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Staycation Seattle – Things To Do In Seattle (& Greater Seattle)!

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Staycation Seattle 100 ideas of things to do in seattle

Staycation Seattle – 100+ Things To Do!

(Update for 2019)

Looking for budget friendly vacation ideas for the Pacific Northwest this year?  With the high cost of airfare you might want to consider taking a “Staycation” in Seattle (or a mini vacation in Seattle if you live within driving distance)! Seattle, the “Emerald City”, offers many things to do and explore beyond the well known Space Needle.

We have compiled a huge list of things to do in Seattle  that are budget friendly. You can also check out these Discount Tickets for Seattle if you’re planning to attend an event or show!

We also have a round up of some of the best hotel pools in the NW if your looking for a hotel to stay in for a local staycation! You can check out our Portland Staycation article here, if you are looking for Staycation ideas and things to do there too

Find activities by area of interest:

Always Free In Seattle / Frugal Fun In Seattle
Free Museum Days
Festivals, Fairs & Events
National, State and Local Parks
Beaches, Pools & Lighthouses
Movies & Concerts
Sightseeing & Attractions
Discount Tickets for Sporting Events, Theater & More
Open Air Markets
Seattle Staycation Tips

If you are interested in what to do in the Greater Puget Sound area this summer be sure to check out the following:

How to get FREE admission at the Museum of Flight – great deal!
Free Camping & Low Cost Camping in the NW!
Fun & Frugal Weekly Events in the Pacific Northwest
Park Reviews for the NW
Summer Fun Ideas for the Pacific Northwest
Pacific NW Travel Reviews/Ideas
Weekly Budget Friendly Getaways post
Kids Eat Free in Seattle and Portland Area

Always Free / Frugal Fun In Seattle

Seattle Center Area

The Seattle Center area offers many great options to enjoy the summer. The fountain at the Seattle Center is one of my kids’ favorite areas to hang out on a hot day. You can then explore the Gates Foundation Visitor Center across the street completely free and much more! These are our favorite free and cheap ideas for this area, but be sure to scroll down for some of Seattle’s bigger attractions also located in this area (Space Needle, EMP, Pacific Science Center & more).

If you plan to drive down, the Seattle Center area has a $1 parking promotion going on (spend $10 on food at Armory and park for $1 through April 30th with a few black out dates. Details here).

seattle center fountain

  • Seattle Center International Fountain offers both water play for kids in the summer. We review it in the Artist at Play Park review next. 

seattle center park

  • Check out the Artists at Play playground, with a 35-foot Climbing Tower, colorful Labyrinth, ADA-accessible Carousel, child-inspired musical instruments, listening stations, sound swings, play mounds, and “story lines” offer child-friendly amusement in keeping with the mission and purpose of Seattle Center.
  • There are many events going on year round. You can find a schedule of what will be happening the day you plan to visit here. 
  • Free Walking Tour (donations accepted) at Seattle Center
  • The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Visitor Center is located just across the street from the Seattle Center (the Artist At Play Park area). admission is free to this interesting center, which highlights work being done around the world with the help of the foundation. There is parking onsite (if you plan to use paid parking) and there are a handful of interactive exhibits for the kids to not only enjoy but learn at. Our visits to the Seattle Center almost always include a stop in here, and my kids love it. 
  • I love to stop by the Seattle Grind for their Cardoman Latte (they make a handful of syrups in house like this one and a Lavendar Latte that is great too). They also have phone charging stations if you need those!
  • Frye Museum They offer free admission and free parking (big perk in downtown Seattle!) Tons of contemporary art and artwork to see!
  • Other exhibits that will cost more money, but are right on site include the Pacific Science Center (with Imax showings), The Space Needle, and Chulily.

Close to the Seattle Center :

  • The Center for Wooden Boats – The Center for Wooden Boats is a resource for all who love sailing or wooden boats, and it has things to do for free. Admission is free and allows you the chance to get up close to the collection of non-motorized boats. Free sails take place every Sunday on Lake Union. They also offer free reading time for kids and more!
Construction progress of interior views of The Spheres, photographed Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017, in Seattle, WA. (JORDAN STEAD / Amazon)

Visit the Amazon Sphere & Amazon HQ Tours

Ok, this one is still on my bucket list, but I have heard great things about the visits, and it looks super cool. You can reserve your spot to participate in a public tour of the sphere two Saturdays each month here. These are free but must be reserved in advance. You can also reserve a spot to do an unguided tour for free on more dates (can schedule up to 30 days in advance). You will need to bring your id to check in. Be sure to check out the full FAQ here.

