The woods are full of hazards, from prickly bushes to wild animals. But all’s safe in the Woods at the Children's Museum of Tacoma, where a log pile leads to a play area where kids can build forts and send supplies to and fro with pulleys. The Woods is one of the museum’s five playscapes, which encourage children and their adult guardians to learn through self-directed play.
Youngsters can unleash their inner architects with blocks and tubes at the Invention station, and paint, clay, and other artistic tools at Becka’s Studio allow kids to tap into their creative sides. Aboard the Voyager, children can pretend to fly to the moon or parallel-park between two asteroids. Back on earth, the interactive Water playspace presents a world of tranquil waterfalls and streams.
Afterward, there’s more to explore through the museum’s programs. They range from summer camps to Play to Learn, where kids 6 and younger take part in group activities, sing-alongs, and group circle time.
The handsome, 12,000-square-foot museum is home to four exhibition galleries and a permanent collection that focuses on the wealth of regional talent in the Northwest, in addition to housing Japanese woodblock prints and European paintings. Tacoma's own Dale Chihuly fills a gallery space with his permanent installation of playful and fantastical glasswork, much of it inspired by his love for the sea. Brush up on your goose-whispering skills at the Secret Language of Animals exhibit, a family-friendly flock of approximately 40 paintings, sculptures, and videos depicting rodents, birds, horses, dogs, crazy uncles, and more.
Once you answer the riddles of the history museum's half-man, half-gecko entryway guardian, you'll pass through the monumental doorway arch, revealing 106,000 square feet of high-tech displays and interactive, multi-sensory exhibits. Current featured exhibits give you a glimpse of Sasquatch in Giants in the Mountains: The Search for Sasquatch (through June 27), exquisitely carved chesspieces from all over the world's gameboard in The Many Shapes of Chess (through November 21), and in-depth explorations of the state's cultural touchstones in Icons of Washington History (through July 3), as well as gorgeous digital photographs and folk art. But be sure to make time to stroll through the museum's permanent exhibits, where you can explore a coalmine, ride in a covered wagon, learn phrases from Native American languages, eavesdrop on Lewis and Clark's breakup phone calls with their girlfriends, and visit a massive model railroad, complete with a tiny, doomed Casey Jones.
Though it only takes six minutes, a walk through Hell's Gateway Haunted House can feel like a terrifying eternity. A new scare waits behind every door, in every pitch-black corner, and down every narrow hallway. The experience is like stepping right onto the set of a horror film, only without the prima-donna werewolf and his incessant demands for imported chocolates.
A central computer controls all the sounds, mechanical props, and special effects, but the scariest inhabitants are the human performers. These actors take on the roles of demons, crazed children, and other terrifying personas searching for new recruits; attendees can spend some time in the Zombie Jail and pose for a picture in the electric chair.
The Museum of Glass is the only museum west of the Mississippi to exclusively showcase one of art's most delicate media: glass. The museum provides a dynamic learning environment to appreciate the medium of glass through creative experiences, collections, and exhibitions. Stop by the Hot Shop, housed in the museum's 90-foot-tall stainless-steel dome, to watch professional artists as they blow and shape molten glass into artistic sculptures or thought bubbles. Be sure to examine the museum's outdoor installations, including Martin Blank's Fluent Steps, the colorful Chihluly Bridge of Glass, and the Water Forest, a series of towering acrylic tubes filled with rising and falling water.
• For $30, you get a seat in section 6A (rows 25 and up) or 18A (rows 15 and up) (a $49.50 value before fees, or up to a $58.64 value online, including all ticketing fees). • For $52, you get a seat in section 6A (rows 24 and below), 7A (rows 23 and up), 8A (rows 25 and up), 16A (rows 25 and up), or 17A (rows 23 and up) (an $89.50 value before fees, or up to a $102.84 value online, including all ticketing fees). • For $82, you get a seat in section 7A (rows 22 and lower), 16A (rows 24 and lower), or 17A (rows 22 and lower) (a $149.50 value before fees, or up to a $164.36 value online, including all ticketing fees).