Free movies, concerts and more ways to stretch your entertainment dollars in the Seattle area


Seattle’s arts and culture scene works hard; inflation hits harder. As prices rise, setting aside money for your fun fund is increasingly difficult, but so is missing out. Luckily, Seattle has many affordable arts, culture and entertainment opportunities to keep you and your wallet happy.

We compiled a list of free activities, tickets on the cheap and organizations with discounts to help you maximize your dollars this summer.

F-r-e-e, free!

Museums and visual arts

There is no shortage of options for visual arts enthusiasts in this area.

If you missed the chance to take a peek at their work during the Seattle Art Fair, many art galleries are open to the public for free during their regular hours.

If museums are more your speed, the Frye Art Museum, Bainbridge Island Museum of Art and Olympic Sculpture Park all offer free daily admission. The first Thursday of each month, several museums provide free admission, including Seattle Art Museum, National Nordic Museum, Museum of Flight, Burke Museum and Museum of History & Industry. The Seattle Asian Art Museum’s free day is the last Friday of every month. 

If you have a library card, you may also have a chance to attend some Seattle-area museums for free. With a King County Library System museum pass, library card holders can book two free visits to eligible museums per month. Restrictions state that the passes must be for different museums and on different days. Additionally, the Bellevue Arts Museum limits passes to one pass per household every 90 days (KidsQuest Museum has the same limitation). All other museums, including the Museum of Pop Culture, Museum of Flight and Museum of History & Industry, allow one pass per cardholder every 90 days.

Similarly, the Seattle Public Library’s museum pass allows library card holders to book one free visit to a Seattle attraction every 30 days. Each pass includes at least two adult tickets and you’re able to reserve passes up to 30 days in advance. Availability is limited, and new passes become available at noon each day. The Seattle Art Museum, MoPOP, Henry Art Gallery, Wing Luke Museum and the National Nordic Museum are all participants in this program.

If you are a Bank of America cardholder, the company offers a Museums on Us program that gives cardholders free admission to museums during the first full weekend of every month. This program covers the Seattle Art Museum, Bellevue Arts Museum, Wing Luke Museum, Tacoma Art Museum and the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture in Spokane.

Not to be confused with Museums on Us, the Museums for All program from the Institute of Museum and Library Services offers those receiving food assistance (SNAP benefits) free or reduced admission to museums around the country by presenting your SNAP EBT card. Participating art museums include Bellevue Arts Museum, Henry Art Gallery, MoPOP, National Nordic Museum, SAM and the Wing Luke Museum.

Music and dancing

Looking for a date night idea? Dancing til Dusk offers free dance lessons on Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout the summer: Tuesdays at Pier 62 through Aug. 30; Thursdays in Freeway Park through Aug. 25.

If swaying to music is more your speed, check out a free summer concert series. Summer Sounds at Auburn’s Les Gove Park has free concerts through Aug. 25. Also at Les Gove Park is Kids Summerstage, a series of children’s programming every Wednesday through Aug. 17.

Those who need a little arm-twisting to trade their sweatpants for pre-pandemic cubicle life might appreciate the free concerts in downtown Seattle and Bellevue, many midday. Seattle’s Downtown Summer Sounds series provides live music at various downtown spots through Sept. 9, including jammy funk lords Polyrhythmics (noon Aug. 16, Westlake Park) and a happy-hour set with Tacoma roots rocker Stephanie Anne Johnson (5 p.m. Aug. 23, Westlake Park).

Eastside lunch breakers can soak up free midday sounds via Bellevue Beats, with highlights including Brazilian jazz pianist Jovino Santos Neto playing with his trio (11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Aug. 17, Bellevue Connection) and singer-songwriter Tomo Nakayama (12-1 p.m. Aug. 25, Bellevue Square Fountain Court).

One of several cool DIY fests to spring up in the post-lockdown era, BAZZOOKAFEST + THE BAZZOOKA BALL is a real-world extension of musician/filmmaker Danny Denial’s sci-fi web series “BAZZOOKA” — a “by us, for us” project that assembled an all-star cast of performers of color and LGBTQ+ artists from Seattle’s music, film and drag communities. The free event at Jefferson Park (4-11 p.m. Aug. 19-20) features live music and drag performances from ubiquitous singer-songwriter Shaina Shepherd, synth-pop duo Bijoux, indie-pop up-and-comer SuperCoze and more.

