Put your wallet away! With so many kid-friendly free things to do in Seattle, you won’t need it
Turns out fun kid activities for Seattle families don’t have to break the bank. And since we’re all trying to save a bit of money these days, being frugal with kids activities can really help. Earn your adulting star today when you head to one of these places to get your play on with the kids. From play areas to petting farms to story times (almost) every day of the week, we’ve mapped out our favorite free things to do in Seattle for families.
1. Read Our Lips: Free Story Times
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Sit back and enjoy a good story at one of the many free storytimes offered around the city. Although Seattle Public Library isn’t offering in-person storytimes just yet, that doesn’t mean you can’t bring the kids to tons of other spots to enjoy a book and a bit of play. The King County Library System offers an array of storytimes for every age and in different languages so all families can fall in love with a good book.
Families can also look beyond the library for storytimes. Head to Island Books on Mercer Island to enjoy Saturday storytime with Nancy Stewart or even check out the storytimes at your local Barnes and Noble. Add a little drama to your storytime at the Frye Art Museum’s Small Frye: Storytelling + Art, held on first Wednesdays. There’s also Inclusive & Cultural Storytime on first Saturdays at the Highline Heritage Museum in Burien.
Don’t forget, many children’s museums also host storytime as part of their programming. If you’ve got a membership, you can add them to your list of free things to do in Seattle. Storytimes are held daily at Seattle Children’s Museum, with the exception of Tuesday when they’re closed. But that’s okay because Tuesday mornings at KidsQuest there’s storytime.
2. Get Outside
Speaking of storytime, families can also get outside and get reading when they check out the latest Pop-Up StoryWalk installation along a trail or at a nearby park. If one isn’t installed, you can still take the kids on a hike at one of our favorite city trails. The trails at Discovery Park, Seward Park, and the UW Arboretum never get old, and neither does a trip out to Maple Leaf to check out the Gnomes Trail. If you’ve got a Discover Pass, you can chase waterfalls near Seattle with the kids pretty much all year long.
Even if you don’t, you can hike with a Park Ranger on the Eastside. The City of Bellevue offers free ranger programs at Lewis Creek, Mercer Slough, and Lake Hills Greenbelt multiple times each month. While programs vary, and do require pre-registration, they’re all family-friendly and are a great excuse to get the kids outside.
Not so into hiking? Try a family bike ride.
3. Free Indoor Playgrounds
If you have a kid under five, you’ve probably logged a few hours at one of the many Seattle Community Centers drop-in play areas. But did you know that you can get the crazies out just about any day of the week for free? That’s right. The community center drop-in programs are free with a Quick Card (just register during your first visit) and are open for play with limited hours, Monday through Friday. Looking for a weekend option? Try Green Lake’s playroom—it’s open on Saturdays in the winter.
A new free toddler play gym just opened up at Salvation Army Seattle White Center Community Center. Drop in for playtime Monday through Friday from 3:30 p.m.-5 p.m. with your kids (ages 2-6) to enjoy toys, mats, and slides.
You can also take to the mall and pair a little shopping with your play experience. With the Kids Cove in Bellevue Square, the covered play area at U-Village, and the free kids play area at Westfield Southcenter, shopping malls aren’t just about spending money these days. And although it’s not a playspace, Crossroads Mall’s Music on the Market Stage is free entertainment for the whole family that runs each weekend.
4. Visit The Center for Wooden Boats
This museum, dedicated to preserving and documenting maritime history, just might be a frugal parent’s best friend. Kids love wandering the docks, getting up close and personal with tugboats, canoes, and sailboats (not to mention the seaplanes taking off nearby). If you’re able to plan ahead, consider signing up for a free peapod boat rental Wednesdays through Sundays. Or stop by on the second or fourth Thursdays for Tugboat Story Time at the floating Boathouse (be sure to check the events calendar to verify tugboat story time is running that week).
The warmer months offer even more free things to do in Seattle at Center for Wooden Boats. On the first Thursday of the month, take advantage of free Toy Boat Building at South Lake Union and at Cama Beach on Saturdays. On weekends and first Thursdays beginning in June, the Center for Wooden Boats brings out ten beautifully crafted wooden boats for passers-by to test out on the South Lake Union Boat Pond from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. ($5 suggested donation). Race ‘em, time ‘em, let them float leisurely along. Any way your littlest mate plays will be time well spent on the water.
