25 Free or Cheap Things to Do in Seattle on a Rainy Day

Stay out of the rain without running out of cash.

While locals pride themselves on being active outside during Seattle’s long, gray, rainy winters, in reality sometimes you’d rather be inside. If the weather has interrupted your outdoor plans, here are plenty of options for covered activities. These indoor spots won’t break the bank, so you’ll have a little extra cash to buy another cup of coffee—sometimes a hot beverage is exactly what is needed.

Inside Pike Place Market

Shopping + Eating

An absolute must while visiting is Pike Place Market. Wander through its buildings and you’ll find local art, antiques, pottery, clothing, gifts, food, baked goods, coffee, a magic shop, a wind-up toy store, book stores, a record store, a barber—hours can go by and you might still not find everything. Local’s tip: Start in the morning, where your first stop should be Daily Dozen Doughnuts for a bag of their minis. They’re in the Economy Market building, in the hallway behind the newsstand at First Ave. and Pike St.

While it isn’t a typical place to wander, Uwajimaya in Seattle’s International District is one of the coolest grocery stores in town. Its history goes back to 1928, when it was a basic grocery store. Now, you’ll find groceries, home goods, gifts, a deli and the Seattle location of Japanese bookstore chain Kinokuniya Book Store, filled with books, paper, writing utensils and gifts from around Asia. Local’s tip: Head to the food court for fantastic cheap eats including Korean barbecue, Thai food, crepes, burgers and more.

Have a one-of-a-kind coffee experience at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room. This new venture is housed in an old auto dealership on Seattle’s Capitol Hill. Inside, enjoy a cup of coffee while watching the brand’s Reserve coffee beans roast—and feel free to ask questions about the process. The beautiful space is a mix of industrial equipment and Pacific Northwest design, including work from local artists. Local’s tip: If you feel like a bit of a splurge, have a pizza at the third location of Tom Douglas’ Serious Pie, located on site. May we recommend the sweet fennel sausage pizza?

Local chocolate company Theo Chocolate offers tours of its production facility for just $10 per person. The tour includes plenty of chocolate samples. During the hour-long tour, learn about the origins of chocolate, how cocoa fruit is turned into such a delicious treat and see where Theo bars and confections are made. Local’s tip: Note that tours are on a temporary hiatus until Nov. 2017. Book your tour via the website in advance—tours often sell out ahead of time.

Volunteer Park Conservatory

Beautiful Buildings + Fantastic Views

Seattle is a city of readers, and amazing libraries are no exception. Visit the Seattle Central Library downtown—there is far more to explore than rows of books. From the neon escalators and the deep red meeting room level to the floor of wooden letters and the impressive view at the 10th floor, you can spend hours wandering the building. Free self-guided tours are available via an information sheet at the main desk, a podcast or by dialing a special phone number from your cell phone. Find directions for tour options on the library’s website. Local’s tip: There are always author readings and special events happening. Check the calendar online to see who is coming.

Warm up at the Volunteer Park Conservatory, a lovely greenhouse in Volunteer Park with five different sections. See bromeliads, palms, ferns, cacti and seasonal displays. Admission is $4 for adults, $2 for teens and free for children 12 and younger. If you happen to visit on the first Thursday or first Saturday of the month, admission is free! Local’s tip: Docent-led tours are available if you’d like to learn more about the history, collections and operation of the Conservatory. Schedule a tour two weeks in advance by calling 206.322.4112.

While you’re at Volunteer Park, head to the top of the water tower, built in 1906. The 107 stairs to the enclosed observation deck are worth the climb—you’ll have gorgeous views of Capitol Hill, Volunteer Park, and, on a clear day, sights beyond. Local’s tip: While you’re at the park, stop briefly outside to snag a snapshot of the Black Sun sculpture, with the Space Needle beyond. Even on the grayest of days, it’s a beautiful—and classic—Seattle shot.

Experience a portion of the state’s extensive ferry system and see great views of downtown Seattle and Puget Sound aboard a ferry to Bainbridge Island. Walk-on fares are $8.35 for adults, $4.15 for youth 6-18 and seniors 65 and older. The ferry leaves from downtown Seattle’s terminal, and, once in Bainbridge Island, you can walk into Winslow to explore the town, or turn around and head right back to the city. Local’s tip: Keep your eyes open—there is plenty of wildlife to spot while sailing.

The 5th Avenue Theatre Interior

Museums + Theaters

While admission to area museums varies, the first Thursday of the month brings free admission at the Burke Museum, the Henry Art Gallery, the Museum of Flight (from 5-9 pm), the Museum of History and Industry, the Nordic Heritage Museum, the Northwest African American Museum, the Seattle Art Museum, the Seattle Asian Art Museum and the Wing Luke Museum. The Bellevue Arts Museum offers free admission the first Friday of the month, as does the Seattle Art Museum and Seattle Asian Art Museum for seniors (62+). The Seattle Asian Art Museum also has free admission on first Saturdays for families, and is free the second Thursday of the month from 5-9 pm. The Center for Wooden Boats, the Frye Art Museum and the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park are always free. Local’s tip: Art walks are another great way to see a variety of local artists for free. Many neighborhoods have them monthly. Check this website for a list.

See the stunning architecture, theaters and lobbies, and get some behind-the-scenes information about Seattle’s theaters on one of the free tours. The Paramount Theatre has tours the first Saturday of the month, just meet at the main entrance by 10 am. The 5th Avenue Theatre also has free tours of the ornate space most Mondays at noon—check the website for details. Free tours of Benaroya Hall, home of the Seattle Symphony, begin at noon and 1 pm on specific dates: Check the website to see if one will work for you. Benaroya also has recital demonstrations of their 4,490-pipe Watjen Concert Organ on some Mondays at 12:30 pm. Check the website for specific dates. McCaw Hall, where the Pacific Northwest Ballet and Seattle Opera stage productions, has a free tour at noon on the third Tuesday of the month, subject to event schedules. Pre-registration by the Friday before the tour is required: Details are on the website. Local’s tip: If you’re interested in seeing a show, some of Seattle’s smaller theater groups offer pay-what-you-can performances. Get more details at Seattle Repertory Theatre’s website, ACT Theatre’s website and Taproot Theatre’s website.

 

Map of Things to Do on a Rainy Day in Seattle on a Budget

Stacy Booth
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