How to Get Free Tickets to Seattle’s Top Museums

Seattle Olympic Sculpture Park

There are so many unique and fascinating museums in the Seattle area. So wouldn’t it be nice if you could get some free tickets? Guess what? You can!  I know how inspiring a visit to the local art museum can be and the excitement of seeing a tiger at the zoo or an octopus at the aquarium. 

I also realize that sometimes the budget can be a little tight, and you may not always have the funds to do these extra activities. That is why I created this post! I think everyone should have a chance to visit museums and zoos, no matter their income.  They are perfect for making unforgettable memories for you and your family. It’s also an excellent way to spend a rainy day! 

In this article, I share some great ways to get free tickets to over 25 of the top museums in the Seattle area, as well as the Woodland Park Zoo and the Seattle Aquarium!

For those of you in Pierce County, you are not only eligible to get a Seattle Public Library card (and therefore all the benefits that go with it), but there are also free museum programs through the PCLS, which I list below. If you don’t live in the Seattle area, check to see if your city has any of the additional options I mention in this post.

How to Get Free Tickets to Seattle Museums & Attractions

Your Local Library

I love the library.  My small-town library was a mainstay of my childhood.  If you don’t have a library card, you need to get one! Your local library is an excellent resource for finding not only inspiration but also some great discounts! I doubt most people realize all the benefits they have through the power of their library card! 

Below I discuss library museum passes and how to get free tickets using the following Puget Sound library systems: King County Library System (KCLS), Seattle Public Library System, and Pierce County Library System. If your library is not on this list, check with your local library to see all the benefits you have available in your area.

Those of us that live within the area of the King County Library System (KCLS) and the Seattle Public Library System have it especially good. In addition to a long list of free resources (language learning, job training, free printing, etc.) they also offer free tickets to visit the top museums in Seattle and Tacoma, plus the Woodland Park Zoo and the Seattle Aquarium! Keep reading to discover all of the included museums and attractions.

How to Get a King County Library System Museum Pass:

First off, you’ll need a KCLS library card. If you don’t already have a KCLS library card, but live in King County, visit the KCLS website to learn how to apply for a library card.

You can reserve a museum pass through the KCLS online. The King County Library System issues new museum passes each day at 2:00 p.m. So if you look for a pass, and one isn’t available for the date you want, just come back each day at 2:00 p.m. and try to get a pass then. Visit the KCLS museum pass website to learn more. 

How to Get a Seattle Public Library Museum Pass:

If you live or work in one of Seattle Public Library’s “free service” areas, you can get a Seattle Public Library card. The “free service” areas include the cities of Seattle and Bothell, as well as those living in other areas in King County. If you have a library card from another county, such as the Pierce County Library System, you are also eligible to get a free Seattle Public Library card.  Visit the Seattle Public Library to see the full list of eligible counties as well as what documentation you’ll need to get your Seattle Public Library card. 

The Seattle Public Library Museum Pass works much like the KCLS Museum Pass in that you can reserve the passes ahead of time online (subject to availability). New passes are released nightly at 9 p.m. Visit the Seattle Public Library Museum Pass website for more information.large tree art at Seattle Art MuseumKing County Library System offers free museum passes to the following museums:

The Washington State History Museum

Learn about the people, places, and events that make up Washington state’s unique history. The KCLS Museum Pass is good for two adults and four children ages 17 & under. Passes not accepted during the annual Model Train Festival.

Location: 1911 Pacific Ave, Tacoma, WA 98402

Bellevue Arts Museum

Visit the Bellevue Arts Museum for creative displays of art, craft, and design. I feel like the BAM tends to focus more on the craft and design side of art, a little more so than say the Seattle Art Museum.
The first Friday every month is free. The KCLS Museum Pass is valid for two free tickets.

Location: 510 Bellevue Way NE, Bellevue, WA 98004

Kids Quest Children’s Museum

The Kids Quest Children’s Museum in Bellevue is a great place to spend a rainy day with the kids. It is tailored towards kids from 0-10, and they offer all sorts of hands-on activities, such as painting, storytime, and creative labs.  They also have workshops just for adults too, make sure to check out their website to see what’s going on this month! The KCLS Museum Pass is good for two free tickets.

Location: 1116 108th Ave NE, Bellevue, WA 98004 

Imagination is the soil that brings a dream to life

Seattle Public Library offers free museum passes to the following museums:

Seattle Children’s Museum

The Seattle Children’s Museum is located at the Seattle Center and is a fun place for your child to explore their creativity in a hands-on interactive environment.  It is the perfect place for your kids’ imaginations to come alive! They can build things in the Dunn Lumber Construction Zone or pretend to shop and play cashier at The Market, be a star of their theater production at the Bijou Theater or play optometrist for the day at The Eye Clinic.  

