Washington has many excellent museums that cover a wide range of topics and interests. Whether you’re interested in art, history, science, or pop culture, you’re likely to find something that interests you. Here are the best museums in Washington State, based on my experiences raising a family here for several decades.

Best Museums in Washington State

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If you’re looking for fun day trips to Seattle or looking as far away as Bellingham, Washington State has something for whatever your interest might be.

Museums in Seattle

Whether you’re inclined towards art, science, history or pop culture, you’re bound to discover something that captures your interest in this vibrant city. Also consider the Seattle City Pass to save time and money!

1. Museum of Flight

  • Location: 9404 E Marginal Way S, Seattle, WA 98108
  • Google rating: 4.8 out of 5, of 12,746 reviews
  • Hours: daily 10am – 5pm
  • Website ticketing info

The Museum of Flight is a must-see destination when visiting Seattle, especially if you’re into aviation and spacecraft. It has an impressive collection of historic and military aircraft, including many rare and one-of-a-kind planes, and an extensive collection of spacecraft as well.

The Museum of Flight offers a variety of programs and events, including some very cool flight simulators, guided tours, and lectures by aviation experts.  This museum is an excellent activity for a rainy day, a huge hit with kids and adults of all ages, especially tweens.

2. Chihuly Garden and Glass

  • Location: 305 Harrison St, Seattle, WA 98109
  • Google rating: 4.7 out of 5, of 17,354 reviews
  • Hours: daily 10 am – 6 pm
  • Website ticketing info

Chihuly Garden and Glass is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful and unique museums in Seattle. It’s dedicated to showcasing the stunning artwork of renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly and features a colorful collection of his glass sculptures in an enchanting garden-like setting.

The art itself and the displays are simply jaw-dropping.  If you can get to Seattle on a day that the sun is shining, makes sure to stop in here as the outdoor glass gardens will sparkle all the more. 

Museums in Washington State

3. Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture

  • Location: 4303 Memorial Way Northeast, Seattle, WA 98195
  • Google rating: 4.5 out of 5, of 838 reviews
  • Hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 10 am – 5 pm
  • Website ticketing info

The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture is a charming museum on the campus of the University of Washington. Their collection focuses on the natural history, cultural heritage, and archaeology of the Pacific Northwest. They also have fantastic displays on the biology and geology of this region, and exhibits on Native American culture and history.

A thoroughly fascinating feature of the Burke Museum is that it has a working laboratory, where you can watch scientists work on artifacts in real-time. It’s an excellent place for curious kids, of all ages.

4. Seattle Arts Museum

  • Location: 1300 1st Ave, Seattle, WA 98101
  • Google rating: 4.6 out of 5 of 5179 reviews
  • Hours: Wednesday to Sunday, 10 am – 5 pm
  • Website ticketing info

The Seattle Art Museum (SAM) is hugely. Popular museum in downtown Seattle.  Their impressively designed collections are divided into several categories, including American art, European art, Asian art, African art, and contemporary art.

Some of SAM’s most popular exhibits include works by famous artists such as Georgia O’Keeffe, and Andy Warhol, as well as a diverse range of artworks from other cultures and time periods. This smaller museum is full of surprises that will blow you away, especially the Porcelain Room.

5. Frye Art Museum

  • Location: 704 Terry Ave, Seattle, WA 98104
  • Google rating: 4.6 out of 5 of 1390 reviews
  • Hours: Wednesday to Sunday, 11 am – 5 pm
  • Admission to the Frye Art Museum is free.

The Frye Art Museum is a highly regarded museum, known for its excellent collection of late 19th- and early 20th-century European paintings and sculpture. The museum’s permanent collection includes works by artists such as Franz von Stuck, Wilhelm Leibl, and Otto Hierl-Deronco, as well as a selection of contemporary artworks.

In addition to its permanent collection, the Frye Art Museum also hosts a variety of rotating exhibitions throughout the year, in which they showcase works by contemporary artists from around the world.

6. The Museum of Pop Culture

  • Location: 325 5th Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109
  • Google rating: 4.6 out of 5, of 14,914 reviews
  • Hours: Thursday to Tuesday, 10 am – 5 pm
  • Website ticketing info

The Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) is dedicated entirely to pop culture and features incredible exhibits on music, science fiction, video games, and more. MoPOP has a diverse collection of artifacts and memorabilia from famous musicians, movies, and TV shows.

Some of the most popular exhibits at MoPOP include the Guitar Gallery, the ever-engaging Sound Lab, and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame.  It’s a must-see attraction, with something for everybody and one of those museums where you can spend an entire day in.

MoPop
Photo by Lucas Myers on Unsplash

7. National Nordic Museum

  • Location: 2655 NW Market St, Seattle, WA 98107
  • Google rating: 4.6 out of 5, of 1414 reviews
  • Hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 10 am – 5 pm
  • Website ticketing info

The Nordic Museum in Seattle is a smaller, cozier museum that showcases the history and culture of the Nordic countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. The museum has a large collection of artifacts and exhibits that highlight the rich history and cultural heritage of the Nordic region.

