7 Cheap Things to Do in Seattle for $10 or Less
Updated: October 10, 2023
AAA Travel Editor Katie Broome
Visiting Seattle on a budget? From ferry rides to free views, here are a few of the low-cost and free things to do in Seattle that will help you save money while on vacation.
801 Alaskan Way at Piers 50 and 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 round trip. 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.
flickr / CC BY/Aaron Headly
First Thursday Deals
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).
Free Views at the Columbia Center
701 Fifth Ave.
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.
Hiram M. Chittenden Locks
3015 N.W. 54th St.
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.
Olympic Sculpture Park
2901 Western Ave.
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.
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.
Seattle Happy Hours
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 (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.).
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AAA Travel Editor Katie Broome
Katie Broome is a AAA Travel Expert.