The best museums in Seattle, Washington.

8 Seattle Museums Not to Miss

Reflected in the waters of the Puget Sound alongside the Olympics and Cascades, the Emerald City abounds with world-class museums that explore both the city’s creative spirit and history in maritime, aviation, and science culture.

Some double as Seattle landmarks, on par with the Space Needle and Pike Place Market, while others were born more recently. From Dale Chihuly’s otherworldly glass installations to more than 50 pinball machines in a classic gaming sanctuary, here are a few of our favorite museums just minutes from The Woodmark:

Chihuly Garden and Glass

Chihuly Garden and Glass art museum in Seattle, Washington.

Opened at the Seattle Center in 2012, Chihuly Garden and Glass is a long-term exhibition of world-renowned glassworker Dale Chihuly’s iconic craft. Eight galleries showcase the Washington native’s eye-catching work, along with verdant gardens where whimsical glass sculptures are interspersed with crimson camellias, scarlet daylilies, dogwoods, and fuschias.

In the centerpiece 4,500-square-foot Glasshouse (inspired by Chihuly’s lifelong passion for conservatories), a 100-foot-long suspended sculptural installation captivates with a palette of vibrant reds, oranges, yellows, and amber.

Photo: Chihuly Garden and Glass

Museum of Pop Culture

Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle, Washington.

Both excitement and conflict surrounded the 2000 opening of MoPOP, originally a high-tech rock museum with unusual, striking architecture that captured attention on both sides. Over the years, the nonprofit museum expanded to include all of pop culture, and the same risk taking that fuels pop culture paid off as the destination became an acclaimed Seattle mainstay. Today, you can find exhibits from Nirvana to Star Trek to the upcoming Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes.

Photo: Concept Artwork by Studio TK, courtesy of Museum of Pop Culture

Pacific Science Center

Pacific Science Center museum in Seattle, Washington.

After serving as the United States Science Pavilion during the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, the Pacific Science Center opened as the country’s very first museum founded as a science and technology center. With the goal of igniting curiosity and a passion for discovery in every child, the museum offers spectacular exhibits and programming from Tinker Tank (where kids can launch rockets and create electric circuits) to the Tropical Butterfly House. Constant redesigns make it a must-see even for returning visitors.

Photo: Pacific Science Center

Seattle Art Museum

Seattle Art Museum. 

One of the most prestigious museums in the Pacific Northwest, the Seattle Art Museum has been at the heart of world-class visual arts in the region since 1933. The downtown museum, known as SAM, houses fascinating collections and special exhibitions from around the world, bridging cultures like Ancient Mediterranean, European, and Oceanic. And in 2007, public and exhibition space was doubled and saw the addition of nearly 1,000 new works of art.

After visiting SAM, make sure to check out sister property Olympic Sculpture Park (and in 2019, the renovated Seattle Asian Art Museum).

Photo: Benjamin Benschneider, courtesy of Seattle Art Museum

The Center for Wooden Boats

At The Center for Wooden Boats on South Lake Union, history is something you can touch with hands-on workshops, sailing classes, and boat rentals alongside educational exhibits. Sign up for a sailing class, woodworking class, or a weeklong boat building class as you learn about the experiences and skills of mariners throughout the centuries. There are a number of courses available for young children too, including building and decorating a toy boat.

Seattle Pinball Museum

Seattle Pinball Museum in Washington. 

Born from a desire to share games with other local collectors, the Seattle Pinball Museum displays vintage pinball machines from The Lord of the Rings to Space Invaders as interactive kinetic art. Experience games from as early as 1934 all the way to present day from the likes of Jersey Jack Pinball, Dutch Pinball, Spooky Pinball, VP Cabs, and Stern Pinball.

Photo: Alabastro Photography, courtesy of Seattle Pinball Museum

Museum of Flight

Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington.

Over 175 aircraft and spacecraft fill Seattle’s Museum of Flight, the largest independent nonprofit air and space museum in the world. Among tens of thousands of artifacts, millions of rare photographs, immersive exhibits, and a world-class library, the history of flight comes to life.

Step into a flight simulator, see the original Boeing 727 and a retired Air Force One in the Aviation Pavilion, and experience Apollo, the museum’s current featured exhibit. Among an array of treasures from the Space Race, you will find a Boeing lunar rover, sections of NASA’s 1960s Houston Mission Control, and the first Apollo command module.

Photo: Ted Huetter / Museum of Flight, Seattle

Museum of History & Industry

Museum of History & Industry in Seattle, Washington.

Highlighting the city’s tradition of innovation and imagination, MOHAI houses an incredible diversity of exhibits bridging past, present, and future. As you explore the constantly changing world of Seattle, you will learn about the city’s relationship with water, the vibrant Central District neighborhood and the city’s African American community through the photos of Al Smith, and even the pets of the Pacific Northwest in It’s Raining Cats and Dogs.

Photo: Museum of History & Industry

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After exploring some of Seattle’s most fascinating museums, stop by bin on the lake for a taste of Woodinville wines during Happy Hour – from 4 to 6 pm Tuesdays through Saturdays and all day on Mondays.

 

Featured Photo: Pacific Science Center

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