Staycation Seattle (Puget Sound) – Festivals and events, museums, activities

You don’t have to fly across the country to enjoy a vacation – consider a staycation right here in the Pacific Northwest. For those of us who live in the Puget Sound area, we are blessed to have the water, the mountains, the city, the country – all within driving distance, so there is a lot to do without using a lot of dough.

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Activities are sorted by interest:


BEACHES, BOATS & MARITIME FUN

Love the water? Do you go bonkers over boats? There are a ton of opportunities to appreciate the ocean and our maritime heritage in the Northwest.

Head to the beach
Our northwest beaches are FREE – so pack your lunch, your sand toys, and your shorts and head to any of our many beaches. Now you’re probably not going to be swimming in the frigid waters, but you can play in the sand, look for shells and enjoy the little communities along the water. Or checkout some of the maritime fairs and festivals. Some good beaches to check out are Pacific Beach and Ocean Shores. Get your beach toys at the Dollar Store.


We love to go to Ocean Shores. We build sand castles, find sticks and play in the water – we always have a blast and most all of our fun is FREE.

Ferry rides
We have an extensive ferry system here in the Northwest. Although not FREE, fares are minimum and you an enjoy a boat ride (breathtaking views) and maybe check out a new community on the other end! Get ferry fare information.

Ballard Locks
Watch as sailboats, motorboats, tugs, barges and yachts pass through the Ballard locks from the salt water of Puget Sound to/from the fresh water of the Ship Canal. Make sure and check out the fish ladder, built to allow salmon to pass between fresh and salt water, and to navigate the locks. Glass panels below the water line make it possible to watch the fish as they swim through the ladder.

June 7 – 8 – Maritime Gig Festival (Downtown Gig Harbor)
FREE admission. Parades, cars, U.S. Coast Guard Search & Rescue Demo, Children’s Fair, Classic Yachts, Live entertainment and more!

June 8, 2014 – Waterfront Whimsea – Seattle Aquarium – FREE event
Bubbleman, music, magic tricks, Seafair clowns, Seattle Firefighters and more! Sounds like a fun family event.

July 4 – 6, 2014 – Lake Union Wooden Boat Festival (Center for Wooden Boats, Seattle)
FREE admission, donations accepted. Festival includes visiting vessels, free public boat rides on Lake Union, activities for kids including toy boat building and a scavenger hunt, craft and skill demonstrations, family boat building, food vendors, live music, and a 24 hour boat building race called the Quick and Daring.

September 20 - 21, 2014 - Maritime Fest (Tacoma)
Celebrate the working waterfront. FREE Port Harbor Tours, Hydro Planes, Entertainment, Tacoma Rail Train Rides.

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TREE HUGGERS & NATURE NUTS
Wanna get outside? If you love all that nature has to offer, there are countless activities here in the Pacific Northwest. Take a hike, pack a picnic, bird watch or just enjoy the scenery.

FREE National Park Days
National park entrance fees are waived on FREE National Park Days – August 25, September 27 and November 11.

Mount Rainier National Park
Mt. Rainier entrance fee is $15 for private, noncommercial vehicle. Annual passes are $30. Lots of hiking trails and scenic view points.

Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
A one-day monument pass costs $8 per person over 16 and is free for those under 15 and will get you into both the Coldwater Lake Recreation Area and the Johnston Ridge Observatory. If you’re taking the kids, be sure to stop at the Forest Learning Center, it’s FREE and has lots of fun education tidbits for kids and a neat playground area. They also have a free short movie about the eruption in a themed theater room.


You’ll find great hiking trails, snow, sun, flowers, animals and more.
This photo was taken when we went in late June.

Olympic National Forest
Olympic National Park entrance fee is $15 per vehicle or $5 per individual (on foot, bicycle or motorcycle), kids under 15 are FREE. Annual pass $30.

Nisqually Wildlife Refuge
Nestled in the Nisqually valley south of Tacoma, the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge is a beautiful and educational place to go for a walk – perfect for bird watching, the refuge is a combination of salt and freshwater marshes, grasslands, riparian, and mixed forest habitats. I took my family just last weekend and the kids had a blast on our little “hike” and it is stroller friendly! $3 fee.


A photo I took from the tram ride at Northwest Trek!

Northwest Trek
A south sound gem, Northwest Trek is fun for all ages (I really think so, not just saying so!) – they have all kinds of Northwest animals including moose, bear, birds, mountain goat and more. You can walk around the park, then hop aboard the tram (free with admission) for a fun ride through open terrain, full of animals.