Images of Amazon’s Seattle, Washington, campus, in both the downtown and South Lake Union neighborhoods. (JORDAN STEAD / Amazon)

You can also schedule to tour the full Amazon HQ campus here (they have a dog park, it includes Spheres, and more). These tours are available on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Images of Amazon’s Seattle, Washington, campus, in both the downtown and South Lake Union neighborhoods. (JORDAN STEAD / Amazon)

The other spot you will want to be sure to check out (and it is included in the Amazon HQ tour) is Amazon Understory. This is their visitors center, and is free to all, and includes interactive experiences as well. It is a self-guided, museum-style exhibit.

Lastly, stop in to check out the Amazon Go Store. There is no need to check out at this store. You just sign into your Amazon Go app before entering the store, and then grab what you want and go. The app automatically checks you out!


Seattle Waterfront 

The Seattle Waterfront offers some great spots to eat, parks, ferries, the Aquarium, The Great Wheel and Boardwalks just for starters. You can then take an elevator or walk up some stairs to enjoy the Pike Place Market, The Post Alley, and then you are about a 10 minute walk from Seattle’s Shopping district. There is FREE valet parking available for up to 3 hours when you shop, dine, or enjoy all that the Seattle Waterfront has to offer!

Here are our favorite free and frugal ideas for this area:

  • Pike Place Market (just above the waterfront). Don’t forget to visit the Notorious Gum Wall (Update – they have recently cleaned the infamous gum wall but it appears that new gum is being put in its place). This is a true epicenter of produce, specialty foods, and businesses. So there are tons of things to see!

 

  • Ye Olde Curiousity Shop – Ye Olde Curiosity Shop is a store, but also a bit of a museum that has been around a long time!. You can see Sylvester the mummy, a collection of shrunken human heads, and other surprising and interesting items. 
  • Olympic Sculpture Park – They also offer free public tours through the year (60 minute tours) so be sure to check their calendar for that too! It opens up 30 minutes prior to sunrise and closes 30 minutes after sunset!
  • Coast Guard Museum on Pier 36Lots of Coast Guard related items including clocks, old uniforms, ship wheels, and much more!
  • Don’t forget to check out the festivals section (below) for special events on the waterfront!

westlake-playground (1)

(Photo Credit: Kirotv.com)

Heart Of Downtown

Downtown Seattle (sometimes referred to as the Shopping District), boasts the 5th Avenue Theater, Benaroya Hall, The Seattle Public Library, Westlake and Pacific Place Malls, Sky bridges, and great shopping.

  • Play Area at Westlake Center – there is a new fun play area for the kids at Westlake Center, that is free and a great spot to take a break. Often times there are folks making balloon animals for kids, who work for tips, so its a fun thing to treat the kids to as well!
  • Visit the large fish tanks in Nordstrom. There are two of them in the Children’s Department. It’s also very close to the sky bridge, which my kids love to walk across, to head into Pacific Place Mall.
  • Volunteer Park ConservatoryA great landmark with lots of sights!
  • If you love coffee, visit the Monorail Espresso, one of Seattle’s original Espresso Bars and my favorite cup of java in the city!
  • Free 90 Minute Tours of the restored Paramount Theater! Come out on the first Saturday of each month at 10 am for your free guided tour!
  • Free  Tours of the Seattle Public Library – If you have not been to the Seattle Public Library, it’s worth a stop to view the architecture of the building. There are many picturesque spots in the library, in addition to all the other benefits public libraries usually have.
  • Seattle Streetcar – This is super fun for families to explore the sights of Seattle where kids 5 and under ride FREE and adults are only $2.25 or $4.50 for a day pass (kids just $1.50 per ride).

China Town / International District 

Chinatown in Seattle is a truly authentic experience. There are wonderful restaurants, great markets and festivals too! Another benefit of visiting Chinatown is that parking rates are much more affordable in the International District than they are in Downtown Seattle.

Here are our favorite free and affordable picks for the area:

West Seattle

Positioned across the water from Seattle, you can get there from Seattle by crossing the West Seattle Bridge or by boat. It offers great beach fun, wonderful restaurants, art and more!

