Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry, known around town by its MOHAI acronym, recently relocated to a waterfront location in South Lake Union, and is now housed in the former Naval Reserve Armory building. It’s a smart change for the popular historical and educational spot, considering its new proximity to some of Seattle’s biggest businesses: outdoor retailer REI and Amazon.com. The museum’s permanent collection traces the city’s history, with nods to the city’s 1962 World’s Fair, the surprising 1999 WTO riots, and the birth and growth of aerospace giant Boeing. Temporary exhibits address topics as diverse as Seattle-specific artists, the history of gay culture citywide or the many engineering feats that have helped a region filled with bodies of water and steep slopes stay connected. The newly-opened Bezos Center for Innovation explores Seattle’s history of entrepreneurship and engages guests in interactive activities to elicit their inner CEO.
The Children's Museum, Seattle inspires curiosity and creativity in children between 10 months and 10 years with 22,000 square feet of hands-on exhibits that explore science, arts, and cultural education. The museum's collection of permanent exhibits boosts brainpower with feats of engineering, miniature global villages, an aquarium, and a theater, where kids can don costumes and reenact famous monologues from Sponge Bob. The museum heightens the joy of discovery with such activities as summer camps, birthday parties, partnership outreach, and after-hours events.
After putting on an all-puppet production of Shakespeare's A Winter's Tale to the disdain of their business-minded fathers, the members of the Young Naturalists Society decided to start their own museum of artifacts and nifty facts. The resulting Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture is a nesting ground for Northwest natural history. A blend of permanent and rotating exhibits bejewels the senses through The Life and Times of Washington State exhibit, which guides the viewer past the state's oldest tusk-wielding citizens and shows how tuskless we've become in 545 million years. Through May 31, the museum proudly displays the Cruisin' the Fossil Freeway exhibit, where you can see how professionally excavated fossils stack up against the dino-bones you uncovered in the basement crawlspace.
As visitors wander among The Museum of Flight's more than 150 historic aircraft and spacecraft, they can chart humanity's flight path from the earliest balloons to the latest space shuttles—and marvel at how aviation has changed everything from warfare to transportation to rescue operations. Celebrity planes include a supersonic SR-71 Blackbird, built for a Cold War mission and capable of zipping from Los Angeles to New York in just 58 minutes, and a former Air Force One Boeing 707 that served as a flying oval office for Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon. After visiting a retired supersonic Concorde—one of only 20 ever built by the British—guests move from the airpark and the great gallery of planes to the museum’s other exhibits. Here, thousands of artifacts—uniforms, engines, and even a carved white elephant that astronaut Michael Collins carried into space on the Apollo 11 mission—enlighten as they lead groups to a kids' flight zone and a collection of to-scale plane models. Visitors can also walk through the Red Barn, the original manufacturing facility of the Boeing Company.
The museum's numerous interactive exhibits give users a more visceral sense of what it was like to fly the machines that surround them. The X-Pilot simulator lets visitors practice flying a classic WWII fighter or a modern jet rather than the saddled pigeons they’re used to. Space: Exploring the New Frontier extends your reach to galactic horizons as you play Mission Control to a landing space shuttle or explore a replica of the International Space Station's Destiny Research Laboratory. Here, inventions such as the Apollo 17 lunar module ascent-stage mockup wow aspiring astronauts alongside a contemporary technological duplicate of Sputnik 1, likely made by the Academy of Sciences of the USSR.
Tucked inside an art deco building within Capitol Hill’s Volunteer Park, the economically-sized Seattle Asian Art Museum showcases cultural artifacts from China, Japan, Korea and India. From silk screens to sculpture, scrolls to woodwork, the museum nods at history at every turn. It also includes a children’s room that lets little ones learn by doing and creating. Outside, Noguchi’s “Black Sun” sculpture lines a decorative pool within Volunteer Park, making for a wonderful photo vantage point that includes Seattle’s Space Needle in the background. Through the Gardner Center for Asian Art and Ideas, the museum even offers a Saturday lecture series on visual and literary arts topics. Bargain-hunters take note: The museum is free to all visitors the first Thursday of each month.