Free Things to Do in Seattle

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Exploring Emerald City History: Discover Seattle With These 5 Free Activities

In the past hundred years or so, Seattle has seen itself remade time and again. It's experienced time as a pioneer outpost, a lumber town, and a gold rush center before blossoming into the thriving urban hub and international arts and music outpost of today. Putting your finger on the pulse of Seattle's transformation doesn't have to cost you a lot of money. In fact, you won't have to spend a penny.

Head to the Market

Pike Place Market connects farmers and craftspeople with consumers, but you don't have to spend a penny to enjoy a day there. The 9-acre historic district rolls out lots of learning opportunities the kids will enjoy. Start at the iconic Public Market Center sign. It's one of the oldest outdoor neon signs on the West Coast. Marvel at the mongers throwing—and catching—fish at the Pike Place Fish Market (86 Pike Pl., Seattle, WA ) and peer through a big glass window at Beecher's Handmade Cheese (600 Pike Pl., Seattle, WA) to check out cheesemakers at work. As you walk around, see how many little piggies came to market. Start with Rachel the Piggy Bank under the Public Market Center Sign—there are about 100 pig statues scattered around Pike Place Market and downtown Seattle.

Sail Away

Head to the Center for Wooden Boats (1010 Valley St., Seattle, WA) for the free Sunday Public Sail. Ride aboard spirit boats, yachts, yawls, ketches, schooners or other vessels. Volunteer skippers and their crews take members of the public out on Lake Union for a 45-minute to 1-hour ride. The event happens year-round rain or shine unless winds on the lake are above 13 mph. If you can't make it on a Sunday, visit the center on any other day but Monday, when they're closed. Walk the docks, explore different types of boats and view the center's exhibits.

Lock It Up

Watch the fascinating workings of the Hiram M. Chittenden Ballard Locks (3015 NW 54th St., Seattle, WA) that were built more than 100 years ago as a commercial navigation route through the city. Today, they are the busiest locks in the U.S. Take a free one-hour walking tour with a knowledgeable guide or attend free afternoon and evening concerts from May through mid-September. Marvel at salmon swimming upstream at the locks during summer or time your visit to take in a car show or boat parade.

Check Under the Bridge

Who says trolls under bridges are just a thing of fairy tales? Discover the Fremont Troll that lurks under the Aurora Avenue bridge at Troll's Knoll (N. 36th St. and Aurora Ave. N., Seattle, WA). The giant concrete troll glares at visitors with silver eyes while clutching a Volkswagen Beetle. Get pics of the kids climbing all over the troll and let them run off energy at the park.

Satisfy Your Curiosity

Ye Olde Curiosity Shop (1001 Alaskan Way, Seattle, WA) has left visitors gasping in wonder since 1899, long before Seattle's Space Needle and other major attractions came on the scene. The free museum will slake your sideshow thirst with oddities like a three-tusked walrus skull, mermaid skeleton, real mummies and an extensive collection of dollar-bill origami.