Free museums in Seattle: Bill and Melinda Gates Discovery Center

With more than 40 museums around, Seattle is one of the most interesting cultural cities in America, and the good thing about it is that most offer free entrance day.  The area’s museums cover a wide variety of topics to explore, such as pop culture, marine, aviation, contemporary art, and cultural heritage history, to name a few.

One thing for sure is that in Seattle, you won’t leave museums only for rainy days; in fact, it is probably that museums are going to be the main part of your itinerary in the city, even when you just come to Seattle for 3 days.

If you want to explore as many exhibitions as possible and save some bucks while doing it, there are many free museums in Seattle that you can visit. Also, most museums are part of the First Thursday Program in Seattle, which allows you to visit them for free on the first Thursday of every month. Below you will find the list of all Seattle’s museums that offers free visits so you can choose your favourite one:

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation at the Discovery Center

Voted as the best free museum in Seattle by 3DaysAbroad visitors!

440 5th Avenue N.Seattle, WA 98109

Free museums in Seattle: Bill and Melinda Gates Discovery Center
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation at the Discovery Center is one of the best free museums in Seattle.

Under the motto of “all lives have equal value,” the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation at the Discovery Center takes the visitor to explore the power of optimism by showcasing the innovations that helped to improve vulnerable communities and showing its visitors how everybody can take action to solve the world’s problems and make it a better place.  

  • The museum is always free to the public.
  • From Tuesdays to Saturdays, the foundation staff offers free public tours at 2 pm. There is no need to book in advance.

Center on Contemporary Arts

114 Third Ave S. Seattle, WA 98104

The Center on Contemporary Arts is a non-profit gallery that has been a part of the contemporary art community in Seattle for the past 35. Besides presenting the latest works of established artists, such as Gary Hill and Peter Bagge, the center provides a space for emerging leaders to showcase their creations.

  • The gallery is always free to the public.
  • One thing that makes this center so attractive is its wide variety of public events held during the year. If contemporary arts amaze you, check the calendar of events before heading there.

Coast Guard Museum Northwest

Pier 36, Base Seattle, 1519 Alaskan Way South, WA

Managed by volunteers, the Coast Guard Museum Northwest is dedicated to preserving the heritage of the Coast Guard in the area by displaying the history of America’s marine. The largest public collection of Coast Guard patches is displayed at the museum.

  • The museum is always free to the public.
  • You must show your ID to enter, so don’t leave it in your room.

Duwamish Tribe Longhouse & Cultural Center

 4705 W Marginal Way SW, Seattle, WA 98106

The Duwamish people are a Native American tribe located in the western part of Washington state and the metropolitan area of Seattle that has been living in the region since the glacial period (remember the Ice Age?). Nowadays, the tribe is the only indigenous group in the area.

The Duwamish Longhouse & Cultural Center explores the life and culture of this tribe. It often organizes events put on by its members and allied groups to benefit the public. While this is probably not the first thing you put on your list when planning your Seattle itinerary, we recommend you take the time to visit it since it showcases the city’s authentic culture.

  • The cultural center is always free to the public.

Frye Art Museum

704 Terry Avenue, Seattle, WA 98104

The art museum in the First Hill neighbourhood displays the collection of Charles and Emma Frye, a marriage of business leaders devoted to art that, back in the early twentieth century, displayed their paintings in a public exhibition space they opened to the public.

Because of Charles Frye’s German roots, the museum is primarily devoted to late nineteenth and early twentieth-century German Art. 

  • The museum is always free to the public.

Henry Art Gallery

The University of Washington 15th Ave NE and NE 41st St Seattle, WA 98105

The Henry, as locals call it, is part of the University of Washington in Seattle. The museum is recognized for its innovative exhibitions of contemporary art and culture and for giving space to emerging artists to showcase their works.

  • The museum entrance is free to the public every Sunday and the first Thursday of the month.

Imagine Children’s Museum

1502 Wall St, Everett, WA 98201 

While it is not in Seattle, the Imagine Children’s Museum is a great option if you visit the city with your little ones. From Downtown Seattle, it takes half an hour by car or public transport to reach this non-profit museum in Everett.

  • The museum is free to the public on the 3rd Friday of every month from 5:30 to 9 pm
  • Every Thursday, the entrance is half-price from 3 pm to 5 pm.

Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park

319 Second Ave S., Seattle, WA 98104

Operated by the National Park Service, the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park commemorates the famous Gold Rush that took place in 1896 and changed the economy of Seattle. The park has a two-floor exhibition designed to be self-guided, and you can choose to watch three different films to complement the information. 

During Summer, park rangers lead visitors on a free walking tour of Pioneer Square, Seattle’s historic district.

  • The park is always free to the public.

Last Resort Fire Department Museum

Seattle Fire Department Headquarters, corner of 2nd Ave South & South Main Street

A great thing to do in Seattle with kids is to visit the Last Resort Fire Department Museum in Pioneer Square. Besides learning from the honourable work of firemen in the city, visitors can see more than two dozen vintage antique motorized fire apparatus.

  • The museum is always free to the public. However, we recommend contributing to Seattle’s fire station with a donation.

Living Computers Museum

245 1st Ave S, Seattle, WA 98134

If you consider that Seattle is the home of the most influential leaders in the tech industry, take Paul Allen from Microsoft and Jeff Bezos from Amazon. No visit to the city is complete without visiting the Living Computers Museum, a space created to preserve the history of computers from 1960 till today. 

  • The first Thursday of every month, the museum is free from 5:00-8:00 pm

Museum of Flight

9404 E. Marginal Way South, Seattle, WA 98108

Whether you are an aircraft enthusiast or not, the Museum of Flight is one of the best experiences you can have during your trip to Seattle.  From the full scale of the NASA Space Shuttle Trainer to the original Boeing Aircraft factory, there are many exciting things to check out at the museum, and the best part is that if you want to feel like an actual pilot, there are numerous planes that you can walk through.

  • The Museum of Flight is free to the public on the first Thursday of each month from 5:00 to 9:00 pm.

Museum of History and Industry

Within its 6 main galleries, the museum presents a collection of almost four million artifacts that preserves the diverse history of Puget Sound’s region. From historical displays of early Seattle to interactive displays and a movie theatre, it is an excellent place to learn more about the city’s development and how it became one of the most powerful technology and industry hubs in America.

  • The permanent exhibits are free to visit on the first Thursday of each month.

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