Living a Month in Seattle
We enjoyed a housesit in Kirkland (Seattle area) Washington for a month and had a great time exploring the best of free Seattle during the month of September. We share 15 free things to do in Seattke (plus a few paid items) and how we found out about them. In addition, we share some of the easy to moderate hikes we enjoyed in Seattle while avoiding crowds and traffic. What a super month living in Seattle enjoying the Best of Seattle for practically free! No City Pass required!
1. Get a free library card from King County Library System.
Our first order of business was to get a free library card from King County and to identify free museum days in Seattle. We used the address of our housesit (learn how to housesit here) effectively online and immediately received an email with our temporary library card information. With that account number, we went online and booked free tickets to the Museum of Pop Culture and the Seattle Museum, saving over $50 per visit (for two.)
2. Go to the Seattle Art Museum and other museums for free.
Google “free things to do in Seattle” which generates a list of the days the Seattle Museums are free (generally the first Thursday of the month.) Combine that info with Bank of America’s free museum program where museums are free the first weekend of the month, and we enjoyed the Seattle Art Museum and the Nordic Museum at no charge.
3. Find a buddy or two for free tolls around Seattle.
The fact that we were two people in the car, we also avoided most traffic because we could use the HOV lanes. Driving Seattle’s freeways and tollways is not fun–there is a lot of traffic–but by traveling at non-peak and using HOV lanes helped. Adding a third person in the car allowed us to sail through tolls for free (with the flex toll pass.)
4. Watch salmon climb ladders.
The Ballard Locks, a place to just hang out and watch boats go through the busiest locks on the west coast, also is a teaching place. We adored watching the salmon jump through the salmon ladder on their annual migration, learning the difference among the three species that swim through the locks. Cost for the day? Well, in Seattle, you have to drink the coffee, and we enjoyed hot beverages from the local coffee stand at the gardens for $5 each.
5. Take a hike, from difficult to easy.
We love a good day outside, and of course Seattle offers up super ways to get outside. Trails abound, ranging from the difficult Mt Ranier to the less difficult Poo Poo Point and the easy Rainer Trail-Issaquah that goes to see one of the three new trolls in Seattle. Our very enjoyable hike along this cute little urban trail through Issaquah found us the troll, Two Trees, which delighted us. After finding the troll, we continued on a 3-mile hike along the Adventure Trail. We didn’t care to be hiking near the sportsman club (and its gunshots!), but the trail itself was refreshing. You can continue up it to Poo Poo Point if you’re so inclined to get a Troll and a Hangglider in one outing!
6. Play some free disc golf.
Another beautiful outdoor day took us to the Howling Coyote Disc Golf Course. This super fun, short course through the woods and across the lawn had families on it learning to play. We enjoyed the course so much, we played it twice, using the well-placed restrooms between rounds. Next time, we’ll bring a picnic lunch and enjoy the other couples and families relaxing in the park. Check out this great photo of Steve’s disc mid-frame in the picture!
We also caught a game of disc on the wide-open course at Juel Park. It was a great place to practice our long-distance throws, and the locals were quite helpful with navigating the course.
7. Attend a farmers market.
A summer in Seattle isn’t complete without a trip to at least one farmer’s market. We visited the Redmond Farmer’s Market and the Ballard Farmer’s Market. Both had gorgeous heirloom tomatoes and rare varieties of squash. The corn on the cob was the size of my arm and as sweet as honey. Both markets filled with locals supported local artisans, and surprises jumped from every block. We loved sampling the spicy honey and sweet pickles.
8. Find a meetup of other Seattlites.
Sometimes hiking with others is the way to go. There’s a meetup in Seattle (among hundreds) that gets together every Sunday at Discovery Park. We joined them for a 6-mile, quickly paced hike around the park, then we grabbed brunch at Hattie’s Hat in Ballard followed by the farmer’s market. We made 3 new friends among the 20 that showed up for the hike. I under-estimated the Seattle weather and wished I’d brought a jacket; good thing we hiked at a quick pace. I’d have frozen!
9. Go for a great bike ride.
If you’ve got a bike, the biking trails in Seattle are fantastic. We lived in the Bridle Tails neighborhood in Kirkland and loved jumping on the Lake Sammamish Trail to Kenmore. It was great to have an e-bike so we could tackle the hills up and down to our neighborhood, but the actual trail along the river was flat, easy, and busy. Several parks along the way invited us to picnic, and bathrooms were readily available. The wineries in Woodinville tempted us, and several people we met were riding from winery to winery on a Sunday afternoon.
