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Best Museums in Seattle

Up Your Knowledge Quotient at Seattle's Institutions of Art, Industry, Pop Culture & Beyond


Lucky for visitors who are also keen to learn, Seattle is home to a host of curious folks who support citywide museums that cover topics from art and automobiles to music and cultures ranging from Nordic lands to those a little more local (like at the Burke Museum of History and Culture). Many of these fascinating, treasure-filled venues can be found in the bustling downtown area, while others find homes in sleepier, tree-lined zones that expose patrons to some of Seattle's beautiful outlying neighborhoods. Sometimes, the green, serene museum grounds are worth the visit alone. Most museums charge entrance fees, though some operate solely on a donations-based system. Additionally, countless venues offer days when certain groups (seniors, teens, etc.) can enter and explore free of charge. Museums install permanent exhibitions that loyal patrons can visit time and again, while visiting exhibits of global acclaim often also make their way to Seattle establishments. Also of note, many Seattle museums feature cafes with impressive menus and gift shops full of their own treasures (like MOHAI), meaning you should allow extra time to explore after wandering the cases and walls of the main attraction. If you're up for a day trip, consider also checking out museums farther afield in Tacoma or other nearby locales. (Be sure to check up-to-date info on opening days/hours before your visit.)


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Calling all car fanatics! One of the world's largest auto museums is right in downtown Tacoma, less than an hour drive from Seattle, displaying vintage, classic and modern cars on a nine-acre campus. The four-story museum building is the centerpiece of its campus. and the museum foundation lists its mission as "a non-profit organization chartered to preserve and interpret the history and technology of the automobile and its influence on American culture." The venue sometimes hosts private events, meaning that guests get to sip cocktails amid an atmosphere oozing with innovation and indulgence. This venue is a newer addition on the museum circuit and draws car lovers of all ages.

Recommended for Museums because: LeMay-America's Car Museum thrills lovers of the automobile in Tacoma. The venue is impressive--and its treasures even more so!

Corinne's expert tip: Check the website for special events and the latest pandemic-related regulations/hours/etc. Feeling hungry? Museum admission is not required to dine at Full Throttle Cafe.

Read more about LeMay - America's Car Museum →


Henry Art Museum

Art comes in all shapes and sizes, and this venue will appeal to those who often least expect it. This university museum specializes in contemporary art. Permanent and temporary exhibits ensure that there's always something fascinating to peruse, and informational displays and workshops teach children and adults alike about artistic styles and techniques. Guests who want to learn more about the artwork can take a guided tour or drop in on the lectures provided. The 40,000-square-foot museum also features a 154-seat auditorium, a multi-media gallery, cafe, bookstore and sculpture court. Artists whose works are on display include Stuart Davis, James Turrell and Lionel Feininger, among many other notable talents.

Recommended for Museums because: The Henry Art Museum is a haven for contemporary art located on the University of Washington campus; check online for updated opening information and regulations.

Corinne's expert tip: Located on the University of Washington campus, the contemporary art center features innovative programming, public education, diverse film and lecture series and exhibitions. Free for Henry members, UW faculty and staff, children and students, the museum asks for a suggested donation of $0-20 for other visitors. Every first Thursday is free,

Read more about Henry Art Museum →


Pacific Science Center

The Pacific Science Center is a great place for the entire family to learn about the natural world in an entertaining way; while the venue plans a renewal/reopening, it hosts a hockey exhibit beginning November 1. The world premiere of "HOCKEY: Faster Than Ever," a highly interactive touring exhibition focused on the science, history and culture of hockey, coincides with the inaugural season of the Seattle Kraken. When the museums is fully open, children love games and demonstrations about physical science; exhibits displaying dinosaurs, insects, computers and robots and the human body bring science and natural history to life right before your eyes. Animal exhibits, which tend to be everyone's favorite, let visitors watch animals such as the naked mole rat, which is the only known cold-blooded mammal. In the butterfly house, museum-goers are surrounded by thousands of butterflies, which often land on those wearing bright colors who stand very still.

Recommended for Museums because: The Pacific Science Center provides family-friendly fun in an educational atmosphere; while the venue plans a renewal/reopening, it hosts a hockey exhibit beginning November 1.

Corinne's expert tip: Follow along with the venue's latest happenings and plans to reopen fully online at:https://www.pacificsciencecenter.org/plan-your-visit/.

Read more about Pacific Science Center →


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Museum of Flight

Hands-on informational and historical exhibits distinguish this museum, which appeals to aspiring pilots and to those whose feet have never left the ground. Displays in the Red Barn, where Boeing's first planes where constructed, chronicle the history of flight up to the late 1930s. In the six-story Great Gallery, more than 20 planes hang from the ceiling and cause guests to gape in amazement. Additional sights include a mock air traffic control center, an early Air Force One presidential plane, and a Blackbird, the fastest plane ever built. Furthermore, the outdoor airpark lets visitors explore some of the museum's largest planes. Other amenities include complimentary guided tours, a variety of free films, a cafe and a museum store.

Recommended for Museums because: The Museum of Flight offers hands-on and historical exhibits that dazzle crowds of all ages. Wander a massive outdoor airpark, too.

Corinne's expert tip: Check out new exhibit, "Stranger Than Fiction: The Incredible Science of Aerospace Medicine." Be sure to also visit the website for the museum's latest mandates on masks, vaccination proof, timed tickets, etc.

Read more about Museum of Flight →


Seattle Asian Art Museum

This museum, which resides in a 20th-century Art Deco building at the heart of lush Volunteer Park, houses an extensive collection of pan-Asian art, focusing especially on works from India, Japan and Korea. Paintings, sculptures and textiles offer a cultural perspective on diverse traditions, and numerous displays (a meditating Buddha, Hindu deities) illuminate the significance and reach of Asia's many religions. The museum store offers Asian merchandise and books. The museum's website lists its opening hours, currently set for Friday through Sunday. The venue's hilltop setting in Capitol Hill features much green space and a setting that visitors may enjoy wandering before or after exploring the museum.

Recommended for Museums because: Capitol Hill's Seattle Asian Art Museum focuses on works from India, Japan and Korea. The museum features a serene setting and rich gift shop.

Corinne's expert tip: Book tickets to visit Seattle Asian Art Museum (currently open Friday through Sunday), released online on a monthly rolling basis. Be sure to also check out the website for the museum's latest mandates on masks, vaccination proof, etc.

Read more about Seattle Asian Art Museum →


On display in this museum you'll find informative exhibits concerning the history and culture of the region. One of the permanent displays, "The Life and Times of Washington State," includes unique dinosaur exhibits, including casts of the 40-foot long Elasmosaur and the actual skeleton of a 140 million year old carnivorous Allosaurus. A second exhibit, "Pacific Voices," focuses on the 35 Native American tribes common to the Pacific Northwest, along with other cultures that have influenced the region. Exhibits dealing with archaeology, zoology, herpetology and geology are also popular. Don't forget to drop by the cafe for some coffee and a snack; the Museum Shop carries a wide assortment of books and gifts to commemorate your visit.

Recommended for Museums because: The Burke Museum of History and Culture explores the Pacific Northwest region in a casual, pleasant atmosphere right on the edge of University of Washington campus.

Corinne's expert tip: Craving a tasty place for a pit stop? Check out Off the Rez Cafe. Outside food is also allowed in the Cascade Room and outside on the terraced steps of the Burke Yard. Check out the website for the museum's latest mandates on masks, vaccination proof, etc.

Read more about Burke Museum of History and Culture →


Nordic Heritage Museum
Photo courtesy of National Nordic Museum

The Nordic Heritage Museum is an internationally-recognized museum dedicated to the heritage of Seattle's Nordic immigrants, Danish, Finnish, Icelandic, Norwegian and Swedish Americans. It was founded in 1980 and can be found in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle. The museum, which found a beautiful new home not too far from its original address a years back, has plenty of artifacts and genealogy-focused literature for one to trace back their Scandinavian ancestry. Duck into the delightful, on-site Freya Cafe before or after exploring the exhibits. The Ballard neighborhood is also home to a couple of Nordic shops and bakeries for those who care to continue their cultural tour.

Recommended for Museums because: The Nordic Heritage Museum, a sleek Ballard venue, is a fascinating cultural center inspired by the values, traditions, art and spirit of the Nordic peoples.

Corinne's expert tip: The venue's event space also hosts delightful cultural programs like the annual Taste of Iceland (gatherings and concerts that come to Seattle each fall). Check out the website for the museum's latest mandates on masks, vaccination proof, etc.

Read more about Nordic Heritage Museum →


If you're ever going to visit a venue dedicated to the magic of music, pop culture and science fiction, Seattle is THE place to do so. This intriguing museum celebrates the history of rock and roll and creative expressions of all kinds–"from iconic bands to video gaming trends. More than 80,000 American mementos are showcased in the ultra-modern Frank Gehry-designed building, which resembles a smashed guitar. Among the displays are Janis Joplin's floral bell-bottoms and a leather jacket once worn by Elvis Presley. Sky Church, a performance arena erected to host concerts by world-renowned musicians, is also part of the complex. After viewing the exhibits, guests may unwind and grab a bite in the museum's CULTURE KITCHEN SEATTLE by Wolfgang Puck.

Recommended for Museums because: The Museum of Pop Culture aims "to make creative expression a life-changing force"; book tickets online to explore exhibits showcasing memorable musicians, movies and beyond.

Corinne's expert tip: The Museum's latest additions include a new touring exhibition, "Contact High: A Visual History of Hip-Hop" and "Heroes and Villains: The Art of the Disney Costume," which will stay up through April 2022. Check out the website for the latest mandates on masks, vaccination proof, etc.

Read more about Museum of Pop Culture →


Museum of History and Industry
Photo courtesy of MOHAI

The Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI), located on Lake Union, is the largest private heritage organization in Washington state, devoted to teaching and preserving the diverse history of Seattle, the Puget Sound region and the country. If you count historic photos and artifacts as art, MOHAI's permanent exhibit "Essential Seattle" is a must-see on any Emerald City arts tour –" from both a photographic and historical perspective. A fun and informative way to learn about Seattle, the display documents the city's history from the day Captain George Vancouver's ship first sailed into Elliott Bay in 1792 to the present, taking visitors through key events that shaped the modern city, with a focus on the fascinating and diverse people and characters that helped shape this unique region. Other exhibits cover topics from "Maritime Seattle" to "Da Vinci –" Inventions." Timed tickets are encouraged for all visitors.

Recommended for Museums because: The Museum of History and Industry preserves the diverse history of Seattle and the Puget Sound region; its stunning lakeside setting wows visitors, too.

Corinne's expert tip: Spend an entire day wandering the lakeside region where this museum is located; if the weather's nice, go for a paddle at the neighboring Wooden Center for Wooden Boats, or grab lunch at nearby waterfront restaurant (like Cask & Trotter, The White Swan Public House or Duke's Chowder House). Check out the website for the latest mandates on masks, vaccination proof, etc.

Read more about Museum of History and Industry →


A 48-foot Hammering Man sculpture marks the outside of this vast museum, and adjustable steel panels flank the glass walls and allow light to enter the innovative front space known as the Brotman Forum. Upon entering, visitors encounter an extraordinary display of nine sculpted white cars hanging in the air at different angles. The galleries house displays of Native American, African and European art. To showcase particular events, each gallery within the spacious building is given an identity corresponding to its specific exhibit. Along with the wealth of art available for perusing, visitors also have the opportunity to enjoy scheduled lectures, classes and live performances. Two museum shops are available, and they stock alluring Northwest-specific gifts for friends, family or yourself.

Recommended for Museums because: The Seattle Art Museum is a downtown hub for well-curated collections of Pacific Northwest Native American and Asian art (and touring exhibitions, too!).

Corinne's expert tip: Called simply SAM by locals, the museum is known for its extensive and well-curated collections of Pacific Northwest Native American and Asian art. SAM also has been known to land exclusive international touring exhibitions, including Monet and Gauguin. Check out the website for the latest mandates on showing proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test.

Read more about Seattle Art Museum Downtown →


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Meet Corinne Whiting

Corinne hails from the other Washington, where she caught the travel bug early on. Corinne studied abroad in Strasbourg, France (undergrad) and in Edinburgh, Scotland (graduate school). She's...  More About Corinne

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