Snoqualmie Falls
The Snoqualmie park and free viewing area are open from dawn until dusk. There is a hiking trail and a viewing platform that is wheelchair accessible.

Pick your own berries
There are a TON of U-pick berry fields here in the Northwest. Check out the Pick Your Own website to find a berry picking place near you!

Geocaching
A real-world outdoor treasure hunting game. Players try to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, using GPS-enabled devices and then share their experiences online. Learn more about geocaching and search for geocaches in your area.

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PARKS & RECREATION
Many local cities offer extensive parks and recreation activities. Public parks, swimming pools, free movie and concert series. Check your local parks department for FREE summer events.

Parks and recreation movie series
A lot of cities offer FREE movies in the park during the summer months. Check your local parks and recreation events.

Point Defiance park (Tacoma)
Point Defiance park is FREE (the Point Defiance zoo is not FREE) and offers all sorts of attractions including hiking/running trails, kayak rentals, Fort Nisqually, a rose garden, a five-mile loop that overlooks the water (you can walk or drive),  You can play in the sand at Owen’s Beach which offers waterfront picnic shelters with grills, tables, a restroom and ample free parking. A large picnic shelter is available for group reservations.

Seattle-area parks
There are a ton of Seattle-based parks, to get a complete list and find out what transactions are available at each park, visit the Seattle Parks Website.

Tacoma-area parks
Metro Parks Tacoma has a ton of summer events and activities. Look for spray parks (parks with water features) to beat the summer heat. Check out Tacoma Parks extensive schedule of camps and classes

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MUSIC LOVERS
If you love a good concert, we have some great concert series and musical festivals in the Northwest.

Zoo Tunes
Although not FREE, Zoo Tunes tickets are not as expensive as most major concerts. They are sooo family friendly and can be frugal if you plan ahead. The concerts are on a big lawn at the Woodland Park Zoo. You can pack your own food and drinks (picnic style) and bring your kids. Very casual. Walking into the concert is fun as you get to see the zoo animals on your way in. Zoo admission is NOT included with your concert ticket, but you could go early and combine a trip to the zoo with the concert.


I took this photo a couple years ago when we went to ZooTunes. We brought our one-year-old. As you can see, it’s really casual and kid-friendly. We try to go to at least one a year, if not more.

Chateau St. Michelle Summer concert series
Pack a picnic and sit on lawn at Chateau St. Michelle and watch a laid back concert as part of the Summer Concert Series. This would be a fun date night – not so kid friendly. See concert schedule here, it includes Sarah McLachlin, Ringo Starr, Lyle Lovett, Goo Goo Dolls, ZZ Top and more!

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MUSEUMS & MOVIES
Need some ideas for rainy days? From museums to movies – there is plenty to do indoors.

Museums – Many museums offer FREE admission on certain days
Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture
– FREE first Thursday of the month
Center for Wooden Boats – Always FREE
Center on Contemporary Art – Always FREE
Experience Music Project & Science Fiction Museum – FREE first Thursday of the month  5 -8 p.m.
Frye Art Museum – Always FREE
Henry Art Gallery – FREE first Thursday of the month, always FREE for students.
Klondike Gold Rush Museum – Always FREE
Museum of Flight – FREE first Thursday of the month 5 – 9 p.m.
Olympic Sculpture Park – Always FREE
Museum of History and Industry – FREE first Thursday of the month
Seattle Art Museum Downtown – FREE first Thursday of the month, first Friday ages 62 and over, second Friday 5-9 p.m. teens with ID.
Seattle Asian Art Museum – FREE first Thursday and Saturday and second Thursday 5-9 p.m. of every month, first Friday ages 62 and over.
Volunteer Park Conservatory – Always FREE
Wing Luke Asian Museum – FREE first Thursday and third Saturday of the month.
Museum of Glass - FREE third Thursday between the hours of 5 and 8 pm

Children’s Museums
Imagine Children’s Museum
(Everett)
Tacoma Children’s Museum
Hands On Children’s Museum (Olympia)

Regal Summer Movies
$1 admission to popular kid’s movies, open weekly on Tuesdays and Wednesdays starting June 28. Learn more about Regal Summer Movie Series.

Cinemark Summer Movie Series
$1 movie admissions or as low as $0.50 if you buy a pre-pay pass. Lean more about the Cinemark Summer Movie Series.

Parks & Recreation movie series
A lot of cities offer FREE movies in the park during the summer months.

