As a local, I’ve been to many of the best museums in Seattle. In this guide, I’ll point you to 19 museums that deserve your attention and give you tips on how to save money on Seattle museums too.
Get ready to check out amazing history, art, and cultural museums, along with a few quirky, out-of-the-box ones too!
Table of Contents
- 19 Best Seattle Museums
- Seattle Art Museum
- Museum of Pop Culture
- Burke Museum
- Museum of History and Industry
- Frye Art Museum
- Klondike Gold Rush Historical Park
- National Nordic Museum
- Center For Wooden Boats
- Northwest African American Museum
- Seattle Pinball Museum
- Connections Museums
- Seattle Asian Art Museum
- Olympic Sculpture Park
- Seattle Children’s Museum
- Pacific Science Center
- Wing Luke Museum
- Chihuly Garden and Glass
- Museum of Museums
- Museum of Flight
- FAQs About Museums in Seattle
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19 Best Seattle Museums
Seattle Art Museum
Admire fantastic displays of global and contemporary art in a large, refined museum near Seattle’s biggest attraction.
The vast museum has well-curated exhibits of ancient art and contemporary pieces. You’ll see sculptures, paintings, and artifacts from Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and the Pacific Northwest.
The SAM Shop and Gallery is the museum’s gift shop and art gallery where you can buy creative souvenirs and art made by local artists.
If you work up an appetite after exploring all four floors of the museum, check out MARKET. This onsite restaurant serves delicious seafood dishes.
Museum of Pop Culture
Top-rated pop culture museum with sci-fi and fantasy displays, a music lab, and a vast collection of movie memorabilia.
The Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) is by far the most popular museum in Seattle. It explores all aspects of pop culture from movies, tv shows, and music. It’s also chock full of interesting memorabilia.
There are permanent science fiction and fantasy exhibits. There’s also an interactive exhibit on horror films if you’re brave enough.
Music history fans will be at home at the MoPOP too. Visit the Pearl Jam, Nirvana, and Jimi Hendrix exhibits, or take your time in the sound lab playing and testing out a variety of instruments. This cool museum in the Seattle Center it’s a must-visit, especially because it’s one of the top things to do in Washington state.
👉 ProTip: One of the most fun ways to get to the Museum of Pop Culture is by taking the monorail. Want to know some of the other ways to get around Seattle? Make sure you bookmark this article!
A natural history museum with dinosaur displays, Native art, and research labs.
The Burke museum is the place to learn about natural history in the Washington region.
This museum is in the University District on the University of Washington campus. It has dinosaur fossils, archaeology exhibits, Native artifacts, and taxonomy specimens. There are also labs in the museum where you can peek in on scientists performing research.
The Burke Museums is definitely one of the best Seattle museums for kids and adults.
After visiting, grab some Indian tacos from the fabulous on-site restaurant, Off The Rez. If you need a little caffeine refuel, the museum is right around the corner from Cafe Allegro, one of the top coffee shops in Seattle.
Museum of History and Industry
Learn about the city’s past, present and future in the largest museum in South Lake Union.
The Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI for short) is one of the best museums in Seattle and one of my personal favorites. You’ll get an in-depth education on Seattle history when visiting.
Walk through an engaging exhibit on Chief Seattle and watch an entertaining musical about the Great Seattle Fire of 1889. Check out an interactive exhibit detailing how the Ballard Locks work. Learn about how Seattle’s natural landscape has been altered drastically to make it liveable.
If you’re into tech and innovation you’ll love the MOHAI since it dives into how the city’s tech economy has boomed over the years. The museum is cohesive and interactive enough to make it engaging, even if you aren’t typically drawn to history museums. I recommend all visitors move this museum to the top of their list!
👉 Pro Tip: The Museum of History and Industry is one of several Seattle museums with free admission on the first Thursday of the month. Other museums included in this are the Seattle Art Museum, the Burke Museum, the National Nordic Museum, and the Museum of Flight. Plan your visit around this day for museum excursions, especially if you’re visiting Seattle on a budget.
Frye Art Museum
View gorgeous 19th and 20th-century art for free in this small but mighty museum.
There’s a huge collection of 19th-century and early 20th-century art in this tiny museum nestled in Seattle’s First Hill neighborhood. The permanent collection was donated by avid art collectors Charles and Emma Frye. A mix of the couple’s modern and classical paintings is always on display, along with rotating exhibits by contemporary artists.
If you’re visiting Seattle on a budget, a trip to the Frye Art Museum is one of the best free things to do in the city. Just make sure you also visit their well-curated gift shop which is packed with unique items so you can bring a little art home with you.
Klondike Gold Rush Historical Park
Learn about Seattle’s role in the gold rush at this National Park Service-affiliated museum.
