Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
- The 13 Best Museums in Seattle
- 1. Burke Museum
- 2. Frye Art Museum
- 3. Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park – Seattle Unit
- 4. Museum of History & Industry
- 5. Museum of Pop Culture
- 6. National Nordic Museum
- 7. Rubber Chicken Museum
- 8. Sea Mar Museum of Chicano/a/Latino/a Culture
- 9. Seattle Art Museum
- 10. Seattle Children’s Museum
- 11. Seattle Pinball Museum
- 12. Unity Museum
- 13. WNDR Museum
- How To Get Free or Reduced Admission to Seattle Museums
- Final Thoughts
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Seattle is known for many things. From its famous Space Needle landmark to being regarded as the city with the best coffee in the U.S., it’s earned a reputation for being a diverse city with a one-of-a-kind culture. This unique nature extends to the city’s museums. From history to pop culture, there’s an exhibit in Washington’s biggest city that deserves a spot on your travel itinerary.
The 13 Best Museums in Seattle
1. Burke Museum
The Burke Museum is the oldest museum in the state, first opening in 1899. Education is a top priority since the museum is located on the University of Washington campus. The museum boasts a collection of over 16 million artifacts from around the world to help visitors learn about the natural sciences.
In particular, the museum has the largest collection of bird wing specimens in the world. The museum’s collection of animal specimens is also one of the most comprehensive on the continent. The exhibits are spread out among 3 floors and cover the topics of biology, arts and culture, paleontology, and archaeology.
The museum is also an important research center, with resources suitable for various scientific studies. Additionally, the museum hosts a series of temporary exhibitions and special events throughout the year for people of all ages.
Admission is free for members, UW students, present and retired staff, and children under 4, $14 for children 4 to 17 and other university students, $20 for seniors 62+, and $22 for adults. The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The nearest bus stop is U District Station – Bay 2.
- Address: 4303 Memorial Way NE, Seattle, WA 98195
2. Frye Art Museum
The Frye Art Museum opened in 1952 as Seattle’s premier contemporary art space. Originally the private collection of Charles and Emma Frye, it’s grown from the original 232 paintings in the museum to a more comprehensive collection of sculptures, prints, and more. The museum is constantly evolving as new works are added to the facility.
Some of the highlighted pieces that grace the museum from artists around the world are “Ode to Octavia: Cranium Adornment #5” by The Black Constellation, Maikoiyo Alley-Barnes, and Juliana Meira do Valle, “Physical Plant” by William Allik, and “Forward in the Defense of the Urals!” by Aleksander Apsit.
Most of these pieces were created in the last 50 years, but they’re all from at least the 20th century. The museum’s library is also one of its prized departments. It contains over 2,000 art books, particularly in American and German pieces and styles.
Admission is free for all visitors, though donations are welcome. The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The nearest bus stop is Jefferson Street and Broadway.
- Address: 704 Terry Ave., Seattle, WA 98104
3. Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park – Seattle Unit
Much of Seattle’s early growth can be traced back to the Klondike Gold Rush that took thousands of aspiring miners to Canada. So, it’s not surprising that the city is home to the Seattle Unit of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park.
The facility is home to several artifacts passed down from Yukon settlers. It also possesses documents and records of the people who passed through Seattle and eventually settled there.
In addition to the permanent exhibits showcasing the natural and human history of this part of the Pacific Northwest, the museum hosts rotating exhibitions throughout the year in the Kerr Room.
These galleries showcase more specific parts of the area’s history. For example, the “Nidoto Nai Yoni” exhibit looks at how World War II affected the Japanese-American community in the area through photos, personal effects, and interviews.
Admission is free for everyone. The museum is open Wednesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The nearest bus stop is Second Avenue.
- Address: 319 2nd Ave. S, Seattle, WA 98104
4. Museum of History & Industry
The Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI) is one of the largest heritage centers in the state. The museum’s collection tops 4 million items that showcase how Seattle and the Puget Sound area have developed over the past 2 centuries. Since so many items are housed in the facility, only 2% of the collection can be displayed at any time.