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SPORTS FANS
Take me out to the ball game! Whether it’s the baseball diamond or the soccer stadium, there are lots of local sporting events!

Nothing better than the sights, smells and sounds of a summer baseball game.

Mariners baseball
Get a ticket, hot dog and Pepsi as low as $14 per person for families of 4 to 12. Check out Mariners ticket specials.

Rainiers baseball
I personally LOVE Rainiers games. They have a small-town feel with reasonable prices, but they still seem to capture that big stadium feel, as if you’re at a major league game. Thursdays are a good time to go because they have $1 hot dogs, ice cream, and coffee all over the park. After some games they let the kids run the bases for FREE. Check out the Rainiers promotion calendar for special events and discounts.

Everett Aquasox baseball
Tasty Thursdays offer $2 sodas, hot dogs and peanuts. After some games they let the kids run the bases for FREE. Check out the Everett Aquasox promotion calendar for special events and discounts.

Sounders soccer
We recently scored some great prices on Sounders tickets through Living Social (no longer available), but watch Living Social and Seattle Groupon for discount tickets. If you get the all-inclusive tickets they include all you can eat concessions – soda, nachos, hot dogs, etc. This can be a huge money saver if you are bringing those hungry kids! Check out the Sounders website for promotional information.

Sounders U-23 soccer
Want a fun soccer game without a trek to Seattle to see the major league soccer (MLS) Sounders team? Checkout the U-23 Sounder soccer team games - they are a lot of fun and cost a fraction of the cost. There are additional Northwest soccer teams as part of the Premier Development League.

Seattle Storm basketball
Watch women’s basketball, get information at the Seattle Storm website.

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FESTIVALS AND EVENTS

My son enjoys some corn on the cob at a local festival.

June 20, 21, 22 - Puyallup Meeker Days Festive (Downtown Puyallup)
FREE admission, open noon to 9 p.m., downtown Puyallup. The largest street festival in Pierce County, features four LIVE entertainment stages; two tasty food courts, including fair favorite foods; close to 100 local artisans in the park, commercial Meeker Marketplace; a KidZone with inflatable rides and a ZIPLINER; a newly added TeenZone with skatepark, and gaming lounge; antique tractor displays and pull competitions; a petting zoo; classic car show competition; RAM beer garden; a wine garden; the famous Farmer’s Market with fresh produce and specialty foods; and so much more!

June 27 – 29 – Taste of Tacoma (Point Defiance Park)
FREE Admission, Live music, TONS of food and more!

July 4 – Tacoma’s Freedom Fest (Ruston Way waterfront, Tacoma)
FREE admission. Family activities, music and fireworks. Located on Ruston Way, Tacoma

My son on a kid ride at Lakefair in 2010. He had a BLAST!

July 16 – 20 - Capital Lakefair (Downtown Olympia)
FREE admission. Car show, food concessions, kids activities, fireworks, music, parade and more. They have amusement park rides for little and big kids!

July 18 – 20 – Strawberry Festival (Vashon Island)
FREE admission. A Old-fashioned fun, food, arts and crafts, music events, parades, family activities, carnival rides, pancake breakfast and more!

July 25 – 27 – Whaling Days (Silverdale Waterfront)
FREE admission. Family activities, a parade, a pancake breakfast, rides, live entertainment and an annual rubber duck race.

August 18 – 24 – Washington State International Kite Festival (Long Beach)
Starting on Monday and ending on Sunday this Long Beach, Washington State vacation extravaganza boasts skies ablaze with color, high flying action and choreographed movement. Washington’s Kite Festival draws famous kite fliers from all around the world, and tens of thousands awed spectators, many of which participate in the fun with their own kite flying adventures.

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FARMERS MARKETS

Olympia Farmers Market
One of the big reasons I fell in love with Olympia on one of our first visits is the Olympia Farmers Market. This market has everything from fresh oysters to overflowing baskets of flowers. The food is divine, the people friendly and it’s right next to the boardwalk. Open Thursday through Sunday it’s definitely worth the drive. Go on a hot day and wander over to the FREE water fountains near Capital Park (closed until June 15 for repairs).

Tacoma Farmers Market
The Tacoma Farmers Market has three locations – 6th avenue, downtown and South Tacoma. Also check out the Proctor Farmers Market

Seattle Pike’s Place Market
The iconic Seattle market, Pike’s Place Market is the epitome of the Northwest market. Bustling and busting at the seams, you’ll find a little bit of everything here.