John C. Maxwell once wrote, “Imagination is the soil that brings a dream to life.” The Seattle Children’s Museum is a great place to let your kids imagine and dream! The Seattle Public Library Museum Pass gives you 5 free admissions to the Seattle Children’s Museum, so bring a friend!

Location: 305 Harrison St, Seattle, WA 98109

Burke Museum

The newly redesigned Burke Museum of Natural History is now open for you and your family to explore. The building itself is a gorgeous piece of architecture; however, step inside and delve into the worlds of biology, archaeology, and paleontology. I mean, who doesn’t love seeing dinosaur bones! They have hands-on workshops and activities for the kids as well as some after-hours events for adults. You get two free tickets with your Seattle Public Library Museum Pass. Free tickets are available every first Thursday of the month, and you can even reserve your free ticket ahead of time online

Location: 4300 15th Ave NE, Seattle, WA 98105

Center for Wooden Boats

If you love boats and love being on the water, then the Center for Wooden Boats is a must-visit for you! They offer programs for all ages. Including sailing classes and boat building classes for adults, as well as programs for youth and teens such as learning to sail and beginner woodworking workshops. 

In addition to historical exhibits, photography exhibits, and other hands-on displays, they also offer boat rentals (canoes, sailboats, kayaks, etc.).  As you can imagine, there are many things to do at this “living” museum.  They want you to come and touch, feel, and explore all there is to know about boats. This will make for a fantastic day of memories! 

Admission is always free to the Center for Wooden Boats and exhibits. However, a Seattle Public Library Museum Pass permits one adult and up to three other people (assuming they fit in the boat) one hour’s use of one of the Museum’s historic rowboats on Lake Union. (Subject to the museum’s livery hours and availability of boats which rented on a first-come, first-served basis.)

Location: 1010 Valley St, Seattle, WA 98109

sailboats on Lake Union in Seattle

The Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum

Paul Allen’s Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum houses an exceptional collection of WWII tanks, combat armor, and aircraft. If you are interested in history, especially during WWII and vintage aircraft, then don’t miss this museum.  

If The Museum of Flight is a favorite of yours, then you are sure to enjoy the Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum.  They have special events throughout the year, including a unique Easter egg hunt. See their website for hours. A Seattle Public Library Museum Pass to the Flying Heritage & Combat Armor museum includes two free tickets.

Location: 3407 109th St SW, Everett, WA 98204 (at Paine Field)

Henry Art Gallery

The Henry Art Gallery is a contemporary art gallery located on the University of Washington’s main campus. Although a small gallery, they strive to be diverse and display contemporary artwork from artists around the world.  Additionally, they also have an annual display of art from UW graduate students. The museum pass from Seattle Public Library gives you two free tickets to the Henry Art Gallery, and all youth 17 and under are free of charge. The Henry Art Gallery also offers free admission on the first Thursday and Sunday of every month.

Location: 15th Ave NE & NE 41st St University of Washington campus, Seattle, WA 98195

The Log House Museum

The Log House Museum is a small museum documenting the history of the early settlers to Seattle.  Alki was the birthplace of what would become Seattle.  It was where the first settlers landed ashore. Enjoy a day at the beach and stop in at this small historical museum to learn more about Seattle’s early history. A Seattle Public Library Pass admits up to 4 individuals to the Log House Museum.

Location: 3003 61st Ave SW, Seattle, WA 98116

plane at the Museum of Flight in Seattle

Museum of History and Industry

The Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) is located off beautiful Lake Union and is conveniently located next door to the Center for Wooden Boats, so you can visit two museums in one day if you plan accordingly. MOHAI is an interesting museum that tells the journey of Seattle’s development over the years.

Follow our history from the early Native Americans to the arrival of Europeans and all of the technological advances throughout our history. If you haven’t visited it before, definitely put this one on your list to see this year! With the Seattle Public Library Museum Pass, you get two free tickets, and children 14 and under are free. Additionally, the MOHAI offers free admission on the first Thursday of every month.

Location: 860 Terry Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109

Nordic Museum

The Nordic Museum, located in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood, is the largest in the United States.  It displays the life, art, culture, and values of the five Nordic countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. 

A pass through the Seattle Public Library includes admission for two individuals.  Children 4 and under are free. The Nordic Museum also offers free admission on the first Thursday of every month. Their hours vary throughout the year, so make sure to check hours of operation when planning your visit.