The spray park at Lake Union Park is another fantastic and free way to spend a sunny day here. Pack a swimsuit and some sunscreen during the summer months for this added maritime adventure. Don’t forget, nearby MOHAI is always free for kids under 14 and the Kid-Struction Zone is open.
5. Sit & Sip at Kid-Friendly Coffee Shops
Hot coffee or tea and a comfy spaces where kids can play make for a perfect outing any day of the week. From Sip and Ship in Ballard and Greenwood to Ballard Firehouse Coffee to Kaffeeklatch in Lake City and Third Place Commons in Lake Forest Park, there are a plethora of indoor havens that will keep parents and kids happy, all for the price of a cuppa Joe. Popular Eastside spots like mom-owned Bellden Cafe, the Issaquah Coffee Company, Coffeeholic House, Mercurys Coffee Co.’s spacious (and busy) spots offer the same.
6. See a Kindiependent Concert
If there’s one thing toddlers can’t get enough of, it’s a chance to bust a move. That’s why we’re adding Mount Baker’s Kindiependent Kids Rock Series to our favorite free things to do in Seattle with kids. You can get tickets to see one of the coolest kindie rockers around for just $5 a person. Concerts run through April 1, 2023 for the current series.
7. Visit Animals
If Old McDonald is one of the songs in your musical repertoire these days, a trip to Kelsey Creek Farm in Bellevue is an absolute must. Kids love visiting with the cows, horses, bunnies, chickens, sheep, pigs, and more at this fabulous (free) farm in the heart of Bellevue. Families can also explore the walking trails that wind through the park, over the creek, and by the pastures. Bring a lunch to enjoy if it’s a dry day, and be sure to hit the playground when you’re there too.
But that’s not the only place to find furry and feathery friends that are always a safe bet for a fun day out with toddlers. There are lots of other places that don’t require you to drop any money to get your animal fix. Visit the horses at Woodinville stables, meet the resident animals at Farrel-McWhirter Farm Park if you’re on the Eastside. In the city you can look for ducks and turtles at Golden Gardens Park in the little pond by the bridge, grab a pair of binoculars and head to Discovery Park to look for more than 270 species of birds, or even stop by your neighborhood pet shop.
8. Explore Seattle Center
There’s a reason the Seattle Center is one of the top visitor destinations—it’s a blast! And you don’t have to spend a dime to keep the kids engaged. Let them wander around the sculpture garden, create cool sounds at the Sonic Bloom solar-powered art installation, run around the fountain (or jump in when it’s warm enough), play at the always-fun Artists at Play playground, and emote on the stage. Time your visit with a free Festál program and you’ve got your day planned. And if you’ve got a membership to either Seattle Children’s Museum, MoPOP, or PacSci, that’s yet another option for free playtime in the heart of the city. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Discovery Center is just a hop skip and a jump away. Admission is always free, during regular hours. You can even hop on the monorail (it’s just a few bucks for adults and kids under 5 are free) to see Seattle from above.
9. Hit a Local Park or Playground
Never underestimate the power of a playground when you need an impromptu, free kid-friendly activity in the city. In fact, it’s one of the best free things to do in Seattle with kids, year-round, thanks to our mild climate. Seattle kids and families know how to handle the rain (hello, Muddy Buddy and a change of clothes for the car), so even during the wettest months, this is a trusted go-to activity.
10. Spend Time at a Museum
Museums and toddlers can be hit or miss, so it’s hard to cough up admission fees for kids when a melt down and early exit are a distinct possibility. Fortunately, we’ve found some great museums that offer times for free admission for kids and have places toddlers can play and explore. Enjoy Free First Thursdays at these area favorites:
- The Museum of Flight, Free from 5 p.m.-9 p.m.
- MOHAI, Free from 5 p.m.-8 p.m. Kids 14 & under always free.
- The Burke Museum, Free from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Tickets required.
- Seattle Art Museum, Free from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Kids 14 & under always free.
- Northwest African American Museum, Free from 10 a.m.-7 p.m.
You can also score free museum passes (yes, we said free) through The Seattle Public Library and King County Library to some of our favorite places including: KidsQuest Children’s Museum, Seattle Aquarium, MoPOP, Wing Luke Museum, National Nordic Museum, Woodland Park Zoo, and more. These tickets require reservations in advance and they go quickly.
If you’re south of the city or are up for a drive, remember the Children’s Museum of Tacoma is always pay-as-you-will admission, and the Washington State History Museum offers free admission on the third Thursday of the month from 3 p.m.-8 p.m.