Things to do on a Budget in Seattle this Spring


One of America’s most energetic cities, Seattle is packed full of great things to see and do during spring – including plenty that won’t break the bank.

An old military jet on display at the Museum of History and Industry (Photo: Adam Lusch via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Perched on Puget Sound in the Pacific Northwest, Seattle is surrounded by water, mountains, evergreen forests, and thousands of acres of parkland. But it is the city’s cultural and entrepreneurial legacies that continue to burn brightly to this day, evidenced in its enduringly rich music scene, burgeoning modern tech sector, and amazing arts and sports institutions. If you’re visiting Seattle this spring and would like to fill your itinerary without spending a fortune, here are 12 of the city’s best budget-friendly activities and attractions.

Visit a free museum during First Thursday

A great way to delve into Seattle’s cultural scene on the cheap, on the first Thursday of every month the public gets the run of some of the city’s best museums with free entry for all. Among the venues that participate are the Museum of History and Industry, which is devoted to teaching and preserving the diverse history of Seattle, the Puget Sound region and the country. Highlights include the museum’s permanent exhibit “Essential Seattle”, which offers a photographic and historical perspective on the city’s history from the day Captain George Vancouver’s ship first sailed into Elliott Bay in 1792 to the present day.

860 Terry Avenue North, Lake Union Park / Mon-Sun 10am-5pm

Another highly distinguished museum that can be visited completely free of charge on First Thursdays each month, the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture is the state’s oldest museum, dating all the way back to 1890. Its incredible collection numbers over 12 million artifacts and specimens spanning art, anthropology, biology, and geology, including totem poles, gemstones, dinosaur fossils, as well as one of America’s largest collections of Northwest Coast and Alaskan Native art.

4300 15th Avenue Northeast / Tues-Sun 10am-5pm Closed Mon

Soak up Seattle’s heritage at Pioneer Square

Seattle’s oldest neighbourhood, Pioneer Square is home to an array of architectural gems, art galleries, cafés and bookstores. The ideal place for soaking up the city’s fascinating history, visitors can step back in time by visiting attractions such as the Klondike Gold Rush museum, which explores Seattle’s involvement in the 1890s mass migration to Canada’s Yukon region; Smith Tower, for many years the tallest building on the West Coast; and Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour, where you’ll traverse dark subterranean tunnels and winding passageways.

Statues of firemen in Pioneer Square (Photo: Bridget Coila via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Attend a fun-packed festival

Take a stroll back in time, learn how early Port Townsend residents lived, worked and played at the hugely popular Port Townsend Victorian Heritage Festival. Hear stories of Victorian high stakes business ventures, colourful characters and how it all came crashing down. See and hear how modern residents are preserving their legacy of Victorian architecture. There are also presentations by noted historians, Victorian fashion show, restored home tours, walking tours, community Contra Dance and much more.

Venues across Port Townsend / 29-30 April & 1 May 2022

(Photo: Port Townsend Victorian Heritage Festival)

A huge range of nationalities are represented through the mediums of music, folk dancing and art at the volunteer-run International Children’s Friendship Festival, one of Seattle’s most eagerly awaited annual springtime events. Children celebrate their international friendship through experiencing the rich tapestry of the world’s cultures, with guests performers from as far and wide as the Republic of Seychelles, Mongolia and Mexico down the years. Whether it’s dancing, singing, playing music, making origami, or getting your face painted, there’s something for every taste.

Fisher Pavilion, Seattle Center / 23 April 2022

A live performance at the International Children’s Festival (Photo: International Children’s Festival)

Immerse yourself in Seattle’s rich maritime heritage

A living museum dedicated to preserving and documenting the long and distinguished maritime history of the Pacific Northwest, the free-to-enter Center for Wooden Boats offers a range of thrilling activities, from marvelling at unique and historic wooden boat designs to renting a boat, learning to sail, or even volunteering. Visitors can walk the docks and admire the many beautiful wooden boats on the water, or come into the Wagner Education Center and check out the exhibits on dry land. There are also Toy Boat Building classes for kids and adults on the first Thursday of the month, plus  free 1-hour peapod (a type of rowboat) rentals throughout the year.