Location: 2655 NW Market St, Seattle, WA 98107

The Wing Luke Museum

Explore this unique museum located in Seattle’s International District.  The Wing Luke Museum is dedicated to the history of Asian Pacific American immigrants. Learn what it was like for the first Asian Pacific immigrants and also what it is like for their culture today. In addition to the museum exhibits, they also offer walking tours that include history about the area as well as sampling delicious food along the way. 

Admission also includes a 45-minute guided Historic Hotel Tour that transports you back in time to discover what the early Asian Pacific American pioneers must have experienced when first arriving in Seattle. A pass to the Wing Luke Museum through the Seattle Public Library includes two free tickets (includes a 45-minute tour).

Location: 719 S King St, Seattle, WA 98104

The Living Computer Museum and Labs

Geeks everywhere will enjoy this museum. Discover the history of the computer and its initial uses. Learn about mainframes, green screens of the ’80s, and everything in between and up to the present day. Explore the future trends of augmented reality and robotics and be inspired for what is to come (or perhaps a little frightened).  

They offer daily tours, talks, and hands-on exhibits, bring the whole family and geek it out! A pass through the Seattle Public Library is good for two tickets (children 5 and under are free). They also offer free admission on the first Thursday of the month

Location: 2245 1st Ave S, Seattle, WA 98134

artwork of tools at Seattle Art Museum

Free museum passes offered by both KCLS & Seattle Public Library:

*This list includes museum pass offers that are identical at both the KCLS and Seattle Public Library System.  The lists above are for museum passes offered only at one or the other.

Northwest African American Museum

Learn about the history of African Americans in the Pacific Northwest at this museum located in Seattle’s Central District.  It is located at the Jimi Hendrix Park.  The museum is only open Wednesday through Sunday, so make sure to check their website for hours and information. Free admission on the first Thursday of every month. The KCLS Museum Pass/SPL Museum Pass is valid for four free tickets.

Location: 2300 S Massachusetts St, Seattle, WA 98144

Seattle Art Museum

The SAM is probably my favorite museum in Seattle. I have such fond memories of coming here with my hubby when we were dating. They offer some world-class exhibits throughout the year, and I love that they often have photography exhibits. The KCLS Museum Pass/SPL Museum Pass is good for two free tickets.

Also, as a tip, the best parking is beneath the SAM in the Russell Investment Center Garage. However, if you’ve got a raised vehicle, you may not fit, as only cars 6’7″ fit in this garage. Ask for a discount parking ticket at the ticket desk. We got 4 hours of parking for only $6 on our last weekend visit–that’s a steal! 

Location: 1300 1st Ave, Seattle, WA 98101

fish at Seattle Aquarium

The Seattle Aquarium

I love that you can get free tickets to the Seattle Aquarium through the library program!  Let’s face it–this aquarium is not cheap!  With either your King County Library card or Seattle Public Library card, you can get four free tickets!  So plan ahead and snag your four free tickets to the Seattle Aquarium. It makes a perfect way to spend a rainy day! (Children 3 and under are free.)

Location: 1483 Alaskan Way, Seattle, WA 98101

MoPop (Museum of Pop Culture)

There is something for almost everyone at this museum.  Enjoy movies? Science Fiction? Music? The MoPOP has it all. This is also one of the more expensive museums in the area, so getting some free tickets to visit is a total bonus!  Learn about Seattle area musicians, explore the Minecraft exhibit, or see props from some of your favorite t.v. and movies. They also have regular movie showings in their theater throughout the year. 

The MoPOP is conveniently located at the Seattle Center, so why not make a day of it and explore the Pacific Science Center too or head over to the fountain, and if it’s a hot day, have some fun cooling off! KCLS Museum Pass/SPL Museum Pass admits 2 adults and 2 children ages 5-17, children 4 and under are free (special exhibits may be extra).

Location: 325 5th Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109

The Museum of Flight

This is a favorite museum of many in the Seattle area.  If you love airplanes, space exploration, and history, the Museum of Flight has you covered! Learn about Amelia Earhart, immerse yourself in the Space Race and pretend to be an astronaut, explore the impact of flight during WWII or tour a retired Air Force One plane and pretend you’re the President for the day. 

Additionally, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park, located next to the museum, was recently completed and is free to the public. KCLS Museum Pass/SPL Museum Pass admits 2 adults and 2 children ages 5-17, children 4 and under are free. Charges for interactive experiences and special exhibits are extra.