While on their way to pan for gold in the Yukon Territory, optimistic prospectors stopped in Seattle to stock up on supplies. The Klondike Gold Rush Historical Park details what this part of their Seattle journey looked like. It also highlights how this rush of people traveling through Seattle led to exponential growth in the city.
Walk through the info-packed museum on a self-guided tour, or speak to helpful staff members who can answer your questions. It’s another one of Seattle’s completely free museums, located in the vibrant Pioneer Square neighborhood.
National Nordic Museum
Discover how the city’s Scandinavian roots influenced Seattle’s past and present.
The Ballard neighborhood in Seattle has Scandinavian roots. It’s the perfect place for the National Nordic Heritage Museum.
The museum touches on both historical and cultural aspects of Scandinavian life. It also details how the people who immigrated to Seattle influenced its culture.
Check out costumes, carvings, and artifacts from Denmark, Sweden, Iceland, Norway, and Finland. Their permanent Nordic Journeys exhibit is one of the most popular. It discusses how nordic life and nordic values have evolved over thousands of years, and what connections we can make with them in the present.
Center For Wooden Boats
A small maritime museum in South Lake Union with historic wooden boats and tons of rental options.
You’ll love Seattle’s maritime museum if you like to get on the water. The Center for Wooden Boats helps educate people on the maritime heritage in the Pacific Northwest. Check out their collection of historic wooden boats and the museum’s cool displays.
The best part of the Center for Wooden boats is its interactivity. You can rent one of their small pea boats for free and take it out on South Lake Union to get firsthand experience navigating the waters. In addition, they offer kayak and canoe rentals and have classes to teach you how to sail.
Northwest African American Museum
A cultural museum dedicated to sharing stories, history, and art by Black Americans in the Pacific Northwest.
📍 Google Maps | Museum Website | Cost: $10 for adults, $5 for youth 18 and under, Free for children 3 and younger | Hours: Wednesday – Saturday 10 am to 5 pm, First Thursday of the month 10 am to 7 pm
The Northwest African American Museum is in the Central District. It shares exhibits, art, and stories about Black Americans in the Pacific Northwest.
They always have displays by local artists and a variety of rotating local history exhibits. Some exhibits have been about Jimi Hendrix, the Black Panther Party, and the historically Black Central District.
The museum also hosts educational programs and events to bring together the community. The weeklong Juneteenth celebration is just one of these.
Seattle Pinball Museum
An interactive arcade-style museum with vintage pinball machines.
Is your idea of a good time playing pinball and drinking beer? The Emerald City has a museum for just you.
The Seattle Pinball Museum in the International District has pinball machines dating from the 60s and up. The admission fee allows you to stay and play them for as long as you want. They serve snacks and drinks to keep you full while you hone your pinball skills. This quirky museum is a great one for kids, too, but they must be seven or older to play.
Examine vintage communication equipment and learn about the evolution of the telephone.
The Connections Museum is one of the most unique museums in Seattle. It will be a hit for tech-y people and those that like to dive into little-known, niche topics.
The museum has a collection of vintage telephones, switchboards, and communication equipment. Walk through exhibits on telephones, mechanical and electronic switchboards, telegraphs, and more. By the end, you’ll gain a greater appreciation for our modern communication equipment.
Young children may find the information too dense. If you like getting deep into history, though, they have helpful volunteers on site to answer all your questions and give docent-led tours. The Connections Museum is in Georgetown, one of Seattle’s best neighborhoods.
Seattle Asian Art Museum
See a range of art from various Asian cultures in one of Seattle’s most beautiful museums.
Located in Capitol Hill’s Volunteer Park, the Seattle Asian Art Museum is one of the most beautiful art museums in Seattle. It’s a part of the Seattle Art Museum, but this museum’s focus is on the range of art by Asian cultures.
The thoughtfully curated museum has religious sculptures, delicate ceramics, and ancient art. Ample natural light and the museum’s art-deco exterior only add to its appeal. If you’re able, try to visit this Seattle Museum on the last Friday of the month when admission to the museum is free.
📚 Related Reading: To see even more art, check out the incredible art museums in Bellevue and Bainbridge Island. Both feature local, contemporary art and since they’re not far from the Seattle area, you can turn a visit into a day trip.
Olympic Sculpture Park
Abstract sculptures line the pathways in this downtown Seattle park.
The Olympic Sculpture Park is also part of the Seattle Art Museum. This free to visit park has modern and abstract sculptures along paths that wind down to Seattle’s waterfront.
If you love public art, you’ll enjoy the giant sculptures here, like the Father and Son, the Eye Benches, and the Eagle. Make sure you visit close to sunset too since this is one of the best city parks in Seattle to see one.
Seattle Children’s Museum
Immersive play-focused space kids will want to spend hours in.
If you’re visiting the city with younger children, the Seattle Children’s Museum should be at the top of your list. This interactive, play-focused museum has so many things to keep children ages 1-10 entertained. Kids will learn through play at all the engaging exhibits.
