The author's kids posing in front of MoPop. Credit: Diana Cherry
With COVID case numbers continuing to rise nationally, I wish there were a magic wand of approval that public health officials could wave at certain sites to help parents make the safest choices possible when going out and about. Unfortunately, the reality is that each family has to check current recommendations and make decisions about what risks they’re willing to take to get out of the house.
As for me and my family, I’ve made the decision to take my kids to whatever limited offerings are available around town right now. I don’t know about you, but for me, field trips played an outsized role in what I learned and retained from my school days. As learning opportunities seem especially dismal these days, we will take what we can get.
In pre-pandemic days, MoPop was already one of my kids’ favorite destinations. While the steep price of admission meant we didn’t go all that often, I have a gamer, a musician and fanfic fanatic in my household, so MoPop offers a little something for everyone. When the museum reopened for visitors on Sept. 18, I was excited for a chance to check it out with my kids.
On my mind, first and foremost, was safety. With newly released information about COVID's airborne spread, I was curious how MoPop, an all-indoor space, might handle this issue.
I was pleasantly surprised.
New safety protocols
From the moment we arrived at the museum, we were directed to stand in a queue outside the main entrance, where we were greeted by museum staff. The line had markings spaced six feet apart on the ground and staff waved in a limited number of guests at a time to keep crowd-size down inside the building.
When checking in at the museum front desk, we were given a brief spiel about expectations inside the museum, then handed styluses to use for any hands-on elements in each exhibit. We saw sanitizing stations and recommended capacity signs throughout each exhibit. And some of the hands-on spaces, like the indie gaming exhibit, even offered antibacterial wipes. Staff was standing by throughout the museum to sanitize at regular intervals. Plus, with limited capacity, we were one of just a few groups inside the museum and it was easy to keep our distance.
What to visit
My kids were disappointed that their favorite exhibit, Sound Lab, where you can play instruments and pretend to record a song — understandably — remains closed. But, there were still many interactive aspects to explore at the museum. We spent a fair bit of time at the Minecraft The Exhibition, where guests can still play the game at gaming stations inside the exhibit — just remember to take advantage of nearby hand sanitizing stations afterward.
We had tons of fun at Fantasy: Worlds of Myth and Magic. This is a smaller exhibit, but manages to display costumes and other fun props from all of my kids’ favorite movies. We also enjoyed the exhibit called Indie Game Revolution.
Most surprising, was how interested and engaged my kids were at a newer exhibit called Body of Work: Tattoo Culture, which features information about the history of tattoo as well as beautiful imagery of some of the most prolific tattoo artists around the world.
My kids got a kick out of a wall display that lit up to show which areas of the body are least painful and most painful to get a tattoo. They were also delighted by a small tattoo chair where they could pretend to get inked by a light projector above.
All in all, it was a pretty fun day. My eldest daughter, age 14, even remarked, “This was way more fun than I expected.” Which, if you have teenagers, you will understand is a glowing endorsement.
If you go...
Where: MoPop, the latest short-hand for the renamed museum (now called the Museum of Pop Culture; formerly EMP and other names), is located on the east side of Seattle Center. The entrance is nearest the corner of 5th Avenue North and Harrison Street.
Open hours: The museum is currently open Friday–Sunday only. Advance timed tickets are required.
New protocols: Read detailed COVID-19 info before you go and prepare to follow all directives.
Tickets: You need to book your tickets in advance online. Admission to the museum costs $30 for adults; $25 for students ages 13 and older (with ID) and seniors 65 and older; $19 for kids ages 5–12; ages 4 and under free. Discounts for military. Though special exhibits usually have additional fees, those don’t seem to be in effect at the moment.
Membership: An annual family membership is $139, which would be a good deal for a family of four planning to visit. Members visit free.
Parking: Paid street park and pay lots are available all around the museum and it’s much easier to find a spot right now. Seattle Center is also served by transit.