Summer Guide: Six Hacks for a Cheaper Seattle in the Sun

Live like a sultan without blowing all your dough.

Don’t be a chump this summer and blow all your cash on trips up the Space Needle and $10 couture ice-cream cones. What’s wrong with you? Didn’t your parents raise you to be frugal and adventurous?! Lucky for you, if there’s one city that’s designed for adventurous frugality, it’s Seattle, Washington. Here we present the best secret tidbits for hacking your Seattle summer without spending all your money or looking like a total shoobie.

I’m on a Boat (ft. T-Pain and you!) Seattle is a port city, which is a fancy way of saying there is a lot of water all around you, dummy. Summer is the perfect time for getting all up in that, which you can do by heading down to the UW Waterfront Activities Center (3924 Montlake Blvd. N.E.) and renting an adorable canoe or rowboat for $9/hour on weekdays and $11/hour on weekends. Take that sucker out on Union Bay or paddle your way through the waters of the nearby Arboretum. But if it’s Sunday, forget about all that and just head to the Center for Wooden Boats (1010 Valley St.), where a skipper will take you out on Lake Union for free aboard all sorts of woody maritime seacraft.

Eyeball some sockeye. You might be disappointed after your boat ride that you didn’t manage to see any fish. This is supposedly Salmon City, so where the hell are they? Head over to the Ballard Locks (3015 N.W. 54th St.) and all will be revealed. Get your pervy aquatic voyeurism on at the park’s wonderful underwater fish ladder viewing area, which between mid-June and October is full of salmon migrating upstream to spawn, and then immediately die. But don’t be sad! All the kiddos that hatch from those eggs the old salmon blow up there also use the same locks to begin their life journey out to Puget Sound and beyond. As Elton John once said, “It’s the circle of life.”

Never pay for museum tickets. Since time immemorial, libraries have been giving out books for free so your broke ass doesn’t have to pay to get cultured. Seattle Public Library decided to one-up that tradition by handing out tickets to a million museums for free, as long as you have a valid library card. Just go to the website, reserve a date, and voila—free tickets to the EMP, the Seattle Art Museum, the Aquarium, the Burke Museum . . . the list goes on.

Rip musicians off in person instead of on the Internet. Don’t feel bad, but we know you torrented the hell out of that summer playlist you’ve been bumping on your car stereo. This summer, why not step up your game and steal from musicians in person? Thanks to the Downtown Seattle Association’s “Out to Lunch” concert series, you can do just that! From July 9 to Sept. 5, every Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday a different band will play a completely free outdoor concert somewhere downtown starting at noon. The March Fourth Marching Band, Kris Orlowski, and Hey Marseilles are just a few of the artists waiting for you to pay them absolutely nothing for entertainment. Check out the full schedule here.

Eat french fries for free. By this point, after boating, looking at salmon, going to every museum in Seattle, and seeing three concerts a week, you are probably going to be really hungry. Up on Capitol Hill at Pike Street Fish Fry (925 E. Pike St.), the glorious deep-frying angels there celebrate something called “Free Fry Friday.” Every third Friday of the month from 5 to 7 p.m. you can line up for a free boat of what People called some of the best fries in the country. If you have two crisp dollar bills, you can wash down all those free award-winning fries with a pint of New Belgium beer, which is like Pabst Blue Ribbon, except better in every way.

You ate fries, now go to the Frye. One of Seattle’s best museums is free every single day. The Frye (704 Terry Ave.) hosts a permanent collection of beautiful gold-framed European art, arranged in comically dense fashion on the wall that will make you feel way more cultured than you really are. The museum also hosts a rotating series of more contemporary shows, like this summer’s “Your Feast Has Ended” (June 14–Sept. 14), in which three Seattle artists explore the union between ancient myth and modernity as a means of social commentary on today’s exploitative, rootless culture. It’ll be a great cerebral way to round out your low-cost pilfering of all Seattle has to offer.

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