Whether you’re in Seattle for an extended stay or only a few hours, there is a great deal to see and do. If you’re budget-conscious, check out these three ideas for a way to see some of the iconic parts of the city that parents and kids alike can enjoy together, without necessarily breaking the bank.
My 13-year old daughter and I recently were in Seattle for just a few hours one afternoon, on our way out to Lake Chelan, Washington. We had the opportunity to be shown a few of the sights by a local who was happy to play tour guide and show us around. If you only have a short time to explore and want to get the most out of it, here are a few family-friendly and fun ideas for free things to do in Seattle.
Free Things to Do in Seattle #1: Kerry Park
Kerry Park is located on Queen Anne Hill, at the corner of 2nd Avenue W. and W. Highland Drive. If you only have a short time to visit Seattle, you can find one of the most iconic views of Seattle here – emphasizing the Space Needle in the forefront. On a clear day, you can also see Mt. Rainier as well. We were fortunate enough that the mountain was ‘out’ when we visited.
There’s a large sculpture called Changing Form in the center of the park that seems to be very popular for kids to climb in and on and all over. There was a local daycare group visiting while we were there and it was fun to watch the toddlers having a blast.
Free on-street parking is available, although it can be difficult to find an open spot if the area is crowded. We visited during the afternoon, but I’m told that the view is just as beautiful at night with the cityscape all lit up.
Free Things to Do in Seattle #2: Pike Place Market
This one is really only ‘free’ if you have a great deal of willpower to be able to walk out without buying anything. And while we did pay for on-street parking in the area, there is no charge to visit Pike Place Market itself. We spent a couple of hours walking around and browsing and could easily have spent the whole day (or more), as there was much of the market that we didn’t have time to check out.
Even if you don’t spend a cent, there is plenty to see and do. You can hang out at the Pike Fish Market right in the Main Arcade of the market – watching the guys throw fish back and forth to each other is a blast. While you’re waiting for a fish to hit the air, you can also take a selfie with the market’s mascot, Rachel the Pig – and if so inclined, maybe drop some change into the pig’s coin slot to donate to the Pike Place Market Foundation, which benefits social services in the area. Even just browsing through the various shops and stalls is a whirlwind of sights, smells and sounds that captivates all the senses.
From fresh produce and flowers to seafood, there’s something to see in every direction, and it all smells delectable. Free samples abound, so you can taste the market as well – everything from jams and jellies to smoked salmon or other seafood treats. The market is also full of street entertainers. In our short time there, we heard several musicians and saw a fellow doing tricks with a parrot. My teen loved the parrot, as well as a street saxophone player that we saw – she took video to show one of her best friends back home, who also plays the saxophone.
If you do have a few dollars to spend at Pike Place Market, you’ll find something for just about every price point, to purchase or eat. We were on the hunt for unique souvenirs since this was our first trip to Seattle, and we were thrilled to purchase a couple of small sculptures made from ash from the eruption of Mt. St. Helen’s for only $4 each. You can find many other art and craft items at the market. My daughter’s favorite stop was the Golden Age Collectibles shop on the market’s lower level – she’s a self-proclaimed ‘fangirl’ so this store full of comics, games and more was right up her alley, so to speak. I literally had to drag her out of the shop when we ran out of time in the market. She could have happily browsed for another few hours, without buying a thing.
Free Things to Do in Seattle #3: Original Starbucks
Whether you’re a coffee aficionado or not, there is something about Starbucks – the coffee chain that began in a modest storefront in downtown Seattle and has spread worldwide. Located at 1912 Pike Pl., this Starbucks location is considered the ‘original’ Starbucks and is a popular tourist destination for folks who want to check out where it all began. It’s not uncommon for the line to stretch out the door and down the street, but you can peek inside, as we did, for no cost at all – and enjoy the aroma of roasted coffee that just seems to epitomize Seattle.
This Starbucks location retains its historic decor – everything inside is original, including the mermaid logo on the window. Like the rest of the company, she’s evolved a bit over time, so it’s fun to see and compare the new to the old.
We greatly enjoyed our short tour of Seattle and can’t wait to go back for an extended stay to see and do even more in this beautiful waterfront city!