10. Attend a baseball game (not quite free.)
Attending a Major League Baseball game is always a fun time, and the Mariners were no exception. We took the express bus to the game which dropped us off right in front of the stadium. Our cheap $10 tickets overlooked center field with a straight view right down across home plate. We learned two things at the Mariners game. First, ya gotta get the garlic fries. They matched nicely with the vegan hot dog I got, and the buttery garlic of the fries hung as an after taste for hours. Thank heavens we shared our fries with friends. We also learned the new Mariner-specific lyrics to the classic, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” where there’s a pivotal change in the tune. Rather than “shame”, locals substitute “same.” I guess losing is a way of Mariners baseball life here. “Where if they don’t win, it’s THE SAME!”
11. Get a massage (not free, but cheaper.)
Prior to arriving Seattle, we had spent many months in Southeast Asia luxuriating in very cheap body massages. By the time we got to Seattle, I was ready again. But I wasn’t ready for the skyrocketing prices of over $85 for a 50-minute massage. Luckily, I found the Washington Spa Academy. The student who treated me was professional, efficient, and effective. I gladly paid the $50 for 50-minute massage and never thought I wasn’t in a full-service salon.
12. Take a free craft and skill-building class.
My two favorite groups of professionals are librarians and rangers. I think they are magicians who make the world a better place. After getting my free King County library card (see number 1 above), I perused the free things to do at the library section. To my surprise, the Makerspace near us had free classes. In these maker spaces, crafters, artisans, and handiworkers can find materials, machines, and instruction for how to do everything from crochet to woodwork to metal working. We found a class on small business branding; attended; and came home with our Eat Walk Learn logo printed onto totes, tshirts and decals via their Cricut machine. Not only did we learn a new skill, but we ended up with free EatWalkLearn merch!
13. Go to the Museum of Pop Culture for free.
With our free tickets to the Museum of Pop Culture that we also got with our free King County library card, we entered into the space thinking we’d see Pop Rocks and Moon Boots. Rather, the museum focused more on music and film, which, sadly for me, I spaced out. While the displays on Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana captured the impact the Seattle music scene has made on the world, I found myself rather lost in the video game interactivity and space/thriller film sections. I never really enjoyed these genres when I was younger, so now that I’m older, they feel a bit out of reach. Nonetheless, we did enjoy the special tribute to Laika films and learned how the studio impacted the stop-motion industry greatly.
14. Go up the Space Needle (for free, kinda.)
While enjoying Seattle for the month, our older daughter came to visit. Having never been there before, we trotted her around to all of Seattle’s tourist highlights. From Pikes Market to Pioneer Square, we saw flying fish, remembered how western expansion history has common wild west elements across its cities, and meandered the waterfront looking for wild seals and sea lions. When we got to the Space Needle, we couldn’t resist. Up we went (along with the price since the list time we did it-wow!!), but nothing beats a gorgeous view of Pugent Sound in a spinning restaurant. Next time, we’ll go to the restaurant and dine. From there, you can access the observation area for free.
15. Catch free live music in the park.
The Carl S. English Jr. Botanical Gardens, among many other venues, hosts free concerts in the summer. We packed a picnic with foods from Pikes Market, viewed the salmon in the Ballard locks, and enjoyed a lovely 2-hour concert of a Van Morrison coverband called Moondance. It was a great way to enjoy a Sunday afternoon. The Gardens also sparkled with late-summer blooms, reminding us that the gorgeous blue, summer skies of Seattle were soon numbered.
16. Don’t go to the Aquarium even though it can be free.
If you’ve read this blog elsewhere or follow our youtube channel, you’ll know that we don’t support animal tourism of any kind. While we do support animal refuge and rescue (see our Elephant Nature Park video), we don’t support zoos. So when we got free tickets to the Seattle Aquarium, we were conflicted. Thinking that perhaps our views might be a bit dated, we decided to venture to the aquarium. There, we found touch tanks, an octopus all alone in a tank, a seal swimming in circles due to boredom (or was it anxiety), two lonely puffins, a jellyfish donut tank, and various other thanks of captured species. One highlight was the talking scuba diver researcher promoting the saving of a local rock fish species. I was hoping the Seattle Aquarium might change my mind on supporting the viewing of captured animals, but it did not.
Visit Seattle for a Month and Do Many Things for Free
While living in Seattle for a month, we learned that if you do a little bit of research and take advantage of the amazing King County Library System, you can do many of the best things of Seattle for free. From the Seattle Art Museum to the Ballard locks, Seattle has loads of fun and free things to do.