Insider’s Guide to the Seattle Art Museum

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The Seattle Art Museum has a wealth of children’s resources, from playrooms with art books for the toddler set (like Pop Warhol’s Top), to school-age educational guides for featured exhibits. And now is a perfect time to go, with Chicago artist Nick Cave’s fantastic “soundsuits” on display until June. Think Sesame Street monsters, but bigger and with more day-glo fur.

Where it is: SAM downtown is at 1300 1st Ave., between Union and University streets. If street parking is unavailable, try the parking garage on the north side of Union Street between 1st and 2nd avenues.

When to go: Open Wed., Sat., and Sun. from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm.; Thurs. and Fri. from 10:00 am – 9:00 pm. The first Thursday of the month is free to all ages, and the second Friday is free for teens with ID from 5:00 to 9:00 pm. Special family programs are offered at 10:00 am on the second Saturday of select months, featuring kid-friendly tours, special performances and opportunities to make art. (Registration is required.)

What to see and do: For kids of all ages, Nick Cave’s Meet Me at the Center of the Earth exhibit is not to be missed. The first thing they’ll see is a giant polar bear fashioned out of colorful striped sweaters. His “soundsuits” are improbable giant costumes made of fur, fabric, sequins, potholders, vintage toys, ceramic birds and other found objects. From earthy beings made out of twigs to aliens made from shiny buttons, they’re wild, beautiful and delightful. (Younger visitors may want to skip the video room—the giant “monsters” jumping on trampolines and dancing can be scary.) A special “March To the Center of the Earth” family parade, tour and performances will be offered on May 5 from 5:30 to 9:00 pm.

There’s also plenty in the museum’s regular collection to hold kids’ attention—from African masks to an oversized mouse sculpture to the giant made out of green bottles. Younger children can even take a break at the Knudsen Family Room on the southwest corner of the 3rd floor. It has bins of toys organized by type (shapes, animals, faces, music, puzzles, trains), books about colors and artists and colorful wall hangings with details that zip on and off. Other kid-friendly areas of the museum include the Chase Open Studio, well stocked with art-making materials, along the staircase on the museum’s south side.

Where to have lunch: TASTE restaurant inside the museum features delicious local food. The $5 kids menu (12 and under) offers sophisticated yet child-friendly plates of peanut butter & jelly, grilled cheese and tomato soup, noodles, hot dogs, and mini burgers. Be aware that lunch service can take a while. We used the play area outside the restaurant’s front door (well-stocked with easels, fabric crowns, puppets, books and a play car) while we waited for our food and check to arrive.

Bonus: Take a stroll down the Harbor Steps across the street to the waterfront, or hop a bus heading north on 1st Avenue (you’re in the free ride zone) to the Pike Place Market to see how cheese is made at Beecher’s Cheese.

Cost: Suggested SAM admission is $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and military, $9 for students and teens. Children 12 and under and members are free. Remember: the first Thursday of the month is free for all ages.

—Jennifer Langston

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