Freemont and Ballard Markets
Ballard, Madrona, Wallingford, Belltown Olympia Sculpture all offer Farmers markets filled with produce, crafts and lots of fun.

STAYCATION TIPS
Here are some final tips for saving the most on your staycation.

  • Pack your own food – Eating out, can eat up your budget fast. Whenever it’s allowed, consider packing your own meals and snacks.
  • Search for coupons or discounts – Before I visit any new place or attraction, I’ll do a quick google or search to see what kinds of discounts I can find. 
  • Watch Seattle Groupon and Living Social for discount tickets and events.
  • Check out Jetsetter and Snique Away for hotel deals

If you live in the Northwest and are looking to save on your groceries, check out the deals we found this week at these stores:

Also amazing deals online at Amazon.

This post could go for pages and pages – there are TONS of opportunities here in the Pacific Northwest. I’d love your ideas for other staycation activities, so please leave a comment if you have one! The more frugal, the better!

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Comments

  1. Kristin Robison says:

    Don’t forget to check the offerings at your local library. In addition to the countless activities they offer for kids of all ages throughout the summer, the Pierce County Library has passes to the Tacoma Art Museum, the Washington State History Museum, and the Glass Museum that you can check out for 3 wks at a time & admission is then free (there may be a limit on how many adults & kids you can get in on one library pass). They just scan the pass at their desk & ask for your zip code – easy, breezy! This is a great way to beat the “Free Thursday” crowds. I would also highly suggest that you make note of their days/hours of operation – some are closed on certain weekdays, which is a bummer to get there & find out! (Speaking from *ahem* experience). I generally pay for parking when we go, but it’s not too bad, and if you really wanted to park for free & walk, you probably could find a spot. BTW, at the art museum, there is an “open art” studio on the top floor that is awesome! A big, beautifully stocked room, full of supplies & project suggestions…my kids can spend hours in there! In fact, we usually go just for that. We cruise through the museum in less than 30 min & spend the rest of the time creating (and yes, I join in the fun, too!). Just do a good job cleaning up after yourself, ok? :)

  2. Our favorite summer event is the Taste of Tacoma http://www.tasteoftacoma.com/ from June 29-July 1. Admission is free (food is not) and they have many stages set up for musicians and other performers as well as many food and craft vendors.

    Also, the Tacoma Art Museum http://tacomaartmuseum.org/ and the Museum of Glass http://museumofglass.reachlocal.com/?scid=2143742&kw=3659935:21996&pub_cr_id=708366822 are free on the 3rd Thurs from 5-9pm.

  3. Missa Thrall says:

    Also from 06/29/2012-07/01/2012 is the Taste of Tacoma at Point Defiance Park.

  4. Michelle says:

    Thank you Heather for all of the awesome info! You are the best!!!!

  5. I’d recommend Vashon Island for anyone to visit! There are MANY things to do – lavender farms (kids can learn to make lavender wands FREE while parents make a lavender wreath – mine was only $8 last year), tour of a lighthouse (I think still FREE), Ober Park kids center (FREE), tons of galleries (Most FREE) and wineries (many FREE tastings), famous Bike in a Tree” (FREE).

    Also, July 20th is the annual strawberry festival (http://vashonchamber.com/strawfest). If you walk across on the ferry from either Seattle or Southworth there is a shuttle bus that takes you right to the festival (sorry Tacoma folks you’ll have to drive or bike as no buses run during the festival and town is about 14 miles from the dock). See Heather’s link above for the ferry schedule. The festival has island and local artists, free music of all kinds, free parades, and kids can even participate in their own parade!

    ALSO – for an amazing sleep-over adventure, the Youth Hostel on the island has tipis you can sleep in for the night! The island is super safe so I wouldn’t hesitate to do this with a family. Because it’s a youth hostel the rates are pretty reasonable for both the tipi lodging and the bunk lodging.

    If anyone’s interested in visiting drop me an email – upserstar [at] yahoo [dot] com (obviously use the correct symbols in the real email). I can forward you a list of links for the “attractions” – I even have a mini-tour I put together for a friend last year.

  6. Do you know if any of the Farmers Markets allow dogs on leash?

  7. Wonderful info! Don’t forget too that since last July WA State parks, including some of the beaches, now require a Discover or Day Pass ($35 or $10). The Discover Pass is good for one year from the date of purchase. I’ve been surprised and how many people still don’t know about the change.

    • True, though state parks are also free this weekend!

      Good news about the Discover Pass is that you can now transfer it between two vehicles.

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