Location: 9404 E Marginal Way S, Seattle, WA 98108

grizzly bear at Woodland park zoo

Woodland Park Zoo

Who doesn’t love a trip to the zoo?  I love visiting the zoo and seeing all the beautiful animals.  The Woodland Park Zoo prides itself on giving the best care possible to its animals, and they offer many interactive experiences and educational talks to improve our understanding of the animal kingdom. The KCLS Museum Pass/SPL Museum Pass is good for 4 free tickets to the zoo! So grab your family, pack a picnic lunch, ,and make some memories!

Location: 5500 Phinney Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103

Pierce County Library Museum Pass

For those of you who live in the Tacoma area and within Pierce County, you can “check out” museum passes at your local library.  Rather than reserve individual passes online, as you would with the KCLS or SPL museum passes, the Pierce County Library Pass requires that you visit your local library. You then check out the pass(es) of your choice (subject to availability).

The passes work as your free ticket and are valid for one week and one museum per pass. However, you can check out passes for up to 6 different museums per week (museums listed below). Visit the Pierce County Museum Pass website for further information.

PCLS offers free museum passes to the following locations:

Foss Waterway Seaport

This museum is dedicated to maritime and boating history. You will discover the rich history of the Native American people who first called the area home as well as the early European settlers to the Tacoma area. Learn how the railway and shipping lines worked together to shape the Puget Sound region. Learn about the first tools and boats used by settlers and walk through the boat shop admiring the beautiful hand-crafted boats. Museum hours vary, so make sure to check the website for hours and admission information.

Present your Seaport Pass at the Foss Waterway Seaport front desk and receive free admission for up to 2 adults and 4 children under the age of 18. Children ages 5 and under are free.

Location:
 705 Dock St, Tacoma, WA 98402

Harbor History Museum

This small museum located in Gig Harbor, Washington, is devoted to the remarkable legacy of the Gig Harbor Peninsula. Established in 1964, the museum offers hands-on exhibits and interactive displays to help tell the history of this area.  Make a day of it and enjoy the beautiful drive out to the Peninsula as you learn more about the region’s history. Present the Harbor History Pass at the front desk and receive up to four free admissions. Children ages 5 and under are free.

Location: 4121 Harborview Dr, Gig Harbor, WA 98332

Lakewold Gardens 

Enjoy exploring the trails throughout this 10-acre garden retreat in Lakewood, Washington. They are open year-round, and the gardens change with the seasons. You will find a peaceful retreat within these beautifully landscaped gardens. Opening hours vary based on the time of year, so make sure to check ahead of time before you plan to visit.

Present the Gardens Pass at Lakewold Gardens and receive free admission for up to 2 adults and 3 youth ages 13-18. Children ages 12 and under are free.

Location: 12317 Gravelly Lake Drive SW, Lakewood, WA 98499

chihuly glass creations

Museum of Glass

Besides staring in awe at the gorgeous glass creations by Dale Chihuly and other outstanding artisans, you can also make your own glass creations or watch artists in the hot shop create their glass art live. Let the colors and shapes inspire you. There are workshops for kids and adults alike. They also have a night market where you can purchase glass creations from local artisans. Read here to learn more about hours, parking, and admission.

Present the Glass Pass at the Museum of Glass and receive free admission for up to 2 adults and unlimited family members under 18.

Location: 1801 Dock St, Tacoma, WA 98402

Tacoma Art Museum

The TAM offers a unique selection of artwork highlighting the Pacific Northwest region as well as a focus on the American West. There is also a gorgeous collection of glass art donated from glass artists in Washington state. 

Present the Art Access Pass at the TAM’s admission desk and receive admission for up to 2 adults and 4 children under the age of 18. Children ages 5 and under are free.

Location: 1701 Pacific Ave, Tacoma, WA 98402

Washington State History Museum

Learn about the people, places, and events that make up Washington state’s unique history. Present the History Pass for free admission for up to 2 adults and 4 children under the age of 18. Children ages 5 and under are free.

Location: 1911 Pacific Ave, Tacoma, WA 98402

Additional Options for Free Admission to Museums

Bank of America

If you are a Bank of America cardholder, then you are eligible to get free tickets to various museums nationwide as apart of their Museums On Us program.  Look up your state to see the list of participating museums. This option is only available on the first full weekend (Sat and Sun) of each month.  You get one free admission to the participating museum. Make sure to read all the details and restrictions on this offer and check with your local museum for hours and other information.

In the Seattle and Tacoma area you are eligible to get free tickets (as per links above) to the following:

Free Museum Days

Most museums have a free day each month.  The most common free museum day in Seattle is the first Thursday of the month. However, check with each particular museum you’re interested in visiting to learn the exact day and hours offered. This is something to consider when you are visiting other states too.  Check to see if they have any free museum dates during your visit. 

