When you're a lifelong learner, the whole world is your classroom! Every day can be a learning experience, whether you're a kid or just a kid at heart. The Greater Seattle Area is filled with museums, libraries, and interactive educational centers. Here are a few of our favorite places to learn a thing or two.
Top 9 Most Popular Museums and Learning Spots in Seattle
- Highline Heritage Museum
- MaST Center Marine Biology
- The Museum of Flight
- Tukwila Heritage Center
- Pacific Science Center
- Seattle Public Library
- Seattle Art Museum (SAM)
- Wing Luke Museum
- Northwest African American Museum
The Highline Heritage Museum houses artifacts and exhibits about the Highline (Seattle Southside) region. From prehistoric fossils dating back millions of years, to DB Cooper's infamous hijacking out of Sea-Tac Airport, this museum tells our story from the beginning to the modern era. Learn the history behind how the beautiful Seike Japanese Garden came to be at Highline SeaTac Botanical Garden, and see the fossil of a massive sloth the size of a car! The Highline Heritage Museum also regularly hosts events that engage the local community, like studio art sessions with a live nude model, rotating local art installations, storytelling sessions and more!
Ever wonder what lies beneath the Puget Sound waters? What kind of creatures are swimming just off our shores? Visit one of the most unique attractions in Seattle Southside, the Marine and Science Technology (MaST) Center on Redondo Beach in Des Moines, WA and have all your questions answered and more!
The MaST Center is Highline College’s marine biology and aquarium facility. Not only does it serve as a public learning center, it is also a formal institute for teaching. MaST offers 2,500 square feet of public space and classrooms, laboratories and research areas with state-of-the-art equipment, an aquarium (of course), and even a 38-foot Gray Whale skeleton!
The Aquarium has 15 tanks, including two large touch tanks, which hold a total of about 3,000 gallons of constant flowing seawater. More than 250 local Puget Sound marine species are displayed.
The MaST Center is open every Saturday from 10 AM to 2 PM. As always, there will be numerous teams ready to tell you about the amazing Puget Sound sea life! MaST Teams include: Marine Mammals, Jelly, and the Live Dive.
Live Dives occur every 2nd Saturday of the month at 11 AM and 1 PM by an expert diver. The dive lasts approximately 30 minutes, and throughout the whole dive, it is broadcast on large screens on the MaST Center’s pier. This gives people a live, amazing opportunity to see and hear what lies beneath the Puget Sound waters and becomes a virtual scuba diver for a day!
Another great perk to visiting the MaST Center is that it is ALL FREE!
Who hasn’t looked up at the sky and thought, “I want to be there,” at least once? The Museum of Flight is built for the aviation/spaceflight buff in all of us. It's also the largest private air and space museum in the world, featuring WWII fighter planes, an original Air Force One, a space shuttle trainer, the SR-71 Blackbird, and dozens of other air/spacecraft, the museum is awe-inspiring for any visitor. Even if you've been before, regularly rotating exhibits ensure that you'll see something you haven't seen yet! Lots of hands-on activities are available for kids of all ages, including flight simulators, aircraft you can board and check out from the inside, and the relocated original "Red Barn" Boeing factory. Their Kids' Flight Zone is a hit for the little ones, so even your smallest family member is sure to have a good time. Plus, their gift shop is full of incredible gifts and great science to take home with you. Hungry after your museum trip? Check out the Wings Café for a bite to eat with crowd-pleasing sandwiches and salads.
Learn about the history of Seattle Southside! The Tukwila Heritage Center is a museum exploring the roots of the earliest European settlers along the Duwamish River. See photos from the pioneering days and learn about the original settlers who built the foundations of the city of Tukwila.
The highly interactive museum at Seattle Center is a favorite for field trips. Families will find plenty to do here, including a VR microtheater, tropical butterfly house, planetarium, and IMAX theater. Don’t miss the widely popular exhibit, “Dinosaurs: A Journey Through Time,” which is a big hit with the younger crowd.
The architectural wonder of downtown Seattle is designed to look like a stack of books, which makes sense, given that it houses over one million books, movies, and CDs, all available to rent. The library is also home to public art, educational centers, and frequently hosts thought-provoking speaking engagements. With plenty of comfy seating to relax in, free public wi-fi, and a small café to grab snacks or a drink at, you can while away an hour or an entire day with a good book!
An art lover’s paradise, SAM is the premier destination for modern and historic art from the Pacific Northwest and around the world. Take a walk through the porcelain room and see the walls adorned with beautifully decorated porcelain from China and Japan, explore art and life along the Northwest coast, and check out The Western Mystery by famous New York artist Spencer Finch. The Seattle Art Museum is just a light rail ride away from Seattle Southside!
Read this college student's Seattle Art Museum experience:
My journey started at the first stop of the Link Light Rail station, at the Sea-Tac Airport, which by the way, is the most convenient way to travel into Seattle. To not have to worry about the stress of finding a parking spot downtown or the traffic was a wonderful thing. I hopped on board and took the link to the University Street stop and then walked a few blocks to my destination. The Seattle Art Museum was impossible to miss due to one of the largest pieces of art that I have ever seen outside of the museum. the Hammering Man.
