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Seattle Art Museum

9 Popular Museums To Visit In Washington State (2023)

The Washington State museums are a mix of cultural, artistic, scientific, and historical interests. Over a hundred structures present a rich array of interactive and observational museums. The subjects on display include Saga of Nordic peoples, Washington’s rich history, age-old and contemporary cultural influence, the excellence of world-class Glasswork, and much more. Regardless of what your interests are, Washington has one or the other museums awaiting to entertain and educate you.

The most significant number of world-class museums are located in Seattle city of Washington. Besides that, several notable museums are also settled within Tacoma and Spokane. And since these are the most prominent Washington cities, exploring the best museums here always comes with ease. Whether you are visiting Washington for work purposes or solely for a vacation, you can always grab an hour or two and explore these four-walled wonders. So, dive deep into the top-rated museums of Washington State and get amazed.

9 Popular Museums To Visit In Washington State

Have a look at our choicest picks below:

1. Seattle Art Museum

Seattle Art Museum, which is also known as SAM, is undisputedly the most famous Museum to visit in Washington State. The Museum operates three facilities, of which the main is in downtown Seattle. The other two facilities are at Olympic Sculpture Park and the Volunteer Park. The one at downtown is popular for its world-class ancient and modern artwork that is well spread over four floors. The first three floors exhibit the massive permanent collection, whereas the fourth-floor exhibits rotating installations. Few of the highlights amongst them include ancient Mediterranean art, African art, and Native American art. Besides that, the Asian Art Museum facility at the Volunteer Park covers a vast collection of famous Asian artwork. Whereas the Olympic Sculpture Garden for displaying a wide variety of sculptures on Seattle’s waterfront.

2. Chihuly Garden and Glass

The Chihuly Garden and Glass is a glass studio and Museum by the famous Dale Chihuly. Operating since 2012, the Museum is located at 305 Harrison Street, at the former site of the defunct Fun Forest amusement park. It is home to several unique artworks that Chihuly brought to life with his imagination and excellent skills. The facility has three primary concepts: the Garden, the Glasshouse, and the Interior Exhibits. The highlight amongst them is the 100-foot-long installation within the Glasshouse, which is also one of the most enormous suspended sculptures of Chihuly. Since the entire facility is LEED served, exploring here is both a day and night experience. The whole studio and museum facility has such an extensive collection that even several hours aren’t enough for observing them all. Some of the additional features here include a 50-seat multi-use theatre and lecture hall, a 90-seat café with additional outdoor dining, extensive public site enhancements, lobby spaces, and retail corners.

3. Tacoma Museum of Glass

One of the popular museums to visit in Washington State, the Tacoma Museum of Glass, is a beautiful contemporary art museum. The Museum is a result of combined efforts by Dale Chihuly and Dr. Phil Phibbs, the former president of the University of Puget Sound. It is spread over a 75,000-square-foot space and is home to several permanent and rotating exhibits. The erect steel cone that houses a glassmaking Hot Shop is a major attraction here. This 145-seating section welcomes both learners and observers for glass-blowing demonstrations. Some of its other prominent exhibits include Kids Design Glass Collection, Cappy Thompson: Gathering the Light, 20th and 21st Century Glass Collection, and Visiting Artist Residency Program Collection. Tacoma Museum of Glass operates from Wednesday through Sunday, from 10 am to 5 pm. The best time to visit here is during the late evening hours since it is when most of the Glasswork lit up gloriously.

4. Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture

The oldest public museum in Washington State, the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, traces its origin to the year 1879. This historical museum is split into three floors that house over 16 million items in its collection. The first floor presents native culture through artifacts and hands-on exhibits. The second floor offers biology and the mapping of all living things. In contrast, the third floor presents massive fossils and taxidermied animals, basically paleontology and archaeology exhibits. Burke Museum is also home to the most extensive collection of spread bird wings anywhere worldwide. For anyone who is interested in anthropology, biology, and geology, Burke is definitely a must-visit place. The Museum operates Tuesday through Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm, with the last entry at 4:30 pm. On the first Thursdays of every month, it operates for extended hours from 10 am to 8 pm.

