Seattle doesn’t have to be expensive as there are a ton of free things to do in Seattle. Make that money last a bit longer all while taking in some of Seattle’s best sites.
While we all love a sunny day these are also great free things to do in Seattle in winter. So grab an umbrella and let’s see what’s unique to Seattle.
Ballard Locks (aka Hiram M. Chittenden Locks)
One of my favorite free things to do in Ballard is to walk the mighty Ballard Locks and surrounding park.
The Ballard Locks connect the salt water of Puget Sound with the fresh water of Lake Washington. The two bodies of water have over a 20-foot difference in water level height thus requiring locks.
Operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers this vital pathway operates 24-hours a day. From small personal watercraft to larger commercial vessels the Ballard Locks are a busy spot.
The locks are surrounded by walkways and a large park where you can stretch your legs a bit. The walkways let you walk right alongside the locks so you can see all the action
You can even cross the water, walking across the massive lock’s swinging channel doors. When you do cross the locks be sure to check out the Ballard Locks Fish Ladder.
At the entrance to the Ballard Locks park there’s even a chowder house that serves up Fish ‘N Chips and other assorted seafood.
Ballard Locks Fish Ladder
The fish ladder is something you don’t want to miss especially during the salmon migration. In the early 1900s when the locks were built special attention was paid to the Salmon giving them access to their spawning beds upstream.
Best Viewing Times
- King Salmon or Chinook – July through November peaking in August
- Silver Salmon or Coho – August through November peaking end of September.
- Red Salmon or Sockeye – June through October peaking in July
Stop in the visitor center for brochures, information, and FREE guided walking tours. Summer hours (May – September) are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Winter hours (October – April) 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday – Monday.
The Ballard Locks Park also hosts FREE weekend concerts during the summer. Check the Ballard Locks events for more info.
Check out the Ballard Locks here on Google Maps.
Pike Place Market
The Pike Place Market is one of Seattle’s top sights and while it does get a little busy I think that adds to the charm. Filled with stalls ranging from fresh cut flowers to the freshest seafood, it really is a site to see.
A terrific place to people watch as there will be people from all over the world here. There is no shortage of food here and a couple are worth mentioning that I wrote about here, 11 Funky and Unique Seattle Restaurants Not To Miss.
The Pike Place Market sits high on the hillside with a labyrinth of different levels that you’ll almost feel like you’re getting lost on. The market has terrific views of the waterfront and a series of stairs to take you down to the pier which is worth a trip in itself.
What To Do At The Pike Place Market
Watch the fish fly at Pike Place Fish
The Pike Place Fish Co. is a must see. Not only will you be taken back by the massive selection of fresh fish but in order to keep up with the orders these fish really do fly.
To keep the sales moving the fish are tossed from the outer display racks to the middle where the fish are weighed and packaged for sale. It makes for quite a show.
They also overnight ship fish packed on dry ice just about anywhere so be sure to grab something to meet you when you get back home.
For a great view, happy hour, or a delicious meal, hit up the Alibi Room which is adjacent to the gum wall in Post Alley.
The magic shop
When’s the last time you went to a magic shop? The Market Magic Shop has been a visitor favorite for years. From legit magic to simple tricks and handshake buzzers they have it all.
Find the Pike Place Market here on Google Maps
Gas Works Park
The former Seattle Gas Light Company glasification plant operated from 1906 to 1956. The park incorporates numerous pieces of old equipment that make for a spectacular skyline.
The park itself is situated on lake union and offers up some of the best views in town. Be sure to hike kite hill for an even better view.
While a portion of the glasification plant is off limits a large part has been restored where you can explore and climb about on the equipment.
You can find Gas Works Park here on Google Maps.
Seattle Art Museum’s Olympic Sculpture Park
The award winning Olympic Sculpture Park is the largest green space in downtown Seattle. If you are feeling a little crowded from all the downtown sites this is a great space to take in the natural beauty of the Northwest.
The self-guided walk takes you through towering pieces of art as you wind your way down to the waterfront.
Find it here on Google Maps
Seattle’s Discover Park
Discovery Park is the largest park in Seattle and is a true gem. With a mix of greenery, shoreline, and a vast network of trails there’s something for everyone.
The park is located on Fort Lawton, a once active military base during World Ware II. You’ll find many well preserved buildings throughout the park that add to its charm.
The East Parking lot is nearest to the visitor center where you can grab a map. While there are other parking areas I recommend just walking about.
There are several trails but the Loop Trail is the main one with branches to other attractions. On the far side of the park are numerous beaches with hikes full of views as you work your way down the seaside bluffs.
At the center of the
Be sure to visit the West Point Lighthouse for more great views of the Puget Sound.
Don’t miss these Unique Seattle Restaurants
Alki Beach West Seattle
A 2.5 mile stretch of sandy beach in the heart of West Seattle. You have the choice of either a paved walkway or the beach itself. You can rent kayaks and paddle boards or play a game of beach volleyball if that’s your thing.
At the end of the
Just a quick walk from the Pike Place Market the wooden piers of Seattle’s Waterfront should not be missed. While it’s free to cruise your wallet might take a beating with all
The Center for Wooden Boats
A mecca for anyone who appreciates sailing or wooden boats. Admission is free and they even offer FREE sailing trips every Sunday on Lake Union. This is one of my favorite hidden gems of Seattle.
There’s no better way to see Lake Union than by boat but you must sign up in person so get there early. Check out their website here.
Seattle Public Library
While visiting a library might not sound all that exciting this 11-story glass and steel structure is rather impressive. Located in the heart of downtown it’s easy to combine with many of the other destinations I’ve mentioned.
It’s a great place to take a break from the crowds and don’t miss the Red Hall on the fourth floor.
Washington Park Arboretum
This oasis on the shores of Lake Washington will surprise you with its lush green spaces and varied local flora. The park is home to a network of trails that will wind through this martian landscape of plants and trees.
The trails will eventually land you on Foster Island where you will have views across the water of the University of Washington, which by the way is who maintains the Arboretum. Here’s a link to the Arboretum’s website.
Free Things To Do In Seattle
As you can see there are a ton of great FREE things to do in Seattle. Be sure to check out my favorite Unique Seattle Restaurants which would pair