Their exhibits cover a wide range of topics, including immigration and settlement, Nordic arts and crafts, and contemporary Nordic culture. Some of the most popular exhibits include displays of traditional Nordic costumes, Viking artifacts, as well as the Osho photography gallery.

8. Children’s Museum in Seattle Center

  • Location: 305 Harrison St, Seattle, WA 98109
  • Google rating: 4.3 out of 5, of 1283 reviews
  • Hours: Wednesday to Sunday, 10am – 5pm
  • Website ticketing info

The Children’s Museum in Seattle Center is an amazingly fun and educational museum that is perfect for families with young children. The museum’s exhibits are designed to engage children’s imaginations and encourage hands-on learning.

Their exhibits cover a wide range of topics, including science, art, and culture. Some of the most popular exhibits include a “Climb-It” exhibit that lets children climb and explore a giant tree structure, and a “Global Village” exhibit that introduces children to different cultures from around the world.  

This is one of the best Seattle day trips you can plan for, with hours and hours of entertainment for younger children.

9. Museum of History and Industry

  • Location: 860 Terry Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109

The Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) is a fantastic museum that offers a fascinating insight into the history and culture of the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. Their thoughtfully designed exhibits cover a wide range of topics, including the history of Seattle and the surrounding region, the role of innovation and technology in shaping the region’s development, and the experiences of various communities and cultures that have called the area home over the centuries.

10. Gates Foundation Discovery Center

  • Location: North, 440 5th Avenue, Seattle, WA 98109
  • Google rating: 4.8 out of 5, of 615 reviews
  • Hours: Thursday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm
  • Free admission, reservations recommended

The Gates Foundation Discovery Center is an underrated gem that offers a unique and interactive experience exploring the work of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and its mission to improve global health and reduce poverty.

Their exhibits cover a wide range of topics, including global health issues, poverty reduction, and the foundation’s efforts to promote equity and access to education. The exhibits are designed to be highly interactive, with multimedia displays, games, and simulations that encourage visitors to explore the issues in depth.

11. Olympic Sculpture Park

  • Location: 2901 Western Ave, Seattle, WA 98121
  • Google rating: 4.5 out of 5, of 7808 reviews
  • Hours: open 24 hours, outdoors
  • Free admission

The Olympic Sculpture Park is a beautiful outdoor sculpture museum on the Seattle waterfront that offers a unique and engaging experience for art lovers and outdoor enthusiasts too.

The park features a wide range of modern and contemporary sculptures that are integrated into the landscape of the park. In addition to the sculptures themselves, the Olympic Sculpture Park offers stunning views of the Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains, making it a popular Seattle sunset destination for nature lovers and photographers.

Museums North of Seattle

12. Spark Museum of Electrical Invention

  • Location: 1312 Bay St, Bellingham, WA 98225
  • Google rating: 4.8 out of 5, of 651 reviews
  • Hours: Wednesday to Sunday, 11am – 5pm
  • Website ticketing info

One of my absolute favorite museums in Washington State, the Spark Museum is an amazing and enjoyable experience that celebrates the history and development of electrical technology.

Their fascinating exhibits cover a wide range of topics, including the history of electricity, the invention of the light bulb, the development of radio and television, and the impact of electrical technology on modern society.

Some of the most popular exhibits at the Spark Museum include a replica of Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park laboratory, an exhibit showcasing the life and work of Nikola Tesla, and interactive exhibits that allow visitors to experiment with electrical circuits and explore the principles of electricity.

This is one of those places that you have to see more than once to absorb everything, one that everyone is happy to return to many times.

13. Whale Museum

  • Location: 62 First St N, Friday Harbor, WA 98250
  • Google rating: 4.4 out of 5, of 477 reviews
  • Hours: daily 10am – 4pm
  • Website ticketing info

The Whale Museum is a small but fun, interactive museum dedicated to promoting the conservation and understanding of whales and other marine mammals. Their information-packed exhibits cover a wide range of topics related to marine mammal biology and conservation, including the history of whaling, the biology and behavior of different species of whales and dolphins, and the challenges facing marine mammals in the wild today.

Museums South of Seattle

14. WA State History Museum

  • Location: 1911 Pacific Ave, Tacoma, WA 98402
  • Google rating: 4.6 out of 5, of 1171 reviews
  • Hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 10am – 5pm
  • Website ticketing info

The Washington State History Museum offers a delightful, immersive experience exploring the rich and diverse history of the state of Washington. Their engaging exhibits cover a variety of topics related to Washington’s history, including the lives of Native American tribes who have inhabited the area for thousands of years, the arrival of European explorers and settlers, and the growth and development of cities and industries throughout the state.

15. leMay – America’s Car Museum

  • Location: 2702 E D St, Tacoma, WA 98421
  • Google ratings: 4.7 out of 5, 3317 reviews
  • Hours: Thursday to Monday, 10am – 5 pm
  • Website ticketing info

The LeMay Car Museum is a heaven for car-crazy kids, adult car enthusiasts and history buffs. They have an extensive collection of over 1,500 vehicles, including classic cars, rare vehicles, and one-of-a-kind prototypes. Their exhibits focus on automotive history, from the earliest days of the automobile to the present day.

