Four Free Things To Do In Seattle For Families

February 17, 2015

I love Seattle. I know I'm probably biased because I live here, but there's a reason why I chose to come to this city so many years ago. There are just so many things to do in this city, including all the free things to do in Seattle.

It's a bit of a cliche, but to me, Seattle is the West Coast's best kept secret. The city is not quite as urban as San Francisco, yet not quite as hipster as Portland. Seattle is that older cousin in your family, who has a grown-up job, but still isn't opposed to playing video games with their younger relatives. We're pretty cool like that here in the Northwest!

This post was updated on March 23, 2020.

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The Seattle Waterfront (July 2018)

The best time to visit Seattle

Seattle has a reputation for being a rainy city. And to be fair, the city does get a fair amount of rain each year. Between the months of October to June, you're more likely to have overcast days rather than sunny ones.

But between the months of July and September, the weather in Seattle is beautiful! That's the perfect time to visit the city and enjoy all the free things to do in Seattle. Coincidentally, those summer months are also Seattle's busiest tourist months, so if you come during that time of year, be prepared to brave some crowds.

Yet, even if you visit Seattle during the typically rainy months, you may be blessed with some clear skies and sunny days. So don't write off the fall and winter months just yet! Seattle is a great city to visit with kids ANY time of the year.

Free things to do in Seattle
A view of downtown Seattle

Finding free things to do in Seattle

As a mother, I'm always on the lookout for free things to do in Seattle with my kids, whether that means doing a staycation or playing tourist in my town. Being a bit of a frugal mama, free things are always better, in my opinion.

While Seattle guide books will give you all sorts of suggestions for tourists things to do in Seattle, families who live here know there are more than a dozen free activities to choose from in the city. Seattle has over 400 outdoor parks and play areas. And there's always a farmer's market or community festival to check out during the weekends. For those of you whose time is limited in Seattle, here are my top four picks for free things to do in Seattle.

Shoppers walking at Pike Place Market, one of the free things to do in Seattle.
Visitors at Pike Place Market (July 2018)

Visit the Ballard Locks

Seattle is a city built around large bodies of water. There's the Puget Sound to the West and Lake Union in the center of the city. There's also Lake Washington to the East. Connecting these bodies of water are a series of canals.

The Ballard Locks lies in the Northwestern part of Seattle. It connects the salt water of the Puget Sound with the freshwater of Lake Union. It's a great place to check out the ships that go along the canal, and an excellent learning opportunity for the kids. Visiting the Locks has always been one of our favorite free things to do in Seattle.

Even grown-ups can marvel at the engineering feat of boats that weigh several tons rising up in the air simply with the help of water. As an added bonus, if you visit between July to October, you can watch the salmon swim through the fish ladder, on their way to Lake Washington.

Boats going through the Ballard Locks (February 2015)

Say hello to the Fremont Troll

The quirky neighborhood of Fremont is popular among locals and tourists alike. Once a haven for hippies in the '60s, and the self-proclaimed "Center of the Universe," Fremont boast some pretty unique attractions. There's even a giant statue of Vladimir Lenin in the middle of Fremont!

Our favorite attraction, though, is the Fremont Troll under the Aurora bridge. This troll was even featured in the movie, "10 Things I Hate About You."  Whenever we're driving in the neighborhood, my daughter always asks us to drive by the troll.  If it's a good day, we'll actually stop and let her climb onto the troll.

After a visit to the troll, we'll usually head to nearby Fremont Avenue for a bite to eat. On Sundays, the Fremont Market is worth checking out. There's a flea market collection of used items and handmade crafts that is fun to explore.

Free things to do in Seattle
Visitors at the Fremont Troll (January 2015)

Stroll through Olympic Sculpture Park

The Olympic Sculpture Park is part of the Seattle Art Museum's collection of art. Free and open to the public, it overlooks Elliott Bay, and covers an area of a few blocks. I love the creativity of all of the sculptures. And a visit to the sculpture park always leaves me inspired and rejuvenated.

My favorite sculpture is a series of copper structures that remind me of ships moving in the water. The artists for the pieces at the sculpture park come from all over the world. There is just so much diversity in the style and texture of each piece of art.

"Wake" at the Olympic Sculpture Park (June 2007)

Enjoy free things to do in Seattle at the Seattle Center

One of our favorite Seattle spots to visit is the Seattle Center. It's located near South Lake Union. Though some of the attractions there are fairly pricey - the Space Needle, the EMP, and the Dale Chihuly Glass Garden - there are still a few attractions that are free, including the International Fountain and the Artist At Play Playground. 

Seattle Center is also home to plenty of fairs and festivals. Folklife Festival, Bite of Seattle, Seafair, and Bumbershoot Music Festival are some of the more popular ones. Though it can get somewhat touristy, especially in the summer, Seattle Center is a great standby for filling up a weekend afternoon.

The Seattle Center's International Fountain (September 2014)

Discovering your own favorite free things to do in Seattle

Like any big city, Seattle's full of attractions that will please kids and grown-ups alike. I love that you don't have to spend a fortune to have a good time in Seattle.

The next time you're in town, use these four free things to do in Seattle as a starting off point to discover your own favorite family spots in the city. And be sure to let me know what you discover.  Happy exploring!

Four Free Things To Do In Seattle For Families | The Wandering Daughter

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