Budget Friendly Seattle

AAA/Katie McPhee
By AAA Travel Editor Katie McPhee
July 18, 2018
What can you do in Seattle for $10 or less? Plenty, if you know where to look. Find free activities for kids, cheap places to eat and fun things to do for free (or almost free) with this handy list.
View of skyline in Seattle, Washington, from the deck of the King County Water Taxi to West Seattle.
AAA/Katie McPhee
Ferry/Water Taxi
801 Alaskan Way at Pier 52
To see the city skyline in its entirety—including the Space Needle, the Seattle Great Wheel and, on a clear day, Mount Rainier—you’ll want to get out on the water. The cheapest option is to hop aboard the Washington State Ferries, which provide transportation to Bainbridge Island or Bremerton (two great day trips) for just $8.35 roundtrip. Another option is the passenger-only King County Water Taxi, which runs to West Seattle for $5.75 each way. Both ferry rides are fun things to do in Seattle with kids.
Boeing at The Museum of Flight
flickr / CC BY/Aaron Headly
First Thursday Deals
Various locations
If you’re on the hunt for more fun things to do for free (and free activities for kids), take advantage of “First Thursday” deals offered at many museums. You can score free admission on the first Thursday of the month at popular attractions like Living Computers: Museum and Labs, 2245 1st Ave. S. (free first Thurs. 5-8 p.m.); The Museum of Flight, 9404 E. Marginal Way S. (free first Thurs. 5-9 p.m.); and the Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI), 860 N. Terry Ave. (free first Thurs. all day).
View from Starbucks on the 40th floor of the Columbia Center in downtown Seattle, Washington.
AAA/Katie McPhee
Free Views at the Columbia Center
701 Fifth Ave.
(206) 264-0152
For those seeking a sky-high experience, a much cheaper alternative to the Space Needle is, surprisingly, the Starbucks on the 40th floor of the Columbia Center downtown. Grab a treat, hook up to the complimentary Wi-Fi and enjoy free views from the coffee shop’s nearly floor-to-ceiling windows. You’ll have a peek at the waterfront and Elliott Bay in addition to downtown buildings, Lake Washington, Bellevue and the Cascade Range in the distance. Tip: Use the elevators marked 37-76 to reach the Sky Lobby Starbucks.
View of the water from the pedestrian walkway over the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks in Seattle, Washington.
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Hiram M. Chittenden Locks
3015 N.W. 54th St.
(206) 783-7059
See a century-old engineering marvel up close at the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, one of the best free things to do in Seattle on a sunny day. Located along the Lake Washington Ship Canal, the lock system helps move boats of all shapes and sizes from the water level of Puget Sound to that of Salmon Bay (and vice versa) in just under 15 minutes. Amenities for visitors at the locks include a visitor center with exhibits, a botanical garden and an underwater viewing room where you can watch salmon swimming through the canal.
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Red ampersand sculpture at Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle, Washington.
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Olympic Sculpture Park
2901 Western Ave.
(206) 654-3100
Get some fresh air at Olympic Sculpture Park, the Seattle Art Museum’s free outdoor park that blends the visual arts with breathtaking natural scenery. Start at the glass-walled PACCAR Pavilion and grab a map, then wander the Z-shaped path that zigzags down a hill and over train tracks toward Elliott Bay. Along the way you’ll see contemporary art sculptures, native plantings and seating areas, as well as excellent vantage points for taking photos of the waterfront and the distant Olympic Mountains.
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Ticketing station for Link light rail system in Seattle, Washington.
AAA/Katie McPhee
Public Transportation
An easy way to save money on your Seattle vacation is to utilize the city’s public transportation system. For cheap travel to and from the airport, consider taking the Link light rail, which makes the trip from Sea-Tac Airport to downtown in about 40 minutes; fares are $3 each way. You can also ride Link light rail to popular neighborhoods like Capitol Hill and the University District and to Pioneer Square, Westlake Mall and other touristy hotspots.
Exterior and waterfront patio at Ivar's Acres of Clams, a restaurant in Seattle, Washington.
AAA/Katie McPhee
Seattle Happy Hours
Various locations
It is possible to find good, cheap eats in Seattle. Besides the locally made snacks and treats at Pike Place Market, many downtown restaurants offer happy hours to keep commuters in the city after work. This means great deals for you on clam chowder and fish ‘n’ chips at Ivar's Acres of Clams (1001 Alaskan Way), oysters and calamari at Elliott's Oyster House (1201 Alaskan Way), mouthwatering burgers at Metropolitan Grill (820 2nd Ave.) and sushi and sashimi combos at Umi Sake House (2230 1st Ave.).