There are several ‘free’ Seattle lists out there, but I noticed that they are not all entirely FREE. So I’d read them and get excited and then realize… hey, wait a second… some of these still cost money for, at least, the adult. Or they are just something the writer did that happened to be free, like pick up seashells (I KNOW I can pick up Seashells at any Seattle beach for FREE!). I’m writing this list with the intention of having an opportunity for an experience with (or without) children and friends.
When P was younger I wanted to go out and do things, but felt really limited by our lack of funds to fill up our days with exciting or new activities. So I just started making lists of everything that we could do – and worked our way through that. In no time, our schedule was packed! We never feel out of options with ideas for activities or ways to just enjoy the day as a family.
Seattle Parks have some of the most interesting features, and some of them are set on the Puget Sound, Lake Union, or Lake Washington. There are always Trails available for a quick (or long), easy hike. And here’s a list of Playgrounds for little (and big) kids. (Check back for the summer Wading Pool and Spray Park schedule. But the International Fountain at the Seattle Center is open year-round.)
Walking tours are a great way to get to know the city. Seattle Free Walking tour provides daily tours which meet at 2000 Western Ave, beginning at 11 am.
The Seattle Unit of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park is in this section because they offer more than just a museum experience – For Home/Unschoolers, you can get in on a more hands-on opportunity and in the Summer they offer more video and demonstration at this location.
Paramount Theatre offers a 90 minute tour on the First Saturday of each month at 10am – just meet outside their doors.
Cedar River Watershed in North Bend offers many opportunities to explore our area’s natural surroundings, how the watershed works, and small projects like making a bird feeder. Click on the Free All Ages Events tab to learn about upcoming events! (Thanks to Greg from My Giraffe for sharing this resource!)
Seattle’s museums offer FREE admittance on the First Thursday of each month. This is a wonderful collection of all the Seattle-area museums and their FREE dates and times. Seattle Art Museum always offers a FREE creative area for children on the second floor- you do not need to pay an admission fee to enjoy this space.
FREE Animal Attractions
OK, look, if you want to see some animals for FREE -outside of a dog park or fish – around Seattle, you’ll have to travel to the Eastside.
Kelsey Creek Park in Bellevue offers a large area for roaming around, playing, and a small petting farm.
Keep it Simple (KIS) in Redmond is much more than a feed shop and nursery. They have a self-guided walking tour that leads out to a fire pit (that is free to use) and the creek which has a beaver dam. There are bunnies and kitty cats, ducks, and chickens. In one of the greenhouses they have a hay fort they call ‘The Cave’ that kids can explore.
Farrel-McWhirter Farm Park is another open-area that boasts trails, horses, picnic areas, as well as an animal farm that includes the LARGEST PIG I HAVE EVER SEEN and bunnies and chickens.
Of course the Seattle Public Library branches cannot go unmentioned – with huge children’s sections, FREE computers, and TONS of FREE classes, and special events for adults and children, they provide an almost endless list of resources and activities.
Another fun thing about Seattle are the tiny independent libraries popping up all over the city. One way to find out where they are is to search LittleFreeLibraries.org
Western Washington Home Depots offer FREE workshops for kids and adults, and one specifically for women called Do-it-Herself. You can bring home a finished project and, if the class has low attendance, they will let you bring home all of the leftover materials!
Ben Franklin in Redmond offers FREE ‘Make-n-Take’ crafts for children and adults most weekends (and sometimes throughout the week). They do put these on their website calendar, but for the most updated information, sign up for their email newsletter – they occasionally offer coupons this way as well!
Other FREE notable attractions and activities around Seattle
At Volunteer Park, the Water Tower offers a nice way to stretch your legs and, when you get to the top, a fine view of the city!
The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks or ‘Ballard Locks’ is a great way to spend part of the day in Seattle without spending a thing. Watch as boats navigate the locks to lower or raise the water level between Puget Sound (salt water) and Lake Union (fresh water). Walk across the water between Ballard and Magnolia and maybe catch a glimpse of fish as they swim through the passageway.
Of course, walking or biking around Seattle is wonderful way to relax and enjoy the city from a different vantage. If you’re looking for some local inspiration to get moving in these cold, winter months, check out Family Ride, also on twitter. Also be sure to check out Cascade Bicycle Club’s Maps.
If you haven’t visited Bothell’s Country Village, well, you just gotta go – this place is truly magical! Chickens and ducks wander around this quiet shopping center, in and out of the playground and push-carousels. They have a tiny little area called The Creativity Place where you can use materials this woman has collected to make whatever you’d like- all for FREE! (Also, follow her on Twitter.)
Look, they even offer FREE Positive Thoughts!
And hey, I admit it, we hang out at IKEA when the weather gets icky and I’m feeling uninspired. For the price of FREE I can park, hang out with my girlfriend and her kids, walk around the huge building, even sit down and relax while the kids play on the slide and furniture in the children’s area. Occasionally, they have FREE events. They’ve even had Caspar Babypants perform! (Yes, we can walk through all of IKEA and exit not having purchased a thing!)
Crossroads Mall in Bellevue has FREE music and performances every weekends on their Market Stage. Each 2nd Saturday they have Family Nights which usually involves FREE performances, games (Chess4Life is on-hand to offer assistance and tips for Chess) FREE popcorn, and sidewalk sales.
Every single PCC Market in Washington offers a ‘Kids Pick’ – this means that for each visit, your child aged six months and older can choose from a fruit or veggie in the produce section. They have a general rule that it should fit in the palm of your hand, but I know families who’ve received watermelons – completely FREE!
And even Whole Foods Markets around Seattle have a selection of FREE snacks for kids to choose from. They are usually near the dining or customer service area. Just pick something out – it’s FREE!
And, of course, nearly every Pike Place Market vendor is handing out FREE Samples.
If you’re interested in learning something new, but don’t see an opportunity for a tour or experience on a website, just give them a call and ASK. People love sharing about their industry and passions, they will likely open up time for you to come in and explore. (Here’s an example of how we stumbled upon an opportunity to learn about shoe making – and more!)
If you consider yourself a homeschooling or unschooling family, you can often enjoy a group tour by just calling and asking. For example, much of the artwork in Seattle public buildings is available to view, but they might be in offices or locations that are not necessarily always open to the public. Again, just call and let them know you want to check it out!
Street Parking is always FREE in Seattle on Sundays. While there are meters all over the city, on regular days the parking is generally much cheaper on Lower Queen Anne. So you may want to start your adventure in a lower-rate area, keep the sticker on your vehicle, and go park in another, higher-priced, area to continue your time.
So, it’s winter right now… I will create a new post for summer with LOTS AND LOTS of FREE activities in and around Seattle. In the meantime, what do you notice that is missing from this list? Which FREE activities have you and your family taken advantage of in and around Seattle? Comment below to let me know!