Six Museums You Must Visit in Seattle and a Budget Friendly Way to Visit Them

We were recently in Seattle, and coincidentally, we were there for the city’s Museum Month. What’s special about that? If you are staying at participating Downtown Seattle hotels, you get a card that entitles you to two admissions to world-class museums for the price of one… for the whole month of February. To state the obvious, it’s an excellent deal, people – #GetThrifty for the win!

(Yes, February is over – I’m sorry I didn’t have a chance to finish this post sooner! – though Seattle’s museums are fairly reasonably priced. But hang in there, Seattle has another fantastic #GetThrifty deal called the Seattle CityPASS. Anything marked with a * next to it relates to this. More on that at the end of this post!)

Because our hotel (the cute and very centrally located Belltown Inn) was participating in Museum Month, we fully took advantage of this deal, showing our card everywhere we went. And while we knew what we wanted to visit for the first time or re-visit, we like getting local perspectives. So I asked some of the front desk staff and the Assistant General Manager for their recommendations. Between all of us, here are the favourite) six, plus a couple honourable mentions.

(As with any tourist attraction, if you don’t like crowds, go early or on a non-peak day.) 

The Museum of Pop Culture a.k.a. MoPop*

Seattle Center, Seattle / https://www.mopop.org/

Formerly the Experience Music Project (or EMP), MoPOP is my absolute favourite of all of the museums in the Emerald City – Josh at the Belltown Inn wholeheartedly agreed with me. This was my fifth time going! Paul Allen’s passion project is a larger than life tribute to not just music, but all things pop culture. From the permanent Jimi Hendrix (who was from Seattle) and science fiction film/TV exhibits to special exhibits on Hello Kitty to studio rooms where you can rock out on your instrument of choice, there’s something for everyone’s geeky side.

Or their inner child. I cannot tell you how delighted I was with the Jim Henson special exhibit. Like most children, I grew up watching Sesame Street and The Muppet Show. And the Muppet Christmas Carol is one of my favourite Christmas movies. The man was a genius. The Brit was pretty amused by the fact that I had a perma-smile on my face. I was, in turn, incredibly amused to turn around and find him taking a selfie with a Big Bird puppet.

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MUST SEE – Everything. I honestly can’t choose one thing!

In other news, I figured out why I’m so pale…

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Seattle Aquarium*

1483 Alaskan Way, Seattle / https://www.seattleaquarium.org/

With Blackfish having changed how aquariums operate, the Seattle Aquarium has adapted quite well. So while there aren’t any large marine mammals to ooooh and aaaah at, it is a fun and interactive place for a date or with your family. The sea otters are my favourite – they have such personality – and the Brit loves jellyfish, of which there is no shortage! When they aren’t jam-packed with people, I find aquariums very relaxing. There’s something soothing about watching fish swim by. Maybe I’m nuts, but anyway…

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MUST SEE – Everything. But as perviously mentioned, the otters are my favourite!

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MOHAI

860 Terry Ave N, Seattle / http://mohai.org/

The Museum of History and Industry was a new visit for the Brit and me, and it’s gorgeous Lake Union location and exhibits reminded me of the Riverside Museum in Glasgow. While the Lincoln’s Toe Truck will distract you, the place to start is True Northwest: The Seattle Journey exhibit. From 1790 through to present day, this very well-made and interactive shocase will guide you through the evolution of a very vibrant and diverse Pacific Northwest city. Exhibits like this have the possibility of being boring (which it most certainly isn’t), and should you be feeling this way, just pop into the little theatre to watch the story of the great fire of 1889 (caused by a pot of glue!). It is the most entertaining feature in a museum that I have ever seen. I wish I had taken a better video, but this gives a taste of what was five minutes of great fun!

MUST SEE – Until June 17, MOHAI has a chronicle of the work of African-American photographer Al Smith called Seattle on the Spot. Seattle seems to have been a very diverse and open city from very early on – certainly unlike a city of the south. Al Smith’s photos capture that spirit with such joy. And where else could a white woman and a black man (legally) be in a relationship and celebrate Christmas together?? Nevermind the toaster that he gave her for Christmas. It ws the 50’s and she is clearly quite happy with it (Personally, I love getting practical gifts!) and with him.