1010 Valley Street / Weds-Sun 10am-4pm Closed Mon-Tues

(Photo: The Center for Wooden Boats / Courtesy Mikel Amias)

Go and see a fascinating car exhibition

On display for just the second time ever, “Reclaimed Rust: The James Hetfield Collection” is the product of decades of design and building collaboration between rock music icon James Hetfield – best known as the frontman for Metallica – and some of the world’s biggest names in custom cars. With inspiration pulled from history and artistic movements from Art Deco to film noir, the vehicles featuring in this exhibition at America’s Car Museum push the boundaries of automotive design. Reclaimed Rust was organised by the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, California.

America’s Car Museum, Tacoma / Through 23 January 2023

(Photo: Jake Welk)

Explore a world-famous market

There are few better ways of getting under the skin of a city than by visiting a local market, and in Seattle you’ll find one of the most famous anywhere in the Pacific Northwest. A great place for foodies to pick up tasty grub, the open-air Pike Place Market is a perpetual hubbub of activity, with all the accompanying sights, sounds and smells you’d expect from a traditional marketplace. The produce is both extensive and diverse, with highlights including the fresh-from-the-ocean seafood and kaleidoscopic fruit and veg.

Fruit and veg on display at Pike Place Market (Photo: Haydn Blackey via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Take in some whale-watching

Puget Sound’s largest and most majestic inhabitants are a sight to behold, and happily they are neither particularly elusive nor camera shy. Visitors to Seattle can marvel at these giant creatures of the sea from an up-close and personal vantage point by joining one of the many organised whale-watching tours that depart from the city. During these tours you’ll have the chance to spot the orcas and humpback whales that take residence in the region all year round. Tour options range from guided kayak and boat trips off the San Juan Islands to catching a boat or seaplane right out of Seattle.

Whales rise to the surface during a Seattle whale-watching tour (Photo: Claire Gribbin via Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

Celebrate the start of boating season

As a major port city, Seattle hosts a multitude of boat owners eagerly waiting for spring in order to get back on the open water – and May is the month for just that. Each year the first week of May sees the Opening Day of boating season with an assortment of fun-filled parades, races, and even a regatta. The Seattle Maritime Festival follows the week after with tours, maritime poetry, demonstrations, and boat building, among a diverse programme of family-friendly activities.

Check out a stunning array of cherry blossoms

A combination of frequent rain and mild temperatures serve to create beautiful blooms in Seattle during the spring months. One of the most picturesque spots at this time of year is The University of Washington, which has become renowned for its stunning display of cherry blossoms. Hundreds of blooming trees line pathways and complement the gothic buildings, which makes the campus especially beautiful. Be sure to stop by the Liberal Arts Quadrangle, which features one of the most beautiful cherry blossom displays anywhere in the country.

Cherry blossom at The University of Washington (Photo: brewbooks via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Embark on a day-trip to a nearby island

An ideal antidote to the hustle and bustle of Seattle, Bainbridge Island is one of the most popular excursions available from the city, located just a 35-minute ferry ride away. Among its best attractions is the scenic Bloedel Reserve, a 150-acre forest garden teeming with curated gardens, ponds and meadows to explore – and at its most verdant during springtime. For indoor entertainment on a rainy day, there’s also the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art and Kids Discovery Museum.

Bainbridge Island seen from a Seattle ferry (Photo: Sue via Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

Catch a baseball game

There are few things more quintessentially American than baseball and Seattle is home to a prestigious Major League Baseball team in the shape of the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners play games throughout the year, including during springtime, with locals and visitors alike welcome to come and cheer them on at the T-Mobile Park stadium while soaking in the warm spring sunshine. If that’s not enough to tempt you, there’s also lashings of hot dogs, peanuts and freshly poured beer.

1250 1st Avenue South

By Paul Joseph