The museum’s artifacts are primarily divided into 6 different galleries and a research library. These exhibits showcase signs from past Seattle businesses, planes, World War II artifacts, and even an exhibit that focuses on predictions for the future of local industries.
Some of the most beloved pieces in the MOHAI’s possession are the first ever 1919 Boeing B-1 plane and the “Petticoat Flag” sewn by local women for an 1856 battle. Additionally, the museum acts as a research center.
Admission is free for members and children under 15 accompanied by a chaperone, $17 for students and military personnel, $18 for seniors 65+, and $22 for adults. Group discounts are available. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The nearest bus stop is Westlake Avenue North and Highland Drive.
- Address: 860 Terry Ave. N, Seattle, WA 98109
5. Museum of Pop Culture
The Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) opened to the public in 2000 to commemorate the evolution of modern popular culture. The facility houses 80,000 items in several interactive exhibit spaces throughout its massive 140,000-square-foot building.
The museum focuses on multiple areas of pop culture, but one of its most popular sections is its Sci-Fi and Fantasy department. The museum even houses the “Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame,” which honors authors, actors, and other creators who have contributed to these genres.
MoPOP has also showcased galleries dedicated to horror characters, video games, music, movies, and more that have helped define culture. These exhibitions are divided between permanent and rotating exhibits. Since the museum aims to preserve modern pop culture, the museum is constantly changing to reflect new characters, movies, and media that have become pop culture icons.
Admission is free for children under 18 and members. Ticket prices vary based on the date and time of your visit, with general admission ranging between $25.75 and $32.50. The museum is open Thursday to Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The nearest bus stop is 5th Avenue North and Republican Street.
- Address: 325 5th Ave. N, Seattle, WA 98109
6. National Nordic Museum
Opened as the Nordic Heritage Museum, the National Nordic Museum is dedicated to the culture and art of the area’s Nordic immigrants. The museum opened in 1980, though it wasn’t housed in its current 57,000-square-foot space until 2018. Not only has the museum gotten more extensive, but its collection has grown to over 80,000 items over the years.
The museum initially had 9 permanent galleries that showcase the differences in culture among the countries that comprise the Nordic heritage: Norway, Iceland, Denmark, Finland, and Sweden. However, since the museum renewed its galleries, these separate spaces have merged to create a more cohesive experience.
In addition to the galleries of artifacts and art that display the history of this European region and the early years of immigration to the U.S., the museum also hosts cultural events and temporary exhibitions.
Admission is free for children under 5, $10 for kids 5 to 18, $15 for college students, $16 for seniors 65+, and $20 for adults. The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The nearest bus station is 24th Avenue Northwest and NW 57th Street.
- Address: 2655 NW Market St., Seattle, WA 98107
7. Rubber Chicken Museum
The Rubber Chicken Museum is one of Seattle’s hidden gem museums. A novelty toy company opened this small facility and currently displays multiple versions of the famous rubber chicken toy.
The museum houses the largest and the smallest rubber chickens in the world. You can learn the history of the toy and see how it changed over time. The museum also has a rotating exhibition space where the owner displays some of his most treasured obscure toys and novelty items from the past 50 years.
Since opening in 2018, the museum has been a favorite among locals and families. Since it’s a small gallery, you don’t need to set aside too long for your visit. However, you might want to add more time to visit the associated store.
Admission is free to everyone, though you must enter the Archie McPhee store to access it. The museum is open Monday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The nearest bus stop is Stone Way North and North 45th Street.
- Address: 1301 N 45th St., Seattle, WA 98103
8. Sea Mar Museum of Chicano/a/Latino/a Culture
The Sea Mar Museum of Chicano/a/Latino/a Culture opened in 2019 as the first museum about Latino culture in the Pacific Northwest. Plans for the museum go back decades to preserve the culture of the Chicano and Latino communities in Seattle and this part of the West Coast.
