Guide to Affordable Seattle

by Shelley Seale /
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Feb 25, 2011 / 0 comments

Guide to Affordable Seattle



How to Travel for Free is sponsoring a contest for 2 free nights at Hotel Max, plus a free autographed copy of my Insiders Guide to Seattle.


Seattle can be an expensive city to visit, but even though it may be easy to spend a boatload of money here, you don’t have to. If you’re short on cash, don’t fret – there is an astounding number of fun things to do in the Emerald City without spending a penny! Here are some of the top free attractions:

Funky & Historic Seattle

It’s a quirky, eccentric city, and some of its best oddities make for free attractions. Check out the Fremont Troll under the Aurora Avenue Bridge, Waiting for the Interurban sculpture and the inexplicable Lenin statue (both also in Fremont).

Seattle is also rife with history; the original city at Pioneer Square is a great place to start. Here you can also visit the Last Resort Fire Department museum and the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park, both free.

The Arts

First Thursdays are the best deal in town for culture vultures. Most Seattle museums offer free admission and stay open late, including the Seattle Museum of Art, Experience Music Project, Burke Museum, Museum of Flight, Museum of History & Industry, and Wing Luke Asian Museum. Don’t miss the Frye Museum, which is always free!

Art Walks happen in neighborhoods all over the city, and are a great (free) event full of artists, music and food. Check out Pioneer Square on first Thursdays, Capitol Hill on second Thursdays, Belltown on third Thursdays, Fremont on first Fridays and Ballard on second Saturdays.

Olympic Sculpture Park is a nine-acre former industrial site that was turned into a green art space makes for a great stroll dotted with contemporary sculptures by Alexander Calder, Richard Serra and Mark di Suvero. Open daily to the public with no admission fees.

Many theaters also offer free tours and performances. Check out 5th Avenue Theatre’s Spotlight Nights, Benaroya Hall’s Tuesday and Friday tours as well as their free Monday concert organ concerts, and Paramount Theatre’s first Saturday guided tours. The third week of October is Live Theatre Week, offering 80 free performances and special events.



In the Markets

One of Seattle’s best-known attractions is Pike Place Market, where free entertainment doesn’t get much better. Start at the pig – the large bronze swine sculpture that sits at the main entrance to the market, just down from First Avenue and Pike. This is where the famous Pike Place Fish company is located, those crazy guys who throw whole fish to each other as the customers order them. You can spend hours walking around here, and could almost make a meal off the dozens of samples that many of the market stalls offer, while street performers entertain.

Outside of Pike Place, Seattle has a thriving community of farmers, flea and open-air markets. At last count there were more than a dozen, including the huge and extremely popular Fremont Sunday Market; but loosely organized grassroots markets spring up all the time as well. There is no admission fee for any of the markets. Great places to stroll and be entertained, as well as grab some great food, for not much money.



In the Gardens

The tranquil Kubota Garden offers 20 acres of streams, waterfalls, ponds, hills, rock outcroppings and beautiful plants in a stunning urban refuge. The Woodland Park Zoo Rose Garden has been free of charge since opening in 1924, and boasts 280 varieties of roses in one of the best growing habitats in the world. At the Volunteer Park Conservatory, you can view and smell a dazzling collection of bromeliads, palms, ferns, trees, cacti and seasonal display plants. Many are very rare, and very old, and are housed in a spectacular Victorian-style greenhouse modeled after London’s Crystal Palace.

On the Water

Seattle is surrounded by water, and it’s one of the best ways to explore. The Center for Wooden Boats on Lake Union offers free boat rides every Sunday afternoon, at 2 and 3 pm (weather permitting). Make reservations in person as early as 10 am the day-of (no phone reservations allowed). The best bet is to get down there as close to 10 am as possible, then tour the museum, do some wood carvings at the center, or have lunch in one of many nearby waterfront restaurants before your boat ride.

The Hiram Chittenden Locks are one of the best attractions in the city. The complex of water locks where salmon migrate and boats move between Puget Sound and connecting lakes is a great place to spend a pretty day, absolutely free. You can even get a free guided tour from the visitor center between March 1 and November 30. The adjacent botanical gardens are beautiful and have no admission charges; you might even be lucky enough in summer months to catch a free concert in the park.


Pioneer Square:

First Thursday Seattle:

Live Theatre Week:

Pike Place Market:

Seattle Farmers Markets:

Kubota Garden:

Woodland Park Zoo Rose Garden:

Volunteer Park Conservatory:

Center for Wooden Boats:

Hiram Chittenden Locks:




Shelley Seale is the author of the new book, How to Travel For Free (or pretty damn near it!). The Weight of Silence: Invisible Children of India, and the Insiders Guide to Seattle

How to Travel for Free



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