The Seattle area may be home to some of the wealthiest people in America (Bill Gates, I’m looking at you) but that doesn’t mean it has to cost visitors an arm and a leg. In fact, a day in Seattle for under $25 is not only doable but enjoyable as well.
Read on for this Seattle itinerary on the cheap that covers all the wonderful and odd things that makes this soggy city in the Pacific Northwest so great.
History for less
We start this day in Seattle for under $25 in Historic Pioneer Square – which actually sits up to 30 feet above the original settlement. After the great fire of 1889 destroyed most of downtown city planners were given an opportunity to correct constant flooding by raising the street level. What was left below is now an eerie ghost town of once street front businesses and shops. Evidence of the old town can be found in Pioneer Square where you can take a peak inside (below) thanks to Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour. Although going below is a fascinating look into Seattle’s past, this tour costs around $20 dollars. Thankfully you can still see remnants of the underground city without going below. Grab a coffee from Starbucks (because, hey you’re in Seattle!) and wander the Square. Keep an eye out for glass blocks in the sidewalk. These were installed to allow natural light into the area where the old street-level shops were still operating. If you time it right you can even wave at the tour group wandering beneath you.
Once you located the underground city stroll over to Occidental Park where you can find the Fallen Firefighter Memorial. This display was constructed to pay respect to four Firemen lost in 1995 as well as a reminder of the great fire of 1889.
Cost: ~$1.75 for coffee
Pike Place Market on the cheap
Make your way north on 1st Avenue and enjoy the old buildings of Seattle along the way. Take a left at Union Street and enjoy the view before heading down the steps. Turn around at the bottom and duck into Post Alley where you will find one of the strangest public art displays around – The Market Theater Gum Wall. This sticky Seattle oddity is a favorite with tourists and attracts people of all ages who want to take a picture or contribute to this “piece.” If you are a germaphobe you may want skip this one.
By now you should be feeling pretty peck-ish, because nothing works up an appetite like staring at a wall of chewed gum! Thankfully you are now next to The Pike Place market, a perfect spot for sampling Seattle on the cheap.
First head over to the Crumpet Shop on 1st and Pike. You may think crumpets are out of place in the Pacific Northwest but this funky café has been making them daily for over 35 years.
For sweet, the maple butter is a must. For savory try the wild salmon.
Continue through the Crumpet Shop to the mall side entrance and take a left just before exiting the building. There you will see a staircase on the right, which will present you with an uninterrupted view of the Pike Place Market sign and clock. No need to jostle for position with other tourists below!
Once you get that postcard worthy shot head back down into the market. Be sure to say “hi” to Rachel the piggy bank. This iconic fundraiser has been bringing home the bacon (get it??) since 1986 and helping to keep the market alive ever since. Plop a quarter in and get a picture on her if you want. She is not shy.
Rachel is conveniently located in front of your next stop, the Pike Place Fish Market – world famous for its seafood tossing fishmongers. Linger here with the dozens of other tourists until somebody buys something and the fish start to fly. Be sure to get a close to the fish on display in the front row – they are surprisingly photogenic.
Once happy with the fishy show spend some time wondering the confusing hallways of the Pike Place market. Be sure to head downstairs and check out the odd shops and the Giant Shoe Museum. This peep show style display is worth the $.50 admission.
After checking out the innards of Market head outside to the cool shops along Pike Place. Be sure to get some fresh local fruit samples from the various market stalls and stop in at Beecher’s for a delicious tasting of their handmade cheese!
Once full on free samples make your way to the iconic first Starbucks location. You should stumble on it with its large lineup out the door. Don’t bother going in though because hey, it looks like every other Starbucks in the world. Instead snap a picture outside and get your caffeine fix at one of the dozen or so other locations within walking distance.
Seattle highlights and oddities
Head back to Pine Street and up to 5th Avenue where you will find the very first Nordstrom’s department store. You’re welcome to browse around but better stick to window-shopping if you want to stay on budget. Instead, settle for a picture and then head upstairs to the Monorail station. Purchase a round-trip ticket for $4.50 and enjoy the ride!
The Monorail connects downtown Seattle with the Seattle Center. There you will find the Experience Music Project Museum, art installations, and the unmistakable Space Needle. Although a trip to the top is over $20, it is worth the view on a clear day. Otherwise you can enjoy it from below while wandering around the center.
The EMP Museum is also worth the entry fee but if you are on a budget just seeing the odd building from the outside is worth it.
From the Seattle Center make your way along John Street to Dexter Park where you can catch the #26 or #28 bus. Don’t forget to ask for a transfer! The 20-minute bus ride takes you on a scenic trip along Lake Union and into the to the quirky neighborhood of Fremont. Hop off at Fremont and 34th and make your way on foot to the corner of Evanston and 35th where you will find the seemingly out of place Fremont Rocket. Why is there a massive Cold War era missile in Northwest Seattle? One just needs to refer to the neighborhood motto of “Freedom to be Peculiar” to find justification. Also, Fremont is lovingly referred to as “The Center of the Universe” so finding a rocket there is only fitting don’t you think?
Photo credit: ngader via Flickr CC
Cost: Bus $2.50
The Fremont fascination of odd things continues a block north where you will find a 16-foot tall statue of Vladimir Lenin. This statue was salvaged from a scrap yard in Slovakia after the Velvet Revolution and the fall of Communism. It was purchased by local Lewis E. Carpenter, cut in three, and transported State side where it eventually found a home.
Photo credit: benet2006 via Flickr CC
Continuing east on North 36th street to your next sight you will find one of Seattle’s strangest residents. Quietly tucked away under the George Washington Memorial Bridge lurks the Fremont troll. This strange sculpture has been guarding the area against drug dealers and other undesirable types for close to 25 years. This free sight has become a favorite with locals and tourists.
Continue east on foot down to Gas Works Park. This popular sight was once the home of the Seattle Gas Light Company. Evidence of this is built into the park with industrial remains throughout. This area is a great spot to enjoy sweeping views of downtown Seattle. Make your way back to the Seattle Center on bus #26 from nearby Wallingford and North 35th street. Spend some time exploring the Seattle Center before making your way back downtown on the Monorail.
Cost: Free with transfer and return ride on Monorail
For diner make your way back to Pike Place Market for a local treat – Clam chowder from Pike Place Chowder. This Post Alley eatery is often queued up but worth the wait. Try the bread bowl chowder or the Dungeness crab roll.
The Daily Total
Meals – $16.75
Transportation – $7.00
Sights – $0.75
There you have it, a full day of Seattle sights, culture, and food for under $25. This only proves that the “Emerald City” is not as costly as one would think.
Shaun Robertson is a lover of memorable experiences, great food, and overall awesome times. He is an avid traveler who aims to measure his life by the experiences
gained through his adventures. When he is not on the road he is planning his next escape or writing about it at ThisLifeinTrips.com. Stop by and say hi or follow along through Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.