Here are several suggestions for free things to do around the Puget Sound region over the Christmas winter break. These are all great outings for out of town guests or to keep the kiddos happily occupied during the long holiday from school.
Gingerbread Village at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Seattle has been one of city’s most beloved holiday traditions for over 25 years. Local architecture firms and trade associations team up with the Seattle Sheraton hotel culinary team to design, bake, and build extravagant gingerbread masterpieces. Vote for your favorite creation using Text to Vote on your cell phone. Free event, donations are encouraged to benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. See Gingerbread Village daily through January 1, 2019 (started November 20).
Seattle Center is a 74-acre civic center, originally constructed for the 1962 World’s Fair (also known as Century 21) is more than half open space and the grounds are open dawn to dusk every day. Download this self-guided tour brochure (PDF), which is also available in print at the Amory Information Center. Winterfest is also underway through January 6, 2019, featuring many free and a few affordable activities at the Armory and other locations on the campus. Download a free Winterfest 2018 Guidebook.
10 places at Pike Place Market to while away time. If you have visitors in town, or just need to get out of the house, we offer a list of places to explore in Pike Place Market that you may not already know. After you’ve done the Gum Wall, Rachel the Pig, flying fish, and Starbucks check our list of places where you can while away the better part of a day.
Free museums. The following list of museums have free admission. All are closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day and may close early (or completely) the day before.
- Center for Wooden Boats on South Lake Union is a hub of hands-on learning. Walk the docks, explore the boats, and browse the exhibits. Gallery open Tues – Sun 10:00am-5:00pm. Boat Rental Livery Open Sat – Sun 10:00am-5:00pm or sunset.
- The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Discovery Center near Seattle Center aims to motivate and inspire people to take action through displays and interactive exhibits intended to spark conversation about global and local issues. Open Tues – Sat, 10 am to 5 pm.
- Olympic Sculpture Park is downtown Seattle’s largest green space that zigzags from the pavilion to the water’s edge dotted with world-class sculptures against the spectacular backdrop of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains (weather permitting!). Open 365 days a year dawn to dusk.
- Frye Art Museum in Seattle on First Hill has three current exhibits: “Group Therapy” comments on alternative medicine and wellness. “Ballast” explores the 1841 slave revolt aboard the brig Creole. The Frye Salon features paintings that approximates the viewing experience in Charles and Emma Frye’s Seattle home in the first decades of the twentieth century. Open Tues – Sun 11 am–5 pm (Thurs until 7 pm).
- Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park in Seattle in Pioneer Square preserves the story of the stampede to the Yukon gold fields and Seattle’s crucial role in this event. Step back in time and journey to the Yukon gold fields of Canada as thousands did in 1897 and 1898 through interactive exhibits. Open daily 10:00am to 5:00pm, but closed during Trump’s current government shutdown.
- Last Resort Fire Department Museum in Seattle in Pioneer Square features the largest collection of antique motorized fire apparatus in the Pacific Northwest. Open Thursdays 11:00am – 3:00pm.
- The Northwest Nikkei Museum located at the Japanese Cultural & Community Center in the Chinatown/International District permanent exhibition “Unsettled/Resettled: Seattle’s Hunt Hotel” 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. Open Monday – Friday 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM.
- Coast Guard Museum Northwest. Located in Seattle at Pier 36, ask for directions at the Main Gate. 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…). Open Monday, Wednesday, Friday 9AM-3PM.
- Naval Undersea Museum on the Kitsap Peninsula in Keyport, between Bremerton and Poulsbo. The 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. Open Wednesday-Monday 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM.
- Pacific Bonsai Museum in Federal Way grand outdoor setting boasts the most diverse public collection in North America with trees from Canada, China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and the United States. Admission by donation. Open Tues – Sun 10am – 4pm.
- Microsoft Visitor Center in Redmond displays the latest Microsoft Research innovations to the very first personal computer. Open Mon – Fri 9am-5pm, but check their website for special event closures.
- Northwest Railway Museum in Snoqualmie (about 30 miles east of Seattle) includes the 1890 Snoqualmie Depot and the Centennial Trail Exhibit. The Depot has been restored to its turn of the century grandeur and is open daily 10am to 5 pm. The Centennial Trail Exhibit is on a public walkway and never closes.
Snow Day in Seattle’s Denny Park (100 Dexter Ave N) is an Immersive Winter Lighting Display shining nightly 4pm-9m from December 14, 2018 through January 20, 2019.
For more illuminating fun around the Puget Sound region, check our list of Christmas light displays:
Live music. For loud rock music, we’d recommend Blue Moon Tavern in the University District, which will have live bands almost every night, some with no cover charge. Less loud is the Musiquarium lounge at Triple Door in downtown Seattle, which has live music and no cover almost every night over the winter break, except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. For easy listening venues, check out 13 Coins in SeaTac every night except Monday and all locations Friday-Saturday. Or, Vito’s lounge on First Hill–open nightly with no cover live music, except Mondays, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Movies, anyone? Check out our list of new movies releasing in theaters during December 2018, as well as a list of recommended holiday movies you can rent from Redbox:
Coloring pages. When everyone is stuck inside and going stir crazy, it’s time to color! We have a long list of free downloadable coloring pages and other games and activities featuring holiday and other themes:
Family reading night. We put together a list of great reads for a cozy Christmas night at home. There’s a little something here for everyone, young and old, young at heart, traditional, and more than a few unexpected titles. All are highly rated by other avid readers and available from local libraries.