I listed many of the ones that offer a monthly free museum day in my lists above. However, the Asian Art Museum isn’t included with any of the museum passes, and I think you should check it out when you get a chance.

Asian Art Museum: 

The Asian Art Museum offers free museum days on the first and second Thursday of each month, as well as the first Saturday of each month. Another thing I love about the location of this Seattle museum is the free parking at Volunteer Park! Make sure to check out the museum’s website for opening hours and other useful information.

Location: 1400 E Prospect St, Seattle, WA 98112

Additional Options for Free or Discounted Tickets

Blue Star

Military personnel can go to all participating museums for free from May 18 through September 1st (the dates vary each year, so check Blue Star’s website each year to learn more).

Museums for All EBT Program

If you have a Snap EBT card, you can visit museums and some zoos for $5 or less at participating locations.

Student Discount

Almost all museums and attractions, such as zoos and aquariums, offer student discounts. If you are a student, always make sure to ask before purchasing your ticket, if there is a student discount.  Then come prepared to show your Student ID.

AAA Discounts

If you have a AAA card, make sure to ask if there are any discounts before purchasing your tickets.  It is not as common to find AAA discounts at museums. However, it never hurts to ask!

jellyfish at aquarium

Always Free Museums

The following museums are always free year-round:

Frye Art Museum

A small contemporary art museum (think large gallery) that houses artwork from the 19th century to current. They display art from both local artists as well as global artists. It’s worth a stop when you’re in the area.

Location: 704 Terry Ave, Seattle, WA 98104

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Discovery Center

Located by the Seattle Center, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Discovery Center lets visitors learn more about the work the foundation is doing to help people around the world.  Exhibits also display global needs and encourage visitors to discover what they can do to help in their local communities.

Location: North, 440 5th Avenue, Seattle, WA 98109

The Microsoft Visitor Center

Journey through the history of Microsoft.  Learn how they got started and what their plans are for the future. You’ll also get a chance to play Xbox games, try out your racing skills on the Forza simulator and shop at the Microsoft Store. Hands-on displays and products let you test out items you’re interested in purchasing as well as have some fun and be inspired by what’s coming next.

Location: 15010 NE 36th St #92, Redmond, WA 98052

Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park

Did you know there is a National Park located within downtown Seattle?  Well, there is! Sort of that is. It’s a National Park that is a museum dedicated to the history of the Klondike Gold Rush in our area.Visit and learn more about the impact of the Klondike Gold Rush on Seattle.  It was an exciting time during the gold rush, with people streaming into the area with dreams of striking it rich!  Have fun talking with a park ranger and learning all about this exciting time in Pacific Northwest history.

Location: 319 2nd Ave S, Seattle, WA 98104

Coast Guard Museum Northwest

This small museum located on Seattle’s waterfront shares the history of the Coast Guard here in the Pacific Northwest.  Volunteers on staff will be happy to give you a tour through the exhibits and answer any questions you might have.  Plus, since you’re on the water, enjoy looking out to see what ships are docked during your visit.  The Coast Guard plays an essential role in the U.S. Take some time to learn more about it here.
 

Location: 1519 Alaskan Way S, Seattle, WA 98134

red row boat Seattle

Closing Tips

You need to print out a physical copy of your museum passes from both KCLS and Seattle Public Library. Make sure to bring your photo ID with the last name matching the last name on the pass.

In addition to the Blue Star program for military families, many museums also offer daily military discounts, so ask ahead of time.

If trying to get a museum pass through either the King County Library System or the Seattle Public Library, set a reminder on your phone’s calendar at either 2:00 p.m. (KCLS) or 9:00 p.m. (SPL) to check when new passes are released.

A museum is an indoor adventure. Time stops and you’re immersed in a world of art and history. A world where dinosaurs roam the earth and inspiration drips from every wall and ceiling. 

In my blog post 20 New Year’s Resolutions for Travelers, I mention the idea of playing tourist at home. You don’t have to travel to far off places to make unforgettable memories.  Going to the zoo or visiting a museum can become a favorite memory for both yourself and your family to remember for years to come. It’s about setting aside time to do something new, to be inspired, and to be reminded what a wonderful world we live in.

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4 Comments

  • Michelle McCullum at Reply

    THIS IS GREAT INFORMATION!!! Thank you!!

    • Charity at Reply

      You’re welcome! I’m so glad you liked it! Thank you for the feedback!

  • Angela at Reply

    Thank you for this post!! I used my first free ticket today!

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