5. U.S. Naval Undersea Museum

U.S. Naval Undersea Museum is an official navy museum located in Keyport, Washington. The Museum is right next to Keyport’s Naval Undersea Warfare Center branch. It comes amongst one of the only ten museums that Naval History & Heritage Command operates in the United States. The connection of the U.S. Naval Undersea Museum combines naval history, undersea technology, and marine science. Some of its major facilities include a research library and a separate building that houses the most extensive collection of naval undersea history and science artifacts in the United States. It also has a vast collection of U.S. Naval Institute’s oral history (over 115 interviews), a complete set of World War II submarine war patrol reports, and over 6,500 papers/ volumes about the information on undersea history, science, and operations. The Museum physically appears small, but it has so much to explore for any military and Navy enthusiasts. The Museum operates from Wednesday through Monday, 10 am to 4 pm offering free admissions to all.

6. Pioneer Farm Museum

The Pioneer Farm Museum is a historic open-air settlement in the town of Eatonville, Washington. The Museum basically keeps the rural past of the 1800s alive by displaying how individuals used to live in the past. There’s a small Indian village that exhibits how Indians used to live, work and do all their chores back in the time. A visit here allows explorers to step back into the 1880s and relive the life of homesteaders. Pioneer Farm has several age-old wooden structures, of which most are open for exploration. There is a schoolhouse, a trading post, a blacksmith shop, a real-time farm, and much more to see and walkthrough. Kids visiting here get a chance to dress in period clothing and spend time enjoying the surroundings. In addition, the facility organizes public group tours and family tours for a more learning and worthy experience. Since exploring Pioneer Farm Museum require a lot of walking, make sure you wear comfortable shoes for an easy time.

7. The Whale Museum

The Whale Museum is undoubtedly the best and most popular Museum to visit in Washington State. Operating since 1979, one can reach it in beautiful Friday Harbor, specifically 62 First Street N. It is the first and one of the only few museums in the entire United States that are dedicated to a species living in the wild. There is a bit of everything from a historic feel to quirky enhancement, a little bit of science, and loads of fun. A visit here will present everything in front of you in a nutshell. All of what you will observe includes full endoskeletons suspended from the ceiling, a modest souvenir store, interactive screens, movies, and much more. Exhibits here are expended in names of skeletons, photos, science, ecology, history readings, charts, literature, and an interactive kid area. The Whale Museum also provides tons of interesting information about Whales in the San Juan archipelago. The Museum operates throughout the week from 10 am to 4 pm.

8. Museum of History & Industry

Museum of History & Industry, also known as MOHAI, is located in the South Lake Union neighborhood within the city of Seattle. The facility is dedicated to preserving and presenting Seattle’s diverse history and the Puget Sound region, and the United States. The Museum is home to nearly four million artifacts, photographs, and archival materials housed well in four stories. Walking through its stories and galleries is a virtual treat where you can experience several hands-on exhibits. Some of the popular displays here focus on the booming tech industry, native Duwamish peoples, Seattle’s first white settlers, and more. Besides the Museum’s four walls, the exclusive Lake Union shoreline/waterfront too is worth observing. Through the waterfront, there are several benches from where you can observe scenic spots on water and land.

9. National Nordic Museum

National Nordic Museum is another tourist attraction in Seattle located in its Ballard neighborhood. This Washington State Museum presents the heritage of Iceland, Norway, Finland, Sweden, and Denmark. It dedicatedly presents traces of 12,000 years of Nordic history, showcasing its culture, values, innovation, and basically all of the ‘Nordic Journey. Of the multiple exhibits here, some of the must-visit include “From Dawn to Dusk: Nordic Art from Sweden’s National Museum and Across the West and Toward the North: Norwegian and American Landscape Photography. Besides the extensive display, the Museum is also home to a gift shop, café, and outdoor Garden. There’s even a replica Viking ship, which is worth watching. If you happen to visit here during late December, consider the Christmas time for observing festivities. The Museum operates Tuesday through Sunday, 10 am to 5 pm.

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