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(Click on the images to enlarge or hover for captions.)

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The sandwich board for the first ever Starbucks. Apparently, it was almost called Cargo House. Huh.

Chihuly Garden and Glass*

Seattle Center, Seattle / https://www.chihulygardenandglass.com/ 

The most beautiful of the museums, I love it here because a) everything on display represents (to me) the whimsy and creativity that I feel we lose as we become adults – you genuinely feel like you’re Alice in Wonderland and b) it’s a place that appeals to both artistic and scientific minds. Both Kelsey and Valerie at the Belltown Inn rated this one as their favourites and it’s hard not to see why. Photos (not even the free ones that their photographers take of you in front of the larger works) really don’t do any of the artistry justice, so you need to just take it all in.

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MUST SEE – Don’t miss the Glasshouse or the scientific artistry of the glassblowers who do a demonstration of their craft several times a day in the Garden.

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My lovely friend, Orla, from travelorlabout.com was in Seattle back in the fall and I love this photo of her from that trip.

Seattle Art Museum a.k.a. SAM

1300 First Ave, Seattle / http://www.seattleartmuseum.org

Known as SAM to locals, full disclosure that I am listing the main buidling solely based on the excellent TripAdvisor reviews, and the fact that Dorjon at the Belltown Inn very highly recommended it. Why? Because we never actually got to go in! Google Maps had the hours listing Monday as open, but alas, the app was very wrong. So this one goes back on the list for next time.

We ended up going to see Meryl Streep stick it to the government in The Post (Fantastic movie! A total nail-biter even though you know what happened.), so all was not lost.

I checked today and Google Maps has since updated their hours info for SAM. THANK YOU!

SAM’s Asian Art Museum is currently undergoing renovation, but I’m told it is also an excellent visit. We did get to see the free arm of SAM, the beautiful Olympic Sculpture Park and its stunning view.

Honourable Mentions

The Pacific Science Center (located at Seattle Center) needs to be visited again (at an earlier time) so that we can get in an IMAX movie and perhaps be in less of a crowd. But this is a good spot for families to visit because everything is very interactive. The exhibit that I enjoyed the most was the Tropical Butterfly House. I desperately wanted a butterfly to land on me for a fun photo op, but alas. I could have stayed in there all day, it was beautiful.

Valerie at the Belltown Inn recommended the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience (719 South King Street) to us, but we didn’t have time to get there – which I’m a bit sad about because it would have looked stunning for the Lunar New Year celebrations. This is definitely on the list for next time.

~

Okay, so I promised that there is another way to experience Seattle’s museums in a #GetThrifty fashion. When the Brit and I took our first trip to Seattle in 2016, we bought the Seattle CityPASS because it’s too good of a deal to pass up. For $120 CAD (approximately 45% in savings), the Seattle CityPASS gets you admission into:

  • Space Needle – You ticket lasts for 24 hours after it’s first scanned and allows you to go up twice. So if you want to catch the view from the top during the day and the evening, you’re all set. Note that the Space Needle is currently undergoing renovations, but is only closed on certain days. Make sure to check before you head out.
  • Seattle Aquarium
  • Argosy Cruises Harbor Tour – Seattle is very similar to Vancouver with its rainy days, but we got lucky with a sunny February day. Make sure to arrive 45 minutes before your desired time as the tours fill up fast! (And the views are worth the wait!)
  • Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP)  OR  Woodland Park Zoo
  • Chihuly Garden and Glass  OR  Pacific Science Center
  • Plus discounted entry at a few other Seattle favourites like The Museum of Flight.

Tickets and more info can be found here.

P.S. This isn’t a sponsored post, I just want you to get a good deal and have a quality time. So much so that an even more #GetThrifty tip that you need to know about is that Costco.ca sells these passes for $98 CAD. Saving an additional $22 per person is nothing to sneeze at. Click here for that deal!

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“To some extent, Seattle remains a frontier metropolis, a place where people can experiment with their lives, and change and grow and make things happen.”

~ Tom Robbins

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