From the second I walked into this museum I was memorized by the cars hanging from the ceiling with hundreds of light fixtures brightening up the entire room. This is a great display as one enters the building, it really sets up the museum in a very intriguing way. I immediately wanted to get started on seeing the rest of what the museum was all about.
Since I am a student, admission was discounted for me, only $12 to get in, and I felt like that was a very good deal, seeing as much as you get to see.
I was given a guide of the museum to help direct me through the museum. I started with the different glass blown structures, which are on the second level. I really took my time reading all the different descriptions of the artists, and the meaning behind the artwork. I was really shocked at how old so much of the art work was, and how different most of the pieces were from each other.
The museum is divided into different rooms that represent different cultures. One of my favorite rooms was the Native American room. It had large structures that had the very traditional clothing on them still, and the story behind each of the structures represented real people and their stories. Some of the different rooms also included: African, American, Asian, Oceanic, Ancient American, and many more.
Something that I found helpful about this museum was the educated staff member at the entrance of each room to help further elaborate on any of the pieces, or to answer any questions about the museum itself. I found this helpful when I wanted to know more of the backgrounds on some of the artists individually.
The Wing Luke Museum celebrates Asian American history, culture, and art. Experience a day in the life of Bruce Lee, explore the ramifications of Executive Order 9066 and the Japanese internment, and view works of art from Oceania and the Pacific. Wing Luke Museum is just off the International Station of the Link Light Rail.
The Northwest African American Museum serves to present and preserve the connections between the Pacific Northwest and people of African descent and investigate and celebrate Black experiences in America through exhibitions, programs and events. While the physical museum is temporarily closed, they are still hosting virtual events from time to time and are planning to reopen at some point in the near future.
Read this visitor's experience:
Upon arrival, you’ll see a big sign letting you know that you’re there. There is plenty of free parking so this should never be an issue! We walked inside, got our tickets and then started our exploration.
The museum itself has three exhibits open as of now (exhibits change over time). The hallway itself already had many facts about the passage of how African Americans made it to this area and the many obstacles they have had to face while on their journey. All of the artifacts and/or replicas that were displayed were all able to move, open or be played with. There were screens that displayed many informative speeches and important people that were vital to African American history and the African Americans that migrated here in the Pacific Northwest. I played a game on one of the screens that tested me on what I knew about the Oregon Trail. I was surprised at how many little facts I did know of or simply forgot so it was a great learning experience for the both of us! The picture here to the left shows a TV playing about conflicts that happened at the University of Washington and Seattle Central College.
Many of these riots and altercations were because African American students were being targeted and being segregated in classrooms. The old rotary phone was there so you can pick it up and listen to the audio coming from the TV screen which was a cool and innovative way to display this piece! The drawer under the phone opens up too, like the rest in the museum, and it shows newspapers about important events that took place here in Seattle. It looks like this picture on the right.
Exiting the hallway to your right you will enter a room at the end of the hall that shows one of the galleries/exhibits. This place was more of an inspirational area, in my opinion, because of all the writings and information on the wall. There were many things on mine work, how much they got paid, and although it was harsh working conditions, they had to do it anyway to make a living. Also, there was a wall that asked about change in life and what would you do if you could go back in time to help yourself and others. It was a great room to go in and reflect on what possible changes the world was capable of making. It also had a video and a bench in the middle of the room broadcasting more news reports on labor work and the conditions that African Americas had to constantly overcome in order to make a life in this new but still prejudiced land for them at the time.
At the other end of the hallway and somewhat in the middle of the museum, you’ll see an art gallery that showcases many different types of artwork and different art styles that have been done by various African Americans. They have, at one point, been in the Pacific Northwest but also migrated from different places like Louisiana, Alabama and Georgia. This area is spacious and has specific lighting that makes the artwork come to life. It was interesting to see different sections that specifically showed abstraction and more detailed art pieces. A lot of these paintings/drawings show the emotions through the art completely. Some were colorful and some were dark and this all just comes from what they have been through as they made their passage to the west side of the United States. Also, there were many paintings of important leaders in regards to their movements. There were many pieces of Malcom X and Dr. Martin Luther King and I think that just gives off even more of a picture of what it felt like to be an African American having to deal with racism and segregation in this new found land. Many drew or painted what they felt, who they saw on the street, or important life events that are significant to our history that we reflect on today.
I truly believe that this place will be one of the most informative and great learning experiences anyone will have. Often times we only see facts that have been well known and this museum shows the complete details and important personal stories of African Americans and what they went through coming to the West.
The Northwest African American Museum is small but warm and comforting. There is so much reflection that was done in this place and I am grateful to have gone there because it puts many things into perspective. Aside from that, it was a fun and cool mid-day trip that I am glad I took. I learned a lot, saw so many beautiful artifacts and of course, visited the gift shop!
Want Even More History?
Get a taste of a few of the historical hotspots in Seattle Southside with this video from Seattle Refined.