This mission is achieved by teaching visitors about the history of Central and South America and how these cultures changed and adapted when families began to settle in Washington.
The museum is an ever-changing cultural museum as interviews are conducted, artifacts are collected, and research is done to improve the information and exhibits in the facility. In addition to the exhibition spaces in the museum that showcase artifacts and artwork from Latino and Chicano families, the Sea Mar also acts as a community center and hosts events throughout the year.
Admission is free for all visitors. The museum is open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The nearest bus stop is Des Moines Memorial Drive South and South 96th Street.
- Address: 9635 Des Moines Memorial Drive S, Seattle, WA 98108
9. Seattle Art Museum
The Seattle Art Museum (SAM) is one of the city’s most well-known fine art museums. Since the museum’s collection has grown so much, numbering over 25,000 pieces, the structure has split into 3 locations. The SAM is the main structure, though there’s also the associated Seattle Asian Art Museum (SAAM) and the Olympic Sculpture Park.
The museum’s collection is ever-changing for 2 main reasons. It’s constantly acquiring new pieces. It also continually keeps up-to-date with the provenance of its pieces to ensure any items that rightfully belong elsewhere are returned. This was the case when it was discovered that some of the art in the museum was looted during WWII.
Admission is free for SAM members and children under 15, $19.99 for teens 15 to 19 and students, $24.99 for military personnel and seniors 65+, and $29.99 for adults if purchased in advance. Tickets are $3 more when purchased on the day of your visit. The museum is open Wednesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The nearest bus stop is Pike Street and 4th Avenue.
- Address: 1300 1st Ave., Seattle, WA 98101
10. Seattle Children’s Museum
Founded in the 1970s, the Seattle Children’s Museum is one of the best and most enriching spaces for kids 8 and under. Children of all ages can still enjoy the exhibits, making this a great museum for families. Up to 16 exhibit sets are open in the museum at any given time, but keep in mind that a few, like the “Winter Market,” are seasonal.
These sets are meant to help children use their imagination, socialize, and learn about the world around them. The exhibits range from recreations of veterinary clinics and supermarkets to more objectively educational areas like “Tribal Tales,” which explores indigenous cultures, and the reading area for storytimes.
For even more education, the museum hosts events and classes for kids and families throughout the year. It also sponsors community outreach programs and works closely with schools.
Admission is free for members and infants under a year, $11 for seniors 65+, and $13 for children and adults. The museum is open Wednesday to Monday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Members are allowed into the museum an hour early. The nearest light rail station is Seattle Center.
- Address: 305 Harrison St., Seattle, WA 98109
11. Seattle Pinball Museum
Gamers love the Seattle Pinball Museum. Since opening in 2010, the museum has collected over 50 pinball machines featuring classic games and characters. This collection is ever-growing as more games are released and classics are acquired.
The facility opened both to commemorate pinball history and to offer visitors a chance to play these games that used to be found in arcades around the country. All of the major pinball companies are represented in the collection. Some of the oldest games in the museum were put on the market in 1961. However, the newest in the facility were released as recently as 2023.
In addition to the museum’s regular visiting hours, the space is also available as an event venue for private functions. For those who would prefer to bring the fun of the museum to them, all of the machines on the premises are available to rent.
Admission is $20 for military personnel, first responders, seniors 65+, and children 7 to 14, and $23 for adults. Keep in mind that children under 7 aren’t permitted in the museum. The museum is open Thursday to Sunday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. The nearest bus stop is South Jackson Street and Maynard Avenue South.
- Address: 508 Maynard Ave. S, Seattle, WA 98104
“This is not your grade school teacher’s museum visit. This museum actually encourages being loud and touching/interacting with the exhibits. Admission includes unlimited free play on pinball exhibits from 1960 through to present day.”Charles Martin, Director, Seattle Pinball Museum
12. Unity Museum
Unity Museum recently celebrated its 11th anniversary as a facility focused on celebrating social justice and the journey toward peace worldwide.
