Free Fun in Seattle

The typical family vacation can get pretty costly just with basics like airfare, car rentals and hotels, but that barely scratches the surface before you start adding in other travel necessities like food, entertainment and activities. While some vacations are clearly more expensive than others (read: a family trip for four to Disney World in Orlando), you don’t have to go into debt with every vacation.

Luckily, a little creative planning can make any vacation fun without breaking the bank. Seattle is the perfect example of a city that can be fun to explore without having to fork over wads of cash. Start your morning with a stroll through a city landmark, Pike Place Market. Located directly on the waterfront with incredible views of the surrounding Elliot Bay, the market place is jam-packed with hundreds of stalls offering everything under the sun, including its famous fish stalls where the vendors entertain the crowds by tossing massive fish around. These Seattle fishmongers made throwing fish an art form and definitely deserve a spot on your sightseeing tour of the city.

Next head to the Olympic Sculpture Park, open year-round, sunrise to sunset, and completely free to visit. Occupying nine acres of open space in downtown Seattle, the park is a great place to stretch your legs and enjoy the outdoors while viewing unique sculptures on the waterfront. The park’s iconic red “Eagle” sculpture is visible from a distance and accompanied by more than a dozen other massive pieces that require a beautiful outdoor space such as this to be truly appreciated.

Mother and daughter at the Eagle Sculpture by Alexander Calder, Olympic Sculpture Park © David Pillow |

Mother and daughter at the Eagle Sculpture by Alexander Calder, Olympic Sculpture Park © David Pillow |

For an educational experience, visit the Hiram M. Chittendon Locks, better known as the Ballard Locks, where you can walk along the locks separating the fresh waters of Lake Washington and Lake Union from the salt water of Puget Sound. Visitors can walk along the locks to see how boats travel through them, rising and sinking with the water as they travel between waterways. From June through September the locks are also a great place to observe salmon fighting their way upstream to reach spawning grounds.

For more totally free outdoor adventure, head about an hour outside of Seattle to Snoqualmie Falls. Snoqualmie is home to one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the Pacific Northwest and is a great way to get out of the city and enjoy some of the beautiful nature the area is so famous for. The falls are easy to get to and even the parking is free — albeit limited so try to get there early. The upper observation deck is just a short walk from the parking lot and the hike down to the lower observation deck is a great way to get in some exercise for the whole family (however, you can also drive to a small parking lot near the lower deck if you prefer).

After enjoying some of the best things — not to mention free — Seattle has to offer, your family will thank you for a fun-filled vacation while your bank account will be ready and willing to finance your family’s next trip.