  • Alki Beach – A favorite local beach, lined with sandy beaches on one side, and rocky shores around the corner. There are miles of bike or skating paths, restaurants and coffee shops, beautiful views of Seattle and more! 
  • West Seattle Water Taxi – Operates between Seacrest Park in West Seattle and Pier 50 on the downtown Seattle waterfront.  Not only is it a great way to get back and forth from the Seattle Waterfront to West Seattle, but it’s like a mini ferry ride or harbor cruise for a fraction of the cost!  
  • Alki Lighthouse  – really commemorates the original colonists. History at its best!
  • ArtsWest Playhouse & Gallery – a live theater that offers interesting performances.
  • West Seattle Art Walk 
  • California Avenue – full of restaurants, shops and an old theater for second run movies!

Seattle Tours:

We mentioned a couple above (like the Amazon tours, or the walking tours of the Seattle Center) but here are a couple of additional tours you might enjoy!

Seattle Chocolate Tour - Family Friendly Experience Chocolate Tour

The Seattle Chocolate Tour – this is on the south side of Seattle, but a fun experience that involves free chocolate tasting!

Other tours to consider that have a fee associated with them are: 

Museum of flight big room

Museums

Seattle offers so many opportunities to enjoy museums and the arts for free – more than just about any other city I have been to. There are museums that are always free, as well as museums that offer free entrance days. I would also recommend checking out your local library. Many of them offer free museum ticket for library card holders!

Here is a list of how to get into Seattle area museums completely free:

Always FREE:

Seattle Area Museums offering free admission on the first Thursday of each month: 

Seattle Area Museums offering free admission on the first Friday of each month: 

More Free Museum Days:

Festivals, Fairs and Events

Each year we will update the Festivals and Fairs for the NW article here, with current dates.

Here are the main festivals, fairs and events going on around greater Seattle this summer:

  • Seattle International Film Festival – This is an opportunity to view films from famous directors to independent filmmakers, with over 300 films to choose from. Takes place at theaters all around Seattle.
  • Northwest Folk Life Festival – Seattle Center. This is a chance to experience the music, art, dance & stories of the Northwest. Activities range from Family Hands-On Activity area, Family Dance Tent, milk carton derby & more.
  • Lake Union Wooden Boat Festiva–  Lake Union park; Free admission, free boat ride, food, music & more
  • Seattle’s Family 4th of July Event – Gas Works Park noon to 11pm or South Lake Union Park 3pm to 11pm.  Both locations are FREE to the public and also feature reserved seating available for purchases.  Both locationas will have live entertainment, food booths, and more.  The day ends with the Western Display Fireworks over Lake Union.
  • Chinatown International District DragonFest –  non-stop cultural performances including Dragon and Lion dances, Japanese taiko drumming, martial arts demonstrations, the Chinese Girls Drill Team, and much, much, more.  For Seattle’s foodies we are proud to bring back the 5th Annual $2 Food Walk presented Delta Air Lines with over 40 restaurants offering a wide array of international $3 bites!
  • Bite of Seattle –  Seattle Center; FREE admission. A chance to sample 50+ Seattle-area restaurants offerings, celebrity chef cooking demonstrations & more. We went to this last year & had a blast trying out yummy foods but it was very crowded & not the easiest to manuever around the crowds with kids, so this may be more fun for a date night! (Jen)
  • White Center Jubilee Days – Enjoy a Dance-a-Thon, Garden Tour, Fireworks, Carnival, Car Show, Parade, Robotics Competition, and more!
  • Seafair –  Seattle’s traditional summer festival. A month-long, region-wide barbecue, that brings an entire community together in celebration. Events include a Rock ‘N Roll Marathon and 1/2 Marathon, Seafair Triathalon, Sefair Torchlight Night, and much more!
  • Bumbershoot – Seattle’s Music & Arts Festival  Seattle Center. This is Seattle’s popular music & arts festival over Labor Day weekend, which features the best in music, film, comedy, dance, theater, visual arts & more. Tickets and VIP packages are available for purchase on the website.  They also have a “Youngershoot” Festival  for kids, which is put on by the Children’s Museum of Seattle with indoor & outdoor activities for kids ages 10 & under.

National, State and City Parks

If you are from the Northwest, then it is easy to take for granted what natural beauty surrounds us. We have a number of parks as well as great programs which run in many of the parks throughout the summer!

Kerry Park

(Jen and I took blog pictures from Kerry Park, and that is the view of Downtown you can get if you trek up there. It’s a great spot for pictures with the city in the background!)