The facility acts as a historical and cultural museum that centers around equality, equity, and abolition of prejudice, among other themes. It’s a self-proclaimed hybrid museum, showing the progress made toward social unity and promoting initiatives to propel this movement forward.
These broad topics are explored in detail through authentic artifacts, photos, books, and other items, which help preserve the stories of people who have lived through pivotal moments in the journey toward equal rights and peace. The museum can also be explored virtually.
The Unity Museum also hosts events throughout the year, like craft days and music appreciation functions. The most popular is the monthly lecture, which takes place on the last Saturday.
Admission is free, but donations are always accepted. The museum is open Tuesday and Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. The nearest bus stop is U-District Station.
- Address: 4341 University Way NE, Seattle, WA 98105
13. WNDR Museum
WNDR Museum is an interactive museum that allows visitors to experience art and technology in a new and immersive way. There are multiple WNDR locations around the country. The Seattle iteration of the experience includes 33 wooden art installation sculptures that seem to come to life using lights, sounds, and interactive buttons. There are also several other set rooms with hands-on elements.
One of the most popular exhibit rooms is “Dream Sequence,” which uses LED lights to play with perspective, dimensions, and shadows. “The Wisdom Project” is another beloved room in the museum as it’s constantly changing and growing.
Visitors are welcome to leave notes of wisdom for future guests to read and get inspired by. The museum also hosts events throughout the year. Typically, the recommended age for these functions is listed on the ticket information page.
Admission is free for children under 3, $22 for children 3 to 12, and $32 for adults. The museum is open Thursday, Friday, and Monday from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. The nearest bus stop is 1st Avenue and Bell Street.
- Address: 904 Alaskan Way, Seattle, WA 98104
We’ve indicated with each museum whether or not children, students, or seniors receive free or reduced admission. Several other programs offer similar concessions.
The Museums for All program offers free or reduced admission to museums through the U.S. for those receiving food assistance (SNAP benefits). Participating attractions in the greater Seattle area include the Center for Wooden Boats, Museum of Flight, Museum of Pop Culture, National Nordic Museum, Seattle Art Museum, Seattle Children’s Museum, Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience, and more.
Bank of America’s Museums on Us program offers cardholders free general admission every month on the first full weekend to the following Seattle museums: Northwest African American Museum, Seattle Art Museum, and Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience.
Participation is subject to change; please verify participating museums and entry conditions before your visit.
In a city as famous and recognizable as Seattle, it’s no surprise that it’s home to its fair share of museums. Whether you consider yourself an art fan or prefer to spend time educating yourself about different cultures, there’s an exhibit for you in this part of the Pacific Northwest. We hope this list has helped you determine which Emerald City museums you should add to your must-see list.
Featured Image Credit: Hester Qiang via Unsplash
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Seattle have good museums?
Seattle is home to numerous world-class museums. It’s one of the best art and culture hubs in the Pacific Northwest, and it hosts exhibits and galleries that appeal to a large variety of interests. There are art museums, educational facilities, and more niche options.
What is Seattle popular for?
Seattle is known for a lot of things. It’s long been known as a trend-setting city that’s changed the art and music scene around the culture. It’s also known for being a city with a diverse culture that’s made it a popular tourist destination.
Is Seattle a city worth visiting?
Seattle tops must-visit lists among people around the world. From being the setting of numerous popular television shows and movies to its fame as a city with a vibrantly thriving art scene, there’s something in the Seattle area to interest practically any traveler.
How many museums are in Seattle?
Officially, there are over 40 museums located in Seattle’s metro area. However, numerous other pop-up showcases, galleries, and other exhibits can be found around the city. This also doesn’t count the many offerings found elsewhere in the greater Seattle area.
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