So I’m a museum nerd. I spend most of my days, when I’m not here with IMBY, in a basement cataloging objects and relishing in the fact that I get to touch stuff that other people don’t. All while wearing appropriate gloves, of course. One thing I love about living in Seattle is the wealth of museums there are to explore. This can quickly become an expensive endeavor, but it doesn’t have to. Seattle is also home to many free museums, you just need to know where to look!
Of course I cannot write a museum recommendations post without mentioning the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park’s visitor center. Located in historic Pioneer Square the visitor’s center is open seven days a week and is free. Come talk to rangers and tour the exhibits. Filled with interactive pieces and hidden treasures, our exhibits tell the story of how people flooded the city on their way to the gold fields bringing with them industry and new perspectives. It is this period of history that kick started Seattle’s future as a diverse, booming city.
While you’re down in Pioneer Square you can relax in Occidental Park and have a cup of coffee or a tasty treat from one of the food trucks that park there on weekdays. Or take a short walk up to the NPS affiliated site, the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience. While not free, the community curated museum located in the heart of the International District offers engaging exhibits which delve into the rich history and culture of Seattle’s Asian Pacific communities.
Ever wonder about Bertha and the massive tunnel project to move State Route 99 underground? Even if you have no idea what I am talking about– Milepost 31, also located near Pioneer Square, is worth a visit. This award winning information center highlights Seattle’s history of reshaping land while also educating the community about the SR 99 Tunnel Project. Come see an intricate model of Bertha, one of the world’s largest tunneling machine and be sure to talk to the staff to get the inside scoop about the project. Who knew tunneling could be so interesting!
Is art more your cup of tea? Head up to First Hill and check out the Frye Art Museum. The museum is always free and features their permanent collection of 19th and 20th century paintings along with rotating exhibits. They also offer a wide variety of programming from yoga and meditation in the galleries to adult art classes.
If you’re interested in the history of Seattle before it was Seattle, head to West Seattle to the Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center. For thousands of years before the arrival of Europeans the Duwamish Tribe lived and prospered on these lands. The Longhouse is a traditional cedar post and beam structure filled with objects, Lushootseed language materials, and historic photographs and people eager to share with you the culture and traditions of Seattle’s first people.
Since you’re already down in West Seattle you might as well head west toward Alki and drop in to the Southwest Seattle Historical Society and Loghouse Museum. Celebrate Seattle history with a tour through the museum’s permanent and rotating exhibits. While technically free, the museum does suggest a $3 donation. The restored log house is surrounded by a native plant garden and is only one block away from Alki beach!
If none of these strike your fancy, then use your Seattle Public Library card to check out one-time passes to participating museums such as Museum of Flight, Museum of Pop Culture (formerly the EMP), The Burke Museum, Seattle Art Museum and many more! See their website for more details. Many Seattle area museums also participate in First Thursdays, which allows the public free access to the museum on the first Thursday of each month. Whether you’re visiting for the week or have lived here your whole life there is always something new (and affordable) to explore!
–Molly, IMBY 2016 Community Outreach Mentor