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Outing Review: Nordic Heritage Museum in Seattle

Fun for families at a cultural museum in Ballard

Nancy Chaney

Published on: December 30, 2013

Nordic Heritage Museum
Nancy Chaney


You don’t need to know what aebleskiver are to enjoy an outing to the Nordic Heritage Museum. This Ballard museum hosts exhibits that highlight Scandinavian influence in the Northwest and the country as a whole, and hosts regular family-oriented programs. For a rainy-day diversion, or for a specific program, here are some tips to guide you.

Nordic Heritage Museum - Permanent Exhibits

One permanent exhibit, "The Dream of America," appeals particularly to kids because visitors walk through various rooms and scenes that trace the immigrant experience of coming from Europe to the United States in the late 1800s and early 1900s, as many thousands of Scandinavians did.

“Life-like dioramas,” as the museum calls them, range from the representation of a farm boy’s room in a Nordic country, to a sailing ship crossing the Atlantic, to the shops of early Ballard. Sounds give the exhibit an added sensory element.

For a museum, parents don’t have to worry too much about keeping small hands from touching; in fact, in some places signs indicate “Please Touch,” such as on a small trunk of clothes and belongings a child might have brought on the journey to the U.S.

Upper floors of the museum house exhibits likely less interesting to kids, though one large case holds two impressive LEGO displays. The gift shop, also upstairs, has many easily broken items so take care.

Lego workshop at Nordic Heritage Museum
LEGO workshop at the Nordic Heritage Museum

Upcoming family programs

The museum regularly hosts kid- and family-friendly events. Check the family events page for a full listing, but here are some highlights.

- Spring Break Paper Arts Programs: Come to the Museum for a drop-in paper arts program where kids will get the opportunity to try paper cutting in the style of Hans Christian Andersen, Japanese kirigami, and Mexican papel picado. The program is held in conjunction with the exhibit "Scissors for a Brush," which features amazing cut paper works of art. Free with Museum admission. No reservations needed.

- Nordic Stories the first Thursday of the month. Preschoolers are the target audience for this story and craft time. The program coincides with free first Thursday so museum admission is free.

- In May the museum will host Oregon Shadow Theatre performing its show Thumbelina: The Original Flower Child.

- Barneleikarringen, a Nordic dance troupe, invites kids to join its regular practices at the museum (and elsewhere) — no experience or Nordic ancestry is needed.

- The museum hosts popular LEGO Workshops. Keep your eye out for the next one these, parents of LEGO maniacs.

If you go ...

Where and when: The Nordic Heritage Museum is open Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m.–4 p.m. and Sunday 12–4 p.m.

Admission: $6 for adults, $4 for children ages 5 and up, and free for kids under 5 and members.

Pair it with: If the weather cooperates — or like the well-prepared Northwest parent, if you have brought along a towel to dry the play equipment — check out adjacent Webster Park. It’s sometimes referred to as the “Rainbow Slide park” or the “Nordic Heritage Museum park,” but its real name comes from the former Webster Elementary School which now houses the museum. The wide open black-top area is great for tots on balance bikes or just learning to pedal.

While you’re in the area, don’t miss Larsen’s Bakery at the corner of 24th Ave. N.W. and N.W. 80th St. They don’t have aebleskiver — yummy spherical Danish pancakes, if you didn’t know — but you’ll find plenty of other delicious Scandinavian treats.

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