Some of the most popular exhibits include classic muscle cars from the 1950s and 60s, vintage motorcycles, and a collection of rare and exotic vehicles from around the world. I suggest purchasing your ticket online before arriving, as this is a busy museum.

16. Children’s Museum of Tacoma

  • Location: 1501 Pacific Ave, Tacoma, WA 98402
  • Google rating: 4.6 out of 5, of 1626 reviews
  • Hours: Thursday to Sunday, 10am – 5pm
  • Website ticketing info

The Children’s Museum of Tacoma is a fun, hands-on, interactive museum designed for children and families to explore and learn through play. Their exhibits and activities encourage imagination, creativity, and problem-solving skills.

Some of the exhibits include a water play area, a construction zone, a theater space, and a maker space where children can experiment with art, engineering, and technology. This is another place where you can happily spend an entire day.

17. Tacoma Museum of Glass

  • Location: 1801 Dock St, Tacoma, WA 98402
  • Google rating: 4.5 out of 5, of 3282 reviews
  • Hours: Wednesday to Sunday, 10am – 5pm
  • Website ticketing info

The Tacoma Museum of Glass celebrates the beautiful art and history of glassmaking. The museum’s inspirational exhibits showcase the work of world-renowned glass artists, as well as the history of glassmaking in the Pacific Northwest.

One of the highlights of the Tacoma Museum of Glass is its Hot Shop, which is a working glass studio. The Hot Shop features live demonstrations of glassblowing, and you can see the glass artists at work creating beautiful and intricate pieces of art.

Museums West of Seattle

18. Naval Undersea Museum

  • Location: 1 Garnett Way, Keyport, WA 98345
  • Google ratings: 4.8 out of 5, of 967 revies
  • Hours: Wednesday to Monday, 10am – 4pm
  • Admission is free

The Naval Undersea Museum is a wonderful museum that highlights the extensive history and technology of undersea exploration and warfare.

Their fabulous exhibits cover a wide range of topics related to undersea exploration and warfare, including the history of submarines, as well as the science and technology used in underwater research and exploration. The museum’s collection also includes a number of impressive and historic submarines and other undersea vehicles.

Museums East of Seattle

19. Bellevue Arts Museum

  • Location: 510 Bellevue Way NE, Bellevue, WA 98004
  • Google rating: 4.1 out of 5, of 515 reviews
  • Hours:  Wednesday to Sunday 11 am – 5 pm
  • Website ticketing info

The Bellevue Arts Museum is a memorable contemporary art museum in the heart of Bellevue. The museum’s collection focuses on modern and contemporary art and craft from the Pacific Northwest region and beyond. They feature a variety of exhibitions throughout the year, showcasing works by both established and emerging artists.

Exhibitions cover a wide range of media, including ceramics, glass, painting, sculpture, and more. Some of the museum’s most popular exhibitions have included works by internationally acclaimed artists such as Ai Weiwei, Dale Chihuly, and Yayoi Kusama.

20. NW Museum of Arts and Culture

  • Location: 2316 W 1st Ave, Spokane, WA 99201
  • Google ratings: 4.6 out of 5, of 1347 reviews
  • Hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 10 am – 5 pm
  • Website ticketing info

The Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture (also known as the MAC) is one of the best museums in Washington. The museum’s amazing collection focuses on the history, culture, and art of the Inland Northwest region, and includes exhibits on Native American cultures, pioneer life, and contemporary art.

21. Pioneer Farm Museum in Eatonville

  • Location: 7716 Ohop Valley Rd E, Eatonville, WA 98328
  • Google ratings: 4.6 out of 5, of 185 reviews
  • Hours: by tour
  • Website ticketing info

If you’re looking for a completely different kind of museum than the usual, the Pioneer Farm Museum is a living history museum dedicated to preserving the history and culture of rural life in the Pacific Northwest.

The museum is set on 7 acres of land, is on route to Mount Rainier National Park, and features a number of historic buildings and artifacts that showcase the daily life of early settlers and farmers in the region.

There are many activities to explore a number of different buildings and exhibits, including a log cabin, a blacksmith shop, a schoolhouse, and a barn. The museum also has a number of interactive exhibits and hands-on activities that allow visitors to experience what life was like for early settlers and farmers.

One of the highlights of the Pioneer Farm Museum is the Living History Farm. The Living History Farm is a working farm that demonstrates traditional farming techniques and equipment, such as plowing, planting, and harvesting, as well as caring for and feeding of farm animals.

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Final Thoughts: Best Museums in Washington

Washington State has so many exceptional museums that you’re bound to find a few that work for you and whomever you’re traveling with. Whether you’re an art enthusiast seeking to admire the works of renowned painters, a history buff eager to delve into the state’s rich cultural heritage, a science aficionado looking to explore cutting-edge discoveries, or a pop culture fanatic eager to indulge in all things entertainment, Washington’s museums have something for you.