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Where to Go Indoors With Kids When It's Smoky or Rainy in Seattle

What's open around Seattle and beyond for indoor family time

Nancy Chaney

Published on: September 14, 2020

Mopop Seattle Museum of Pop Culture Minecraft exhibit Mopop reopening September 2020
Visiting the Minecraft exhibit at MoPop. Credit: Nancy Chaney

Ugh! This oppressive smoke that's keeping us indoors, on top of the global pandemic: It's too much to take. And worse, it might be a preview for fall, when rainy weather will make all the outdoor stuff we've been doing so much less appealing. (While the smoke is a huge drag, we are grateful for our safety and our hearts go out to those affected by — and fighting — the numerous wildfires all up and down the West Coast.)

With unhealthy air lingering several more days, here are a few places around Seattle, the Eastside and South Sound that are actually open. Book a visit for your fam and escape the house with your kids. Just keep in mind that these spots are operating differently now so prepare yourselves for that. 

1. Hands On Children's Museum, Olympia

This is the only children's museum in the area that's actually open. Kids' museums are by nature "high touch." But Thurston County is in Phase 3 and capacity is carefully controlled. Book a timed visit online and go play.

2. The Burke Museum, Seattle

This dino-favorite museum just reopened in a fantastic new building last October, inviting visitors to get up close and personal with scientists and curators at work. After a long closure, It's reopening (again) Sept. 22, and while the two kids' play areas won't be open, you'll still get to inspect dino bones and all kinds of cool things here.

3. The Museum of Flight, Seattle

So many kids love this museum ... who doesn't like to imagine building and flying these incredible machines? Like each place on this list, if your kids are super familiar with a museum, prep them that procedures and what you can do will look different in these COVID-19 times. Book your tix in advance.

4. Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP), Seattle

MoPOP has spent time during its closure reworking exhibits to be COVID-safe and is reopening to music, pop culture and Minecraft fans on Sept. 18. Read more about the Minecraft exhibit in the review we published last fall (bearing in mind some things will have changed). Book tix online.

5. Seattle Aquarium, Seattle

The Seattle Aquarium has reopened to visitors, though it was closed a couple of days due to unhealthy air quality, as touring the aquarium is an indoor/outdoor experience. Keep an eye on this spot and plan your visit for a day out when perhaps the fall forecast calls for our signature Northwest drizzle.

6. LeMay — America's Car Museum, Tacoma

This must-see destination for car aficionados of all ages will reopen on Friday, Sept. 25. The museum will be open Friday–Sunday for now, by advance-booked ticket. Race car fans will not want to miss the exhibition on Steve Saleen. Many of this trailblazing designer's cars are on display, including the Saleen S7, considered the United States' first supercar.

Nordic Museum Seattle gallery with fleece stones and birch trees in front of Nordic scencery
Let your mind wander in this gallery at Ballard's National Nordic Museum. Credit: Nancy Chaney

7. National Nordic Museum, Seattle

This museum is unfortunately a tad less kid-friendly, in my opinion, than its earlier incarnation, but it is super cool to plop yourself on the heavy fleece "stones" amid the birch trees and let your mind escape to the enthralling scenes from Nordic countries. Read our review of the new Nordic Museum from when it opened in 2018.

8. Seattle Art Museum, Seattle

SAM is back open and booking timed-entry visits. Bring your tweens and teens to wander the galleries and inspect the varied collections. Younger visitors will appreciate exhibits such as "Carpe Fin," showcasing works by Haida artist Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, who combines traditional Haida drawings with elements of Japanese manga and other styles.

9. Museum of Glass, Tacoma

Like many museums, this spot is full of beautiful and fancy things that kids can't touch, but something about artworks made of glass make them especially accessible and impressive for kids — and adults. Tacoma's Museum of Glass reopens to the public on Sept. 25, and will be open Friday–Sunday.

10. W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory, Tacoma

The plants in this lovely spot will keep the air around you super-duper clean and fresh. All ages will appreciate the lush surroundings and enjoy a wander inside this greenhouse that sits in Tacoma's Wright Park. Bonus: Your party will have the place to yourselves for 30 minutes once you book your timed-entry tickets.

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