Seattle Travel
Free Seattle Museums: The Ultimate Guide

Free Seattle Museums: The Ultimate Guide

Post last updated July 21, 2023
Family Visits Seattle Art Museum
Seattle Art Museum [sprague @ flickr]

Rain, rain, go away. Well, if you know a thing or two about Seattle, you’ll know it likely won’t. But don’t let that stop you! While a rainy day may not be ideal for a picnic at Golden Gardens Park, boating around Lake Washington, or strolling through downtown, rainy days are perfect for discovering the things you normally wouldn’t think to do – like museums! Seattle has a plethora of interesting museums, some you’ve probably never heard of, so we went ahead and did you a favor and compiled the ULTIMATE SEATTLE MUSEUM GUIDE – including information on Free Admission Days (yes you read that right, FREE). Take advantage of the next rainy PNW day and check out one of the museums below:

1. Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture

*Free admission 1st Thursday of every month

The Burke Museum, the oldest museum in Washington state, explores the history of the Northwest with exhibits ranging from dinosaurs to Native American history and more. The museum is home to over 16 million artifacts, as well as the largest collection of spread bird wings in the world.

2. Center for Wooden Boats

*Free admission every day

Honoring Seattle’s unique maritime culture, the Center for Wooden Boats serves to preserve and document the historic wooden boats of the Pacific Northwest. Also considered a “living museum”, you have the opportunity to rent these historic boats and take them out on Lake Union.

3. Center for Contemporary Art

*Free admission every day

Located in the Tashiro Kaplan Building in Pioneer Square, the Center for Contemporary Art showcases both established and emerging artists. The center strives to educate the Pacific Northwest on contemporary art through exhibitions, publications, artist residencies, and discussions.

4. Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center

*Free admission every day

Before Seattle was Seattle, the Duwamish Tribe called this land home. The Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center, located near the mouth of the Duwamish River, serves as a center for the community to learn about the history of the Duwamish Tribe and Salish People. Monthly special events, ongoing workshops, discussions, lectures, as well as historic photographs and artifacts, are available to the public. The Longhouse is also great for events!

5. Flying Heritage and Combat Armor Museum

*Free admission 1st Thursday of every month

The Flying Heritage and Combat Armor Museum contains military aircraft, tanks, and machinery from Germany, Japan, Russian, the United Kingdom and the United States. The collection showcases a time of extreme turmoil, while also highlighting the technological innovation of 20th-century warfare.

6. Frye Art Museum

*Free admission every day

Seattle’s first free art museum, the Frye Art Museum showcases paintings and sculptures from European and American artists in the 19th and 20th-centuries.

5892499620_1c45c83129_o7. Henry Art Gallery

*Free admission Sundays, 1st Thursday of every month, and with valid student ID

Known locally as “The Henry”, Henry Art Gallery showcases contemporary art and the history of photography. Located on the University of Washington campus, The Henry contains over 25,000 objects including Light Reign by James Turrell, a skyspace with a retractable roof illuminated by color-shifting LED lights.

8. Imagine Children’s Museum

*Free admission 3rd Friday of every month 5:30-9 PM, half-price admission every Thursday 3-5 PM, EBT cardholders $3 admission

The perfect museum if you have young children in tow – the Imagine Children’s Museum is a hands-on museum complete with a water-play area and a rooftop playground. Fun and educational for both kids and parents!

9. Klondike Goldrush Museum

*Free admission every day

Learn all about Seattle’s role in the Klondike gold rush of the 1890s. “Gold!”

10. Living Computer Museum

*Free admission 1st Thursday of every month, EBT cardholders $1 admission

Take a techy trip through time at the Living Computer Museum in the SoDo area. The museum features fully functioning vintage computers, as well as exciting hands-on exhibits like a 3D printer!

14506147057_72197d8743_o11. Museum of Flight

*Free admission 1st Thursday of every month 5-9 PM

Explore the wonderful world of flight. The Museum of Flight includes over 160 aircraft on display, as well as interactive exhibits, flight simulators, the original Boeing Aircraft factory, and much more. From old to new, you’ll have the chance to see the machines and learn about the people who flew them.

12. Museum of History and Industry

*Free admission 1st Thursday of every month

The Museum of History and Industry, also known as MOHAI, contains over 4 million artifacts, photographs, and other historic materials, focusing on the history of the Seattle and the greater Puget Sound.

13. Northwest African American Museum

*Free admission 1st Thursday of every month

The Northwest African American Museum highlights the Black experience in America and the connection between the Pacific Northwest and the African American people. Free parking!!!

14. Northwest Railway Museum

*Free admission every day

Take a trip back in time to the age of the railways – experience old steam engines, locomotives, history of the railways, and more. Fun for the kids: life-sized Thomas the Tank Engine!

15. Olympic Sculpture Park

*Free admission every day

Free and open to the public year-round, the Olympic Sculpture Park is an outdoor waterfront sculpture museum near downtown. While this one won’t necessarily get you out of the rain, it’s a must-see in Seattle!

16. Seattle Art Museum Downtown

*Free admission 1st Thursday of every month

The SAM showcases collections from traditional to modern, including a fairly expansive African collection which draws many visitors in. Family drop-in activities allow families to give kids the opportunity and encouragement to create their own pieces of art!

12109766543_d80a82da8d_o17. Seattle Children’s Museum

*Donation (pay what you wish) weekdays 4-5 PM

“Where imagination comes alive!” The Seattle Children’s Museum offers hands-on activities for children and their families to enjoy, create, and learn. The children’s grocery store is a favorite amongst many – children get to push a little cart through the “grocery store” and put items in their cart to “buy” – fun!

18. Washington Park Arboretum

*Free admission every day

Not exactly a museum…but the Washington Park Arboretum is a 230-acre plot full of a wide variety of plants native to the Northwest, some extremely rare! The Arboretum is also home to the Japanese Gardens (free admission 1st Thursday of every month).

19. Wing Luke Museum

*Free admission 1st Thursday of every month

The Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience explores and showcases Asian culture and its impact on the development of the Northwest. Dive into Asian culture and traditions, sports, music, art, history, and more.

***Tip: Check out local art walks in the area (always free!)

Whether the weather is in your favor or not, Seattle has endless activities to offer. We live in such a beautiful, rich city full of people from all different backgrounds, an impressive local art scene, as well as a unique boating culture. Next time you wake up to the sound of raindrops hitting your window (which will likely be very soon), ditch Netflix and chilling for the day and check out a local museum!

Tell us your favorite museum in Seattle in the comments below, tweet us @seattlevisit or tag us in your Instagram photos @seattlevisit from your next trip to a local museum! Click here for more rainy day activities. Cheers!

Ashleigh on ferry Island hopping.

Hi, I'm Ashleigh! Welcome to Seattle Travel, my little piece of beautiful PNW. This is home and I'm here to share all my experiences so visitors and locals alike can find the best experiences this part of the country has to offer. I started Seattle Travel in 2012 as a way to journal my experiences and over the years have been encouraged by family and friends to open up my adventures to everyone. I actively seek out the best food, activities, and day trips and give you a local perspective.  The Pacific Northwest is one of the most beautiful areas in the world and my goal is to let you explore it to the fullest. 

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