Seattle Museum Month, February 1-28, offers Seattle visitors staying in one of our 60+ partner hotels an unbeatable value: 50% off admission at our 40 museum partners, including many of Seattle’s most popular attractions.
You can go to as many museums as you like during your stay, and up to four people staying in the hotel room are eligible to use the discount, so it’s perfect for trips with friends or family. You’ll find the entire list of museums on seattlemuseummonth.com – but how to choose? Let’s dive in and I’ll try to make some suggestions according to your interests.
Today’s topic is: history & heritage! Here are some of my recommendations if you want to discover the stories behind the people and places of the Northwest.
In these museums you’ll find fascinating looks at aviation history, a deep dive into Seattle’s innovative roots, stories of the Alaskan Gold Rush, a jawdropping collection of classic cars, the story of the original people of this region (and Seattle’s namesake), and more.
A great first stop is the Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI). Housed on the south shore of Lake Union in a restored historic Naval Reserve Armory, this Smithsonian affiliate boasts a collection of more than 4 million objects, documents and photos that trace the history of the Puget Sound region. But this is no ordinary look back. MOHAI’s award winning exhibits are engaging, enlightening and entertaining too. And their focus on innovation explores the global influences that all began here: Microsoft, Boeing, Amazon, Starbucks, Costco, Nintendo, and more. My tip: don’t miss the musical telling of the 1889 Great Seattle Fire, complete with heart-tugging solo by the guilty glue pot that started it all.
While you’re in the neighborhood, see if you can spot any of the 4 historic ships that are typically docked at the Historic Ship Wharf adjacent to MOHAI: the Virginia V, Arthur Foss, Swiftsure, and the Duwamish. You might also want to visit the Center for Wooden Boats next door.
Another don’t-miss: one of Seattle’s most popular museums is the Museum of Flight. Located in south Seattle, it’s the largest independent, non-profit air and space museum in the world! With over 175 aircraft and spacecraft and tens of thousands of artifacts, the museum brings the incredible history of flight to life. A handy visit planner on their website can help you focus your time depending on your age and interests.
Aviation fans will also want to head north to the Flying Heritage and Combat Armor Museum. This nonprofit museum at Paine Field in Everett was started by the late Paul Allen of Microsoft fame. The collection of iconic and rare military vehicles, aircraft and artifacts from the United States, Britain, Germany, Soviet Union and Japan, are restored with a sharp focus on authenticity.
If you’re fired up by classic cars, a trip south to Tacoma to LeMay: America’s Car Museum is a must. America’s love affair with the automobile is in full glory here, with a collection spanning more than 100 years of automotive history. The stunning purpose-built facility has been recognized as one of MSN’s 10 Best Automotive Museums worldwide.
While you’re in Tacoma, you might want to also visit the Fort Nisqually Living History Museum. This Hudson’s Bay Company trading post was the first non-Native settlement on Puget Sound. Explore the award winning restoration of the fort’s National Historic Landmark buildings and engage with volunteers and staff, who wear period clothing and demonstrate the crafts of the 19th century.
Back in the historic heart of Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood, a visit to the free Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park located in the restored 1889 Cadillac Hotel offers an absorbing look at a time when anyone with about $600 ($20,000 in today’s dollars) could dream of traveling to the Yukon Territory in northwestern Canada, to strike a claim, mine the gold and try to change their fortunes. This branch of the National Park Service is a key link to understanding the impact on Seattle from the Klondike, and how modern day global and regional companies such as Nordstrom, Filson and Bartell Drugs got their start in the explosive growth of the gold rush period.
No effort to explore the history and heritage of Seattle and the region is complete without including the history and culture of the native people of this region, and the Suquamish Museum on the Kitsap peninsula preserves and teaches the living culture and history of the Suquamish Tribe and its Salish neighbors. Located on Agate Pass in ancestral lands, the museum is also a short walk from the gravesite of Chief Sealth, the namesake of Seattle. A beautiful ride on the Seattle-Bainbridge ferry and an approximately 8 mile drive will bring you to the Suquamish village.
An equally beautiful ride on the Seattle-Bremerton ferry will bring you to Bremerton, home of the USS Turner Joy Naval Destroyer Museum Ship. You can walk on for the hour long ferry ride, saving money and time. The Turner Joy is located on the Bremerton boardwalk, an easy walk from the ferry terminal. To fully explore the ship, allow 1-2 hours and wear flat or rubber-soled shoes, dress in layers (the ship is cold in February!) and keep your hands free for safe ladder climbing.
Learn more about Seattle Museum Month at seattlemuseummonth.com and see my other posts for more suggestions. With 40 museums, we’ve got something for every interest. See you in February!