We know many of our parks, lakes, and beaches in the Puget Sound region are free and a great place to spend a day. You can spend hours wandering around the Pike Place Market, the Seattle Center, the Olympic Sculpture Park, or the Bellevue Botanical Garden, but what if you want to do something a little different? A little more unique? The following list has things that are family-friendly and things that are interesting for grownups.
All of these places and activities are totally free to visit. Some are run by non-profits who welcome donations, but you aren’t obligated. Future articles will list things that are free but ask for a donation or pay what you can, or are very low cost, so stay tuned!
Kitsap Live Steamers - Port Orchard
Take a free ride on a miniature but authentic steam railroad car on the 2nd and 4th Saturday of the month with the Kitsap Live Steamers. This 7.5” gauge railroad runs through a forest for 12 minutes and is fun for the whole family.
Great Northern & Cascade Railway - Skykomish
Can’t get enough of trains? Here you can also ride for free on miniature trains. There’s also an historic depot and a train museum, and it’s a great place for a picnic lunch.
The Center for Wooden Boats - Seattle
Wander around the docks and education center for free every day that the center is open, and enjoy a picnic at the adjacent Lake Union Park. But, on Sundays you can rent a 5-person rowboat for free for an hour. Just sign up online in advance.
Coast Guard Museum - Seattle
This is an excellent place to view pieces of the Coast Guard history, including scale models, pieces of the HMS Bounty and Old Ironsides, ship wheels, and WWII mementos, among many other things. Located on the Seattle waterfront, there’s a lot of wandering you can do after a free visit to this museum.
Griot’s Garage - Tacoma
This automotive supplies retailer offers a special Caffeine & Gasoline event on the first Saturday of the month. They’ll supply the coffee and doughnuts and car enthusiasts bring their vehicles. You can wander and talk to other car lovers, and check out the shop’s auto display area.
The Puyallup Fish Hatchery - Puyallup
October is the big month for the hatchery, welcoming back the salmon, but the educational center at this historic hatchery is open on Saturdays and is free to visit, and you’re always free to walk around the trails.
This isn’t the only National Park located in a building in a city, and it isn’t the absolute smallest, but it is unique. Two floors of exhibits honor the Klondike Gold Rush, and on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays you can go on a free one-hour guided tour of Pioneer Square, led by park rangers. The park, which is really more of a museum, is always free.
Frye Art Museum - Seattle
Located on First Hill in Seattle, the Frye is always free and is open Wednesdays through Sundays. 30-minute tours are free on the second Saturdays and second Sundays of the month. With permanent and rotating exhibits, there’s always new art at the Frye.