  • Kerry Park – on Queen Anne with great views of downtown Seattle, especially on a gorgeous day with Mt Rainier clear!

Oxbox Park

  • Oxbow Park – in Georgetown, and home to the worlds largest Cowboy Hat & Boots (known as Hat n Boots Historic Buildings)! Plus you can visit their trailer park mall, indoor beach and more!
  • Lincoln Park 
  • Schmitz Preserve Park 

Pioneer Square

(Image Credit: Seattle Parks)

More City Parks:

Beaches, Pools & Lighthouses

Sunny days may be fewer here in the Northwest, but when they show up we have some great beaches and water activities to enjoy it!

Here are some  of our favorites:

Find a list of Summer Outdoor Movies for families in Seattle, Portland and around the Northwest

Movies & Concerts

You will find free movies and concerts all throughout the Pacific Northwest during the summer. Here is a list of those included in or near the downtown Seattle area.

We have a full round up of where you can find outdoor movies in the NW here, including those in Seattle area.

Concerts – 

Check out our full list of Summer concerts here, including those in the Seattle area.

Sightseeing / Attractions

Seattle is famous for some of its well known attractions like the Space Needle, zoos and more. If you plan to visit some of these, I highly recommend looking into the CityPASS. It will allow you to be a tourist in your city for a week at one set cost. There are also more affordable alternatives to some of the more well known attractions like the towers.

Here is a list of great Seattle attractions you can explore this summer:

Under $10 Attractions:

$10 & up Attractions:

(You may want to consider purchasing an Entertainment book as it includes savings for many of the local attractions, like BOGO free tickets for the Woodland Park Zoo and more in previous years books!)

  • CityPASS – If you want to visit more then one of Seattle’s main attractions, the CityPASS is a great way to save.
  • Columbia Tower – Don’t want to spend the money on the Space Needle, then head over to the Columbia Tower Observation Deck for amazing views and a much friendlier price. It is the tallest viewing area west of the Mississippi River. You can ride the elevator for FREE to the highest Starbucks in the world on the 40th floor, where the views are spectacular. 
  • Smith Tower – This observation deck is on the 35th floor and provides views of The Wheel, The Space Needle and more! It is also where you can see the Seattle Chinese Room, a piece of Seattle history!
  • Pacific Science Center (free admission for low income to PSC)
  • Underground Seattle Tour
  • Argosy CruisesBe sure to check out Goldstar for discounted tickets for these cruises
  • Tillicum Village / Blake Island – Cruise & Salmon Bake on Blake Island (or you can cruise out to Blake Island) – Get discount tickets on Goldstar
  • The Great Wheel on the Waterfront 

Seattles Great Wheel

Discount Tickets for Sporting Events, Theater & More

Looking for ways to get a deal on event tickets for sporting or theater events. Here are some resources we have used to help us save with our families:

  • Goldstar – Offers discount tickets for many different Seattle area events (everything from Pike Place Market Tours to Argosy Cruises, Sporting events and comedy shows). Its a great way to save!
  • Teen Tix  – Teens can get $5 tickets to over 40 Seattle area art venues.

Open Air Markets

The markets are a wonderful way to purchase everything from fresh produce and meats to great flowers and keepsakes. They are also lots of fun to just to hang out and people watch. There are often street performers you can enjoy and other events. Turn your grocery shopping into a fun day out!

Staycation Tips

So now you know where to go…here are some of our favorite tips for saving while getting here and throughout your day:

  • Marcie In Mommyland shares how the free waterfront shuttle works here, and it is a great resource for getting around once you are down in the area.
  • Plan your trip around one of the Free parking days in Seattle, or when street parking is free in Seattle (Sundays and after 8pm)
  • Find Parking rates here, so you can plan for the best rates ahead of time.
  • Check out these printable walking itineraries for various Seattle neighborhoods, to make the most out of your visit.
  • Consider taking mass transit rather than pay for parking. You can ride a bus or use the Light Rail or Sounder train.
  • Pack lots of snacks and water, and then splurge on a humbow or mini donuts at the Pike Place Market. Neither will cost you what it would to eat a meal out, but you still get the fun of eating something someone else cooked for you!
  • Park in West Seattle (free street parking in the neighborhoods) and ride the Water Taxi over to downtown
  • Use coupons. You can find various deals on restaurants in the Seattle area on sites like Groupon and Living Social.