Pre-pandemic, the Seattle Children’s Museum at Seattle Center was a top-requested play destination in our family. I’ll even admit to scheduling visits to the museum just days before my kids’ first birthdays — to save on admission.
We also adore other local kids’ museums, but this one is the closest to our home and has the most nearby amenities. We would ride the monorail, play in the kid-favorite grocery store and Global Village areas, break for some Mod Pizza, and then return for more fun.
After two years, as other fun Seattle Center attractions started to reopen, my kids still shot forlorn glances at the still-closed museum’s Mountain exhibit, visible from the Armory dining area. Needless to say, we all felt ecstatic when the Seattle Children’s Museum finally announced its early-April reopening.
My son and I eagerly scurried over to take a sneak peek at the new and refreshed exhibits!
Long-time museum lovers will notice a couple of new exhibits in the space. The old cafe play area has transformed into Neighborhood Paws, a veterinary office. Animal-loving kids will enjoy caring for the stuffed critters and looking at x-rays of animal skeletons. My 3-year-old — along with another kid who passed through during our visit — couldn’t get enough of the retractable sink sprayer and working pet blow dryer.
The other newer exhibit is Tribal Tales, dedicated to the Coast Salish tribes who have stewarded the Seattle area for thousands of years. Created in collaboration with Native artists, it features a puppet theater with animal hand puppets, displays detailing Native legends, and shelves with puzzles and books from Native Northwest. Given the immense contributions of Coast Salish people to our area, I wish the space was featured more prominently, rather than tucked into a cozy corner by the now-closed Global Village.
Exhibits in transition
During our preview, museum staff were still working busily on some of the new exhibits so we weren’t able to check them all out. Kids and families can look forward to STEM exploration in a new Amazing Airways exhibit. An early literacy area features a mural inspired by local artist Nikki McClure’s counting book “1-2-3 Salish Sea,” and a revamped Orca Cove caters to the 3-and-younger crew. Past visitors will recognize that this area was formerly known as Discovery Bay.
I’m sorry to report that the Global Village is on its way out. The museum is still exploring options for its replacement, but I will miss the unique glimpse into cultures from around the world. It was also one of the museum’s features that appealed to older kids, who might find less to interest them than they did before the pandemic closure. Most exhibits now seem geared towards the preschool and very early elementary crew.
At least one former Global Village feature has been given a new life, however. With a coat of paint, the car from the Ghanaian village has been transformed into a mail truck and now sits in the refreshed post office space. This was a highlight of my son’s visit. It’s been a while since my reserved kid has made friends with a stranger, but after some gentle encouragement, he was soon pretending to weigh and deliver packages along with a couple of other visitors. It melted my pandemic-parent heart to see kids playing together again!
We saw that the King County Metro bus has relocated to the Let’s Move exhibit, next to the Light Rail model, which seems like a much better fit. Families will also find wooden train sets (with cozy corners for kids who need a quieter space) and foam building blocks in the former stroller parking area.
The Market and Construction zones were still, well, under construction during our visit, but my grocery-store-loving kids were happy to hear that they’ll return soon.
Costumes throughout the museum also got a refresh during the closure. Fabulous felt bird wings and rainbow silk capes await kids in the Bijou Theater. New postal worker and firefighter costumes sit near their accompanying vehicles.
Definitely don’t miss hitting the summit of the Mountain for pretend s’mores at the new camping space. Halfway up you’ll find lovely woodland creature costumes.
I can’t help but feel a bit nostalgic for some of my favorite pre-pandemic features, but the 42-year-old Seattle Children’s Museum was due for an update. The refreshed museum warrants a visit for any family with young kids looking for hands-on play, or as part of a Seattle Center itinerary for locals and visitors alike.
If you go…
Hours: The museum is currently open Friday–Sunday, 10 a.m–5 p.m. Watch for additional weekday openings to be added.
Admission: Entry costs $12 per person ages 1 to 65. Seniors pay $10 and babies under age 1 enter free. Each person in your group will need a timed-entry reservation (released on a rolling two-week schedule), but you pay on arrival. Entry is good for the day, so while you can’t eat in the museum, you can fuel up upstairs in the Armory or outdoors near the International Fountain and easily return after snack time.
Safety protocols: Check on current policies before your visit.
Other Seattle Center fun: