chance to work at one of the most loved tourist attractions in the area. Volunteer greeters and ambassadors help make the tour a world-class experience for visitors.
Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival volunteer. Experience the largest wooden boat festival in North America behind the scenes. Hundreds of volunteers make this festival come together on the water and on the land with needs covering administration, education, set-up/tear-down, shops, and photography.
Seattle 5th Avenue Theatre volunteer. Help with tickets, calls, show talks, administrative duties, and much more at this 100-year-old historical theatre and musical production company.
Seattle Earshot Jazz volunteer opportunities include their signature event every fall with ushering, ticketing, merchandise sales, administrative, and other tasks.
Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) volunteers can work the annual film festival in May-June as well as year-round theaters on Lower Queen Anne, Capitol Hill, and Seattle Center. Volunteers help at the theaters, offices, and special events to earn vouchers redeemable for movie tickets or SIFF Membership.
Tacoma Arts Alive volunteers help at several theater venues with ushering, tour guides, and special events.
Tacoma Museum of Glass volunteer. You won’t find any other museum like this in the PNW, with unique artwork and make-your-own opportunities. Special events such as Family Day, general museum programming, and more provide opportunities for volunteers to get involved.
Tacoma Musical Playhouse volunteer. A prized icon for live performances, volunteers have the chance to build sets, staff shows, help with costumes, and much more.
Tahoma Audubon volunteers help with outreach, events, tours, field trips, environmental education, and the opportunity to connect with others who love birding and nature.
Find another volunteer opportunity. Our list of volunteer opportunities includes many cultural organizations, including many popular attractions, museums, music organizations, festival events, and live performance venues with a wide variety of experiences and opportunities.
Chores to get done for rainy days
Instead of spending money, save money (and even make some!) on these activities for a rainy day or when your entertaining budget has run dry.
- Gather the family and talk about emergencies. If you don’t have a family plan, make one with this free emergency preparedness information.
- Go through your medicine cabinet and then find out where to go for free, safe disposal of unwanted medications.
- Get started today with a healthier lifestyle using our list of frugal ways to stay fit in Seattle.
- Turn extra stuff into cash…or better stuff. Clean out your shelves and find the get cash for used books, music, movies, and games.
- Plan your next getaway. Search through our resources for Getaways & Day Trips around Washington State.
Best seasonal free thing to do
January-December. Our big list of festivals, fairs, and parades is a month-by-month list of events around the Puget Sound region. Most are free. For those with an admission fee, we list ways to save money with discount tickets. You will find music and food festivals, art and craft fairs, flower shows, county and state fairs, specialty shows, and regional favorites such as the Skagit Tulip Festival, SIFF, Northwest Folklife, Seafair, and Bumbershoot.
January-November. Seattle Center Festál is a series of 24 free ethnic festivals held throughout the year. Each event features music, dance, art, crafts, history, and food to celebrate the immigrant, indigenous, and ethnic cultures living together in the Pacific Northwest.
March-April. Cherry blossom trees in the Seattle-Tacoma metro area burst into flower in early spring, heralding the arrival of longer days and warmer weather. Driving around the region to take in the view is a favorite pastime for many residents and visitors alike.
April. Skagit Valley tulip fields April 1-30 is one of the destination events for the Pacific Northwest. Hundreds of thousands of people from every state across the United States and from around the world visit the area to see millions of tulips burst into bloom. The festival is designed as a free self-guided driving tour to see hundreds of acres of blooming flowers scattered across farms throughout the valley.
May, September & December. Artist studio tours. Throughout the year, artists in the Puget Sound region open their studios to the public, presenting the opportunity to meet artists in their creative spaces, see many diverse styles, and a wide variety of mediums. Art Studio Tours are free and artwork is also available for purchase.
- Camano Island Studio Tour (located about 60 miles north of Seattle, west of I-5) is typically offered Mother’s Day weekend and the weekend following Mother’s Day.
- Edmonds Art Studio Tour takes place in the fall (usually September).
- Seattle Art Studio Tour in northeast Seattle takes place in spring.
- Seattle “Sampling” Art Studio Tour in West Seattle and Ballard takes place every December.
- Vashon Island Art Studio Tour spans two weekends twice each year in May and in December.
April-October. John W. Keys III Pump-Generating Plant (230 miles NE of Seattle) offers a free 50-minute guided tour on a first-come, first-served basis. Highlights include a look at the large pumps used for transporting water from Lake Roosevelt to the Columbia Basin Project and conclude with a ride across the top of the dam. Tours operate daily from April – October but are subject to change without notice. For more information, visit the Grand Coulee Dam tour website.
June-December. Salmon during spawning season in Western Washington begins in mid-summer and lasts through fall. Pacific Northwest waterways welcome the return of spawning salmon. See them at fish ladders, hatcheries and streams around the region.
September-October. Northwest Glass Pumpkins traveling pumpkin patches “sprout” in several locations throughout the region, for several weeks each fall. Each pumpkin patch features over 1,000 hand-blown glass pumpkins, crafted by local artisans. You can wander through a dazzling array of one-of-a kind glass pumpkins in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. Admission is FREE. Glass pumpkins are for sale and certainly make unique gifts.
November-December. Christmas light displays are a favorite winter activity in the Pacific Northwest from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve. We keep a long list of the displays you can see. Most are drive-bys and a few are paid attractions.
But wait, there’s more!
- Find the latest free and cheap things to do this weekend.
- Find many more free and cheap events each and every day on the Greater Seattle on the Cheap calendar.
- Visit the Greater Seattle on the Cheap home page and choose from a menu of free and cheap activities in the Puget Sound regoin.
Upcoming free things to do
Here are the free events on our calendar for the next 30 days. The items listed first each day in GRAY are FEATURED EVENTS. Featured events are often one-time events or those that don’t occur annually, such as festivals.
Monday, October 2, 2023
Tuesday, October 3, 2023
Wednesday, October 4, 2023
Thursday, October 5, 2023
Friday, October 6, 2023
Saturday, October 7, 2023
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Wednesday, October 11, 2023
Thursday, October 12, 2023
Friday, October 13, 2023
Saturday, October 14, 2023
Sunday, October 15, 2023
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Wednesday, October 18, 2023
Thursday, October 19, 2023
Friday, October 20, 2023
Saturday, October 21, 2023
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Tuesday, October 24, 2023
Wednesday, October 25, 2023
Thursday, October 26, 2023
Friday, October 27, 2023
Saturday, October 28, 2023
Sunday, October 29, 2023
Monday, October 30, 2023
Tuesday, October 31, 2023
Wednesday, November 1, 2023