Washington - Cultural Destinations


Step inside a world of music at the Experience Music Project in Seattle and feel like a rock star. The brainchild of Microsoft co-founder, Paul Allen, this music museum is for anyone who rocks out in the car, relishes a new CD, or jams at a concert. This salute to music includes a collection of over 80,000 musical artifacts, including Bob Dylan's harmonica and the world's largest collection of Jimi Hendrix memorabilia. Visitors can also catch many national and regional acts at the museum's venue, Sky Church.

Art lovers will find much to enjoy at the Seattle Art Museum, the city's downtown art repository which underwent a massive expansion in May 2007, where more than 21,000 objects, from African masks to Northwest native creations, dazzle viewers. A famed aluminum and steel sculpture, lovingly called "Hammering Man," greets visitors out front standing 48-feet tall, weighing 13 tons, wearing a coat of black automobile paint and hammering around-the-clock.

Another recent extension of the Seattle Art Museum, the sprawling Olympic Sculpture Park, is a former industrial site transformed into a nine-acre sculpture garden. This new waterfront park allures visitors as well as residents with more than 80,000 plants, 554 trees and large sculptures by famed artists Richard Serra, Louise Bourgeois and Alexander Calder. Incredible views of Puget Sound surround the space while the magnificent Olympic Mountains loom majestically in the background.

A short walk away, you'll find the historic brick-and-block streets of Pioneer Square, Seattle's oldest and most colorful neighborhood. On roads where logs used to skid down to the waterfront, people now mill about in an exciting mix of art galleries, bookstores, restaurants and live music. There are many first-rate galleries to explore like Tashiro Kaplan Building, which provides affordable housing and studio space for artists and houses several galleries, including Gallery4Culture, which showcases work by emerging regional artists.

Atop First Hill, the Frye Art Museum offers free admission and a place to get away for a quiet afternoon of enjoyment and reflection. Featuring American and European painting and sculpture from the 19th century to the present, the elegant and tranquil ambience of this museum engages audiences and challenges perceptions.

Come face-to-face with robots and aliens and enjoy adventures into "alternative worlds" at Seattle's Science Fiction Museum. The world's first Sci-Fi museum, it will inspire you to think beyond the present, speculate on the future and explore the unlimited possibilities of our universe. The Hall of Fame honors the legends and visionaries shaping this far-reaching genre.

From the world of the Sci-Fi go 20,000 leagues under the sea and explore the underwater realm at Seattle Aquarium. A 12-foot crystal ring enables visitors to watch luminous moon jellyfish drift across the water crescent. Giant Pacific octopus and mysterious wolf eels captivate audiences, while exotic fish from the tropics and an array of creatures from Northwest waters dance inside exhibits. In its 40,000-gallon underwater dome, sharks, salmon, sturgeon and other species are constantly on the move.

South of downtown Seattle, the Museum of Flight allows visitors to experience the history and future of flight. Walk in the footsteps of four presidents in the original Air Force One, tour the only supersonic Concorde on the West Coast, fly on six different flight simulators and be dazzled by over 85 beautifully restored air and spacecraft.

Recently transformed by a cultural renaissance, the city of Tacoma now has three major museums that form an impressive Museum District: the Museum of Glass, Tacoma Art Museum and Washington State History Museum.

The Museum of Glass is the Tacoma's architectural showpiece. Highlighting glass within a full range of media and illuminating trends in contemporary art, the museum's rotating exhibitions showcase works by internationally renowned artists. The museum also features a number of indoor and outdoor installations, as well as the Hot Shop Amphitheater which allows visitors to witness live, ongoing demonstrations of glasswork.

Connecting the Museum of Glass to Tacoma's waterfront is the Chihuly Bridge of Glass, a 500-foot pedestrian walkway. Showcasing many of the studio glass pioneer and native-son, Dale Chihuly's, stunning glass creations, the bridge is a magical tunnel of brilliant light and color created by Chihuly's glass forms.

Find traveling exhibitions, Northwest Art and Dale Chihuly glass always on view in the Tacoma Art Museum. The museum also features framed views of Mt. Rainier and a series of elegant galleries that wrap around an open-air interior stone garden.

At the nearby Washington State History Museum, the state's past comes to life through fascinating permanent exhibits and exciting traveling displays. Explore multimedia and interactive exhibits, become enthralled by theatrical storytelling and explore dramatic artifacts. Gain insight into Washington's history and be amazed by its impact on the country and the world beyond.

Bibliophiles will find sanctuary at the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum in Tacoma which showcases original handwritten letters, drafts and documents of historical significance penned by some of the world's most famous individuals such as Napoleon, George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. This small, fascinating facility is one of eight Karpeles museums around the U.S. that rotate exhibits every three months. The privately funded Karpeles is also free to the public—it won't even accept donations.

Spokane's Smithsonian-affiliated Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, known as the MAC, features five galleries focusing on three main disciplines: the American Indian, regional history and visual art. Next door is Campbell House, a Tudor Revival mansion offering interactive tours and educational programs.

Explore the ocean depths at Keyport's Naval Undersea Museum, which showcases exhibits covering naval history, undersea technology and marine science. The museum also features the largest U.S. collection of naval undersea artifacts.

A short and picturesque ferry ride from downtown Seattle, West Seattle or Tacoma takes commuters and visitors to quiet, rural Vashon Island, a gathering place for hundreds of artists, musicians and actors. Galleries, performances, waterfront parks and quiet country roads make Vashon a popular day trip and weekend escape.

Get the latest Travel & Culture stories in your inbox.