Courtesy Original Selfie Museum
Even during the best of times, teens rarely want to hang out with their parents. After a couple of years stuck at home during the pandemic, they really want you out of their hair. But two years at home can turn your crew into wide-eyed tourists in your own town, so don’t underestimate the appeal (to your teen) of having you foot the bill for expensive tickets to popular Instagram-friendly sites such as MoPOP, the Space Needle and the waterfront Ferris wheel. But even if your family has already been there and done that, you can tempt your teen with your knowledge of the following cool, under-the-radar spots that their friends may not have heard of yet.
1300 N. 45th St., Seattle; spend what you will
Speaking of cool, nobody can keep theirs during a visit to Archie McPhee in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood. This weird novelty store full of radically random merchandise (e.g., rubber chickens, axolotl action figures and sardine-flavored candy canes) brings out the inner child in everyone. You don’t have to spend a dime to browse for hours, but most customers succumb to temptation and leave with a few items they never even realized they needed.
Ages 8 and older; Tacoma Armory, 1001 S. Yakima Ave.; $60 adult/$32 youth
If your teen is as desperate for an Oculus as mine is, they will probably enjoy The Infinite, opening May 21. This traveling virtual reality exhibition transports visitors to the International Space Station. During the hour-long experience, you’ll explore a life-size 3D re-creation of the International Space Station and the daily life of astronauts; see Earth on a 3D, 360-degree virtual reality space walk; and look at an exclusive installation by Japanese artist Ryoji Ikeda.
All ages; 108 S. Jackson St., Seattle; by appointment; $15
The brainchild of local artist Tariqa Waters, Martyr Sauce expanded from its original Pioneer Square gallery into a museum of pop culture. The underground gallery focuses on underrepresented artists. The colorful street-level museum space is itself a work of art, which families can experience in private through timed, limited-entry tickets. Centered on an old-school TV show lunch box, the museum currently features Waters’ larger-than-life installations and works by multidisciplinary artists Kenji Stoll and 9 Coleman-Harvey.
2125 First Ave., Seattle; hours vary; $15
Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are a controversial type of digital asset that authenticate ownership. Whether you think the economics for NFT art are the way of the future or a total racket, you will find digital art displayed on large, high-resolution screens at Seattle’s NFT Museum. Discover contemporary digital artists while you and your teen discuss the climate impacts of blockchains — or just try to sort out how the whole thing works.
900 Boylston Ave., Seattle; open Wednesday–Sunday; $10 weekday/$20 weekend
Despite its name, the Museum of Museums (MoM) is not actually about museums. It is a high-concept arts space with a particular draw for youth, partnering with Coyote Central by providing exhibition space, fundraising opportunities and mentorship for the youth arts organization’s artists. Every part of MoM is used to display art, from its two formal exhibition spaces featuring rotating installations, murals and sculpture, to its three separate “museums” — privately curated art collections and a gallery dedicated to art produced on-site. There’s also a theater, an events space that hosts art classes and pop-ups, a library and a make-out closet (maybe it doesn’t mean what it did in our day?). Even the gift shop is conceptual — it hosts a talk show.
92 Union St., Seattle; $29–$34
Even if your teen doesn’t claim a single creative bone in their body, they probably practice the art of the selfie. Seattle is one of the Selfie Museum’s nine locations around the country. It’s not actually a museum at all. The Selfie Museum is a photo studio designed with “Instagram Walls,” where you can take your own photos and videos using professional sets, props and lighting. This is one outing for which you will definitely want to look your best.
305 Harrison St., Seattle; program costs vary
The Vera Project is all about building a youth-driven art and music community, which means that for many teens, it’s a parent-free space. But if your teen is welcoming and you’re willing to let them take the lead, you can join them at Vera’s all-ages live music shows, take an all-ages workshop together to learn a new skill, or even sign up to volunteer together to help keep its great programs running.
472 First Ave. N., Seattle; free entry with food and beverages for purchase
Right across the courtyard from The Vera Project is another all-ages music institution, KEXP radio station. Unfortunately, station tours and free, live, in-studio performances are on hold for the duration of the pandemic. But you can still visit its public gathering space, where you can feel both cool and comfortable, regardless of your age. Browse at Light in the Attic Record Shop, grab a cuppa at Caffe Vita and check out the rotating art displays — or just relax with a view of the on-air DJ.
911 24th Ave., Seattle; program costs vary
Meaning “our home” in Kalabari, Wa Na Wari provides space for Black art and belonging. Drop-in visitors can view art exhibitions by Black artists from Seattle and around the world. Hours are limited, and some events are for Black people only, but the Story Porch installation is outdoors and open to the public seven days a week. Wa Na Wari hosts events as varied as mushroom cultivation workshops and dance performances, so there’s bound to be something on offer that will interest your kid. Older teens may be interested in applying for Bloom, a summer training program for BIPOC youths ages 18–25. Program topics include Indigenous knowledge systems, Black liberation, urban farming, combating environmental racism and more.
5519 University Way N.E., Seattle
Your teen has grown up spotting artist Henry’s whimsical off-kilter murals all around town. Now they can visit his newly opened Hidden Wizard Gallery in the University District — and maybe even pick up an original artwork to hang on their bedroom wall. The gallery is so hidden, there isn’t even a website yet (though you can see more of Henry’s artwork), but it is located at the north end of The Ave. So, don’t forget to budget time and money for bubble tea and hitting the teen-friendly shops just down the street.
No matter what you and your teen are into, the TeenTix Pass makes it easier. Teens ages 13–19 can sign up for a free membership entitling them to purchase $5 day-of-show tickets at any of more than 70 partner organizations in the Greater Seattle area. From Seattle Asian Art Museum exhibits to films at the Grand Illusion, ballet performances to stand-up comedy, there is something for everyone. Some orgs, including Seattle Opera, even designate days when teens can buy discounted tickets for the adults in their life!