Off to see the wizard? No, this Emerald City doesn’t have a mysterious man behind a curtain, but it certainly has its share of intriguing attractions. And while the road to Oz is paved with yellow bricks, the streets of Seattle are filled with their own liquid gold. By that we mean Starbucks coffee, of course. The iconic brand was born in Seattle, and you can sip on a cup of freshly brewed caffeinated elixir as you peruse the city. If you’re looking to explore Seattle on a budget, you’re in luck: You don’t have to spend a fortune to have the time of your life on Puget Sound. In no particular order, here are 21 of the best inexpensive things to do in Seattle (some are even free).
- Go to the Space Needle Observation Deck
You can’t come to Seattle without visiting the piece de resistance of its skyline. For just over $20, you can grab a ticket to the Space Needle Observation Deck and eye guzzle the view of the city from your position 520 feet in the air.
- Walk through Chinatown
The ornate decorations and vibrant colors of Chinatown-International District are enough to dazzle your senses—you don’t have to spend a dime to fill a few hours enchanted by your surroundings. Though, for the price of a bowl of curry or some dim sum, your afternoon will be spicier in no time.
- Ride the Washington State Ferry to Bainbridge Island
For less than $10, you can buy a round-trip ticket to the ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge Island. Once there, head to the Bainbridge Vineyards and go straight to the tasting room. For just $5, you can taste a flight of their wines, all of which are produced with fruit grown on the island.
- Visit the Chihuly Garden and Glass Exhibit
Reserve a few hours for the magnificent Chihuly Garden and Glass, where the spectacular blown glass artwork of Dale Chihuly dangles from the ceiling, adorns the walls, and stands alone in vibrant exhibits. The entry fee is just over $20, and in the spring you can take a yoga class beneath the glass for an additional $22 charge.
- See a show at The Triple Door
After a day exploring downtown attractions, you don’t have to go far for some live entertainment. The Triple Door is a lounge near Pike Place where you can catch indie music and up-and-coming rock bands. Most tickets are around $20.
- Peruse the Fremont Sunday Market
This European-style market is absolutely free to enter. You can walk around window shopping the stalls and enjoying the ambient music, or you can stop and purchase world imports and art while you nibble on fresh produce.
- Grab a latte from the original Starbucks
Alright, so the truly original Starbucks was a few blocks away, but you can visit the second location of the first Starbucks all the same. Located in iconic Pike Place, this coffee lover’s mecca is a great way to start your day and pay homage to the ’bucks for just the price of a drink.
- Browse the Museum of Pop Culture
The MoPop (formerly called the EMP) is an edgy collection of things that celebrate what makes popular culture tick. From risk-takers to innovators, the museum celebrates things like the science fiction of Star Trek and the punk attitude of Nirvana. You can get a ticket to MoPop for about $20.
- Go underground
As you meander through the streets of downtown Seattle, you may not realize how much is happening just under your feet. The underground tunnels of Seattle, replete with sidewalks and storefronts, are what used to be street-level. The streets were elevated but much of the original city remains, and the tour is one of the top things to do in Seattle. Tickets are available online for just over $17.
- Have tea at a proper Japanese teahouse
Nestled in the 230-acre Washington Park Arboretum is the 3.5-acre Japanese Garden. And within that garden you’ll find serene ponds, exotic birds, and an authentic teahouse. For $10 and with a reservation, you can experience a 40-minute tea presentation inside the Shoseian Teahouse.
- Rent a kayak
Shimmy into a life vest and launch a kayak from West Seattle into the sounds. You’ll pass the skyline and enjoy some fresh air just minutes from downtown. Kayak rentals run about $20 per hour for single-seat vessels and $30 per hour for a double-seat kayak.
- Pull up a stool at Redhook Brewery
Just northeast of the city, you can sit down for a taster or a pint at Redhook Brewery in Woodinville. A 16-ounce draft is just under six bucks, and you can get a private tour of the place for only $5. A downtown Seattle location is expected to open in July 2017.
- Go shopping at Uwajimaya market
In the heart of Chinatown you’ll find the Uwajimaya flagship store. It stretches out over a whopping 35,000 square feet and sells delicious products from Japan, Vietnam, India, and more. We can’t promise you won’t spend more than $50, but it’s probably possible.
- Enjoy a Pike Place tour
The Pike Place Market is as quintessential to Seattle as barbecue is to Kansas City. For just $49, you can take a walking tour of this essential stop and taste food from the stalls before you watch some fish being thrown through the air.
- Take a tour of Benaroya Hall
This venue plays host to the Seattle Symphony, and free tours are often available in the afternoon on the third Monday of the month. You can also come back in the evening to be enchanted by a show; ticket prices for symphony performances are as low as $37.
- Visit the tropics at the Volunteer Park Conservatory
Take some time out of your trip to the Pacific Northwest to imagine you’re on an island vacation. At the Volunteer Park Conservatory, you can stop to smell the birds of prey and stay warm in the greenhouse. Snap a few photos of the deep green leaves and bright blooms before you go. Entry for adults is just $4.
- Have a picnic in Kerry Park
From your position in Kerry Park, the Seattle skyline is visible in the distance, and mountain views serve as its backdrop. The park is at the top of Queen Anne Hill, and for the price of a few sandwiches you can enjoy a lovely meal with unparalled views.
- Ride the Seattle Great Wheel
If you didn’t get your fill of spectacular views from Kerry Park, point your GPS to Pier 57. From a seat on the Seattle Great Wheel, the best of downtown comes into view. You can spot the top things to do and see in Seattle from here and plan the rest of your trip. Up to 18 people fit in a single gondola, and adult tickets are just $14. Spring for VIP, and each ticket is $50.
- Seattle Art Museum
This museum has been a hub for visual arts and breathtaking exhibits since 1933. Grab tickets to the Seattle Art Museum for $25, and soon you’ll be meandering through modern art from around the world. Artists on display include people from every continent.
- Let your hair down at a festival
There is nearly always a festival on in Seattle. In July, the Bite of Seattle invites you to grab samples from about 50 local restaurants, and entry is free. In August, the South Lake Union Block Party is a great place to mingle with locals. Entry is free, and you can buy a brew at the beer garden.
- Sign up for a cycle share
Biking is one of the most popular ways to get around the city; it’s not only one of the best cheap things to do in Seattle, but it helps you burn off the calories from your bread bowl soup. Rent some wheels from Pronto, Seattle’s cycle-share program, and you’re off and rolling. A 3-day pass is just $16.
Where will you spend a few bucks in Seattle?