One of the cooler music-and-food events (or is it the other way around?), CHOMP! returns to Marymoor Park’s Willowmoor Farm for the first time since the pandemic. Part of King County’s Local Food Initiative, the event on Aug. 20 promotes local, sustainable (and affordable) eating. Alt-country heroes Drive-By Truckers headline the aural menu otherwise packed with local talent, including electrifying bluesman Brett Benton, Maya Marie, Sundae + Mr. Goessl, singer-songwriter Tekla Waterfield with her guitar ringer husband Jeff Fielder, and for the wee ones, kindie rock faves The Not-Its!.

Movies

If you’re in need of a family movie night, you’re in luck. America’s Car Museum in Tacoma has a free drive-in Disney movie showing Aug. 19. The Port of Everett has free movie showings at the marina Fridays through Aug. 19.

Other free movie locations include: Marysville’s Jennings Memorial Park through Aug. 13; Seattle Center’s Mural Amphitheatre through Aug. 27; Bellevue Downtown Park every Tuesday through Aug. 23; Bellevue’s Crossroads Park every Tuesday through Aug. 25; Skyway Outdoor Cinema and Seattle’s Freeway Park every Friday in August.

Special discounts

In general

Many venues — including museums, movie theaters and others — have discounts for seniors, children, students and members of the military, and SAM and Henry Art Gallery offer a “suggested admission” option. Check venue websites for detailed information.

Theaters and performing arts

In an effort to reduce monetary barriers, many theaters in the city have implemented either discounted ticket programs or pay-what-you-can programs that allow those unable to pay full price to attend theater at a discount. The availability, and location, of these tickets are limited, and some organizations require you to call in or purchase the tickets in person. You can find this option at Seattle Rep, ACT and Village Theatre. Pacific Northwest Ballet (which opens “Carmina Burana” in late September) also offers it for each Thursday performance.

Some small theaters are offering discounted tickets this fall for audience members who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford attending. Pork Filled Productions is offering $10 accessibility tickets, Theatre 22’s community ticket price is also $10 and ArtsWest has a $15 inclusion rate.

Theaters across the Seattle area offer a variety of discounts for students, seniors, military and arts industry professionals. ACT also extends discounts to individuals who are 25 and younger. And if you have the knees for it, Seattle Opera and ACT both offer standing-room-only discounted tickets on the day of the performance for their sold-out performances.

If you’re up for taking a bit of a chance, you may want to try your luck getting discount tickets for the run of “Hamilton” (at Seattle’s Paramount Theatre) through its lottery. Or you can try to grab day-of discounted rush tickets to a number of other Seattle-area arts organizations: Seattle Opera offers $35 community rush tickets while Seattle Rep offers half-price rush tickets. Half-price rush tickets are also available for the ballet, but they limit availability to students, seniors, school employees, government and military officials and those employed in the arts and culture sectors.

Thrifty ticket buying

Buying tickets through Ticketmaster and AXS — the brokers affiliated with the concert industry’s top two promoters — can easily mark up a $30 ticket by 50%. For shows that aren’t instant sellouts, purchasing tickets at the venue’s box office can eliminate or reduce the middlemen’s cut.

Though the hours and current gas prices can make it prohibitive, swing through the Paramount Theatre’s box office (10 a.m.-6 p.m. weekdays) for all Seattle Theatre Group shows whenever possible. The Showbox’s box office is open noon-5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, while Showbox SoDo’s hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday (remember, both locations sell Marymoor Park tickets, too). On Capitol Hill, the Runaway sells tickets for Neumos and Barboza shows (just ask the bartender).

For an affordable outdoor big screen experience, Blue Fox Drive-In on Whidbey Island is open 7 days a week, with tickets from $0-$7. Port Townsend’s Wheel-In Motor Movie is open Wednesday-Sunday, and tickets are $0-$10. On Mondays and Tuesdays, Crest Cinema in Shoreline has tickets for $6.

By creating a free Goldstar account, you can access discounted tickets to theater, music, comedy shows, sporting games and more. The website’s search feature lets you filter by both location and type of activity.

Similar to GoldStar, a free TodayTix account allows you access to discounted tickets for theater productions in various cities, including Seattle.

Signing up for a free TeenTix pass allows those ages 13-19 to access arts and culture opportunities for $5 per ticket. Teens can use their pass at more than 70 organizations in the Seattle metro area. The sign-up form, as well as a calendar of eligible events, can be found at teentix.org.



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