Even if you’ve visited dozens of times before, stepping through the doors of the refreshed Seattle Children’s Museum feels like a totally new experience because it’s been so long. After being closed for over two years, it’s time to get reacquainted with Seattle’s go-to spot for indoor play. We’ve got the scoop on what’s new, what’s changed and what to expect when you make your reservation to play.
To celebrate its re-opening, the museum debuted a brand new logo, new color scheme and, in addition to a few new play areas, it has breathed new life into its existing exhibits.
Little animal lovers will want to head straight for the paw-some new veterinary clinic, Neighborhood Paws. It’s where they’ll find cats, dogs and birds in need of a little TLC. Although the space is small, it’s used well, and there are plenty of animals and accessories to go around. Kids can don lab coats and pick the just-right animal from an array of stuffies displayed in the kennels. They can swaddle them in blankets, sit and read animal stories and of course, give them a much-needed check-up. X-ray cards, adjustable cones and a grooming station, with a real air dryer, help make the experience realistic for future vets.
Amazing Airways is the other new exhibit making its debut during the reopening. A children’s museum favorite (maybe you’ve played with one at the Tacoma Children’s Museum or Hands On Children’s Museum in Olympia?), it’s all about air flow. Kids send objects like scarves and balls through an intricate maze of clear tubes. The fun part is diverting the airflow to see how the fast flying objects racing toward an exit are affected. We have a feeling this one will stop your little scientists in their tracks, so be prepared.
Revamped Reading Room
Step inside the pages of Olympia-based, paper artist Nikki McClure’s adorable picture book 1-2-3 Salish Sea, when you duck into the redesigned storybook nook. The fairytale theme has been replaced with freshly painted murals that highlight our local waters, running along the wall like gentle waves. Within the next week or so, this space will be completed, and storytimes will be returning soon too.
Tribal Tales opened just before the shut down, so while not technically new, it will be to many visitors. Sit back and relax while your kids put on a playful puppet show using puppets designed by local artists. A collab between Pacific Northwest tribes and the museum, it’s a winner with kids of all ages. They learn about the region’s original inhabitants through play and storytelling.
Many of the museum’s existing exhibits got a facelift, and they’re ready for play.
Everyone’s favorite mountain has a fresh new batch of snow at the top. As you make the trek, check under rocks to find hidden creatures, climb through the nurse log and stop to play forest animal before making the final ascent. The animal burrow up top still makes a great hiding spot. And camping with friends is still the only way to play when roasting s’mores in your tent at the top.
Stop in the Sound Transit Station to play with trains, drive the bus and build all kinds of crazy play structures using Imagination Playground blocks. Then hit the Post Office for some real world fun. Kids can weigh and sort packages, before putting on their all-weather postal carrier gear and hopping in the delivery truck to make the rounds.
The spruced-up Eye Clinic has an array of colorful glasses kids will be clamoring to try. All they need is a quick exam before choosing the best pair. Just across the way is where you’ll find two other favorites that are back with renewed vigor—the Marketplace and the Construction Zone. An inspiring new mural makes the wall in the Construction Zone really pop, and the marketplace is definitely still the spot to shop for toddlers.
Tots will want to trade in their play clothes for a cute costume at the Bijou. Find fresh new looks for your little dramatists in the dressing room, before taking the stage. Don’t forget to add in sound and lighting effects to make the show complete. Another tot favorite, Discovery Bay, is back too, with a fresh coat of paint, new flooring and the same toddler-focused play kids love.
The Imagination Studio, tucked in a back corner, is a prime spot to take tuckