Broaden Your Horizons — and Meet the City’s Quirky Side — at These 5 Seattle MuseumsBy Pam Mandel
Sure, Seattle’s main tourist sites are worth your time — Seattle Center, the Great Wheel, the waterfront and Pike Place Market all draw thousands of visitors each year, rain or shine. Make time to visit them all. But if you want to get away from the crowds and get a different perspective on the city, visit these museums.
You’ll find a Seattle that’s rich in history, creative, quirky and fun.
As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.
MOHAI (Museum of History & Industry)
History nerds and those who love them can go deep into the city’s past — and present — at MOHAI, the Museum of History & Industry. Look for the brightly colored canned salmon labels.
They speak to the role the fish has played in Seattle’s economy, while a Slinky Dog, the classic toy and brainchild of Seattle resident Helen Herrick Malsed, gives a whimsical view into the city’s creativity.
MOHAI is a crash course in Seattle’s history, from the indigenous people who made their home on the shores of Puget Sound to the med-tech industry giants shaping the Seattle landscape today.
Seattle got its name from Chief Sealth, a Suquamish and Duwamish tribal chief who developed friendly relations with the city’s early settlers. He’s buried on Bainbridge Island, just down the hill from the Suquamish Museum.
Pay your respects; then view gorgeous new multimedia artwork by Suquamish artists, historical artifacts and exhibits about the tribe’s role in local history and its ongoing contributions.
Bonus? You’ll need to take a ferry before making the short drive to the museum — and riding a ferry is an essential Seattle experience.
The Center for Wooden Boats
The water surrounding Lake Union Park (and MOHAI, if you make it a two-for-one stop) is full of gorgeously restored small craft and the Center for Wooden Boats. There’s an indoor exhibit hall, but the sturdy smaller boats tied up at the pier are the real stars.
Grab a life vest and climb in and out of a tiny wooden skiff or a shiny red sloop. The Virginia V, a working steamer, is moored on the north end of the pier next to four other historic ships.
Even on a gray day, the pier is Instagram friendly, with its funky oar house, sweet little watercraft and the reflected light coming from Lake Union.
Living Computers: Museum + Labs
It’s called the Living Computers: Museum + Labs because almost everything here is alive and working, and you get to drive. (Okay, you don’t drive the 3D-printed self-driving car, but you can go for a ride.)
Make a punch card, play vintage video games, build a working mini robot and learn how image recognition works. Kids as young as three years old will find computer concepts they can play with and master, while old-school, pocket-protector types might recognize old friends.
Seattle Pinball Museum
All the machines work at the Seattle Pinball Museum, too. The narrow space is filled with the sound of flippers thwacking and bells ringing. Score lights flash, and newer machines have voice-overs and video monitors built in.
The oldest machine here is the 1960 Texan, one of only three in the collection with a wooden frame; and there’s a brand-new Beatles game, built in 2018. A single admission allows you to play as long as you’re at the museum; a multi-entry pass means you can take a break, fuel up at one of the neighborhood’s diverse restaurants, and return to play more games.