The following planetariums and observatories in the Puget Sound region and around Washington State have regularly scheduled public astronomy shows that have free or cheap admission of $15 or less.
- Planetariums feature digital videos displayed on a dome-shaped screen with breathtaking images of the universe or interesting detail on related topics such as telescopes, space travel, and even earthly topics such as math and sea creatures.
- Observatories offer viewing of the night sky through telescopes (weather permitting).
Some facilities offer both digital planetarium shows as well as live telescope viewing.
Unlike outdoor stargazing parties, these indoor shows are usually held rain or shine and feature a variety of topics related to astronomy (such as stars, sun, moon, planets, space, galaxies, comets, gas, and cosmic dust) and atmospheric science (including weather forecasting, climate, meteorology).
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Bellevue Planetarium Shows
Bellevue College Willard Geer Planetarium, 3000 Landerholm Cir SE, Bellevue, WA 98007. The Astronomy Department and Science and Math Institute offer free digital planetarium shows on their domed screen with accurate depiction of the night sky. Planetarium shows are held on select Fridays. Reservations can be made through Brown Paper Tickets by searching on “Bellevue Planetarium.” Walk-ins may be available, only on a space available basis. Admission is free.
Lakewood Science Dome Shows
Pierce College Science Dome, Pierce College Fort Steilacoom, 9401 Farwest Drive SW, Lakewood, WA USA 98498. The digital planetarium provides an interactive tour of the current night sky and fulldome videos on a variety of astronomy and space topics. Public Shows are held every Friday and Saturday during the year, and additionally on Wednesdays in summer. There are two types of programs Children’s Shows and All-Ages Shows. Admission is $6.
Seattle Planetariums & Observatories
University of Washington Theodor Jacobsen Observatory, 4324 Memorial Way Northeast, Seattle, WA 98105. The UW Seattle Observatory’s 6-inch refracting telescope provides celestial views of the Universe. Free talks are offered twice monthly from April-September. Seating is limited and reservations are strongly recommended; see their website for more information. If the sky is clear enough, the dome will be open for viewing celestial objects through the ancient telescope. Admission is free.
University of Washington Planetarium, Physics-Astronomy Building, 3910 15th Ave NE, Room C319, Seattle WA 98195. The UW Seattle Planetarium features a 30-foot diameter fully digital dome for an interactive and immersive planetarium experience. Public shows are offered on the first and third Fridays; reservations are required. The ticketing link is posted on the UW Planetarium Facebook page, usually the Sunday preceding the first and third Fridays of the month. Admission is free.
Other Washington State Planetariums & Observatories
Spanel Planetarium (100 miles north of Seattle) at Western Washington University, 516 High Street, Bellingham, WA 98225. Located in Haggard Hall, the 24-foot dome has weekly public shows featuring topics that rotate monthly. Each show includes a presentation about seasonal constellations, Q&A session when the audience is invited to ask questions, and a full-dome video. Admission is free.
Goldendale Observatory State Park is a 5-acre facility on a hilltop 2,100 feet above sea level and 2 miles north of downtown Goldendale, located near the Oregon border in south central Washington State. The site is famous for its dark skies and informative science programs. The park has one of America’s largest public telescopes and is a major center for viewing significant astronomical events, such as the 2017 solar eclipse. The interpretive center regularly offers afternoon observation and evening night-sky tours. Virtual shows are offered on the #GoldendaleObservations YouTube channel. Free observatory shows are offers Friday-Sunday. Visiting groups of 5 or fewer may drop-in and should not make an appointment. Groups of 6 or greater MUST make an appointment. Show schedule:
Goldendale Observatory afternoon and evening sky tours
- (April 1 – Sept. 30) Solar Show: 3 – 5 p.m. Evening Show: 9 p.m. – Midnight.
- (Oct. 1 – March 31) Solar Show: 2 – 4 p.m. Evening Show: 7 – 10 p.m.
Upcoming Astronomy and Stargazing Events
(If nothing is listed below, there are no upcoming astronomy or stargazing events in our calendar. We update the calendar throughout the year.)
Tuesday, April 4, 2023
Saturday, April 22, 2023
Tuesday, May 2, 2023
Saturday, May 6, 2023
Tuesday, June 6, 2023
Wednesday, June 21, 2023
Tuesday, July 4, 2023
Tuesday, August 1, 2023
Tuesday, September 5, 2023
Friday, September 22, 2023
Thursday, December 21, 2023
But wait, there’s more!
- Free stargazing events
- STEM for kids at home with Rosie Research
- Free local livestream, virtual tours, and online classes
- More free and cheap things to do every day: Greater Seattle on the Cheap event calendar.
- Still more ideas for frugal fun: Greater Seattle on the Cheap home page.
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