Some of these exhibits include a play store, theater, construction zone, and a spot dedicated to kids under 3. Because the museum is all indoors, this is also one of the best rainy-day activities to do with children.
👉 Pro Tip: If museum-hopping is at the top of your list, I recommend staying in the Queen Anne neighborhood in Seattle. This will put you close to all the Seattle Center and South Lake Union museums, and not far from others. For other options on where to stay in Seattle, bookmark this article to read next.
Pacific Science Center
Visit a butterfly house, explore interactive exhibits, or attend a laser show at this STEM-focused science center.
The Pacific Science Center is a great museum for both children and adults. It’s dedicated to STEM education and bolstering interest in scientific discovery. They have a variety of hands-on exhibits to illustrate scientific concepts. The most popular of these is the butterfly house where you can see, observe, and be surrounded by tropical butterflies from around the world.
Make time to visit the planetarium and catch a show at the IMAX theater. Also, try to attend one of the evening laser shows. They’re a super cool experience and make a great date night idea too.
Wing Luke Museum
A cultural museum that highlights the Asian American experience in Pacific Northwest.
The Wing Luke Museum is in the International District. It tells the stories of Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Native Hawaiians in the Pacific Northwest. This museum contains carefully selected artifacts, textiles, and a popular Bruce Lee exhibit.
Museum tickets also include admission to the wonderfully preserved hotel next door. This hotel has historic significance in the Asian community. It was where Chinese pioneers established their businesses to begin their lives in the city.
If you love cultural institutions and learning about a variety of experiences, this is a great museum to visit.
Chihuly Garden and Glass
Check out intricate glass creations at this Seattle Center museum.
Chihuly Garden and Glass is a wonder of stunning glass art creations that make it one of the prettiest places in Seattle.
Works by renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly are spread throughout the museum in several galleries, a glasshouse, and a garden. The glasshouse is the museum’s centerpiece. Make sure you wander through the garden to see just how well all of the glass creations mix with all the botanicals.
This is worth a visit if you want to see one of Seattle’s most unique museums. You’ll learn about the amount of work and skill it takes to create glass art on the level of the pieces here.
💰 Money Saving Tip: If you want to save your money on some Seattle Center museums and other attractions, I recommend purchasing a Seattle CityPASS. This will give you discounts on admission to the Chihuly Garden and Glass, the MoPoP, and more!
Museum of Museums
This newer art museum houses a variety of eclectic displays that rotate every three months.
The Museum of Museums is Seattle’s funkiest art museum. This newer museum is a showroom for local artists, and the art is always fun, edgy, and boundary-pushing. Inside you’ll find several gallery rooms and a small 4-seat theater. There’s an immersive showroom, a quirky gift shop, decked-out bathroom exhibits, and even a miniature museum.
The museum doesn’t have permanent exhibits because they rotate every three months. This makes it exciting to check back every three months to see what they have on display for the season. Just keep in mind that they close for a month in January, May, and September to refresh displays.
Prices vary, but you can get the best deal if you visit during the Capitol Hill Art Walk (every 2nd Thursday) when you can get in and view everything for $5.
Museum of Flight
This massive museum has a huge aircraft and spacecraft collection and flight history exhibits.
The Museum of Flight is one of the top museums in the greater Puget Sound region. It’s technically in Tukwila, just outside of Seattle. Still, the museum is easy to reach if you’re staying in the city. It’s a must-visit if you want to know more about Seattle’s intriguing aircraft history.
The museum has an impressive collection of aircraft and spacecraft. Visitors can get up close and even inside the cockpit of one particular jet. There are artifacts and galleries on the history of flight, how the industry is continuing to develop, and what that might look like in the future.
The building and collection are massive and there’s a lot to scan through. Take your time doing just that in this popular museum.
📚 Related Reading: If you want to see another cool aviation museum, consider taking a trip to the Boeing Future of Flight in Everett. It was one of my picks for the best places to visit in Washington state!
FAQs About Museums in Seattle
Does Seattle have an art museum?
Are Seattle museums free?
Certain Seattle museums are free on the first Thursday of the month. These are the Seattle Art Museum, the Museum of History and Industry, the Burke Museum, the National Nordic Museum, and the Museum of Flight. The Seattle Asian Art Museum is free on the last Friday of the month. The Frye Art Museum, the Olympic Sculpture Park, and the Klondike Gold Rush Historical Park are always free to visit.
How many museums are in Seattle?
There are over 40 museums in Seattle.
🏛️ Read Next: 33 Seattle Historical Sites
Now you know just where to go to get your museum fix when you visit Seattle! If you want to see even more fabulous museums, check out other Washington cities like Tacoma, which also has tons of worthwhile museums.
I hope I’ve helped you find some of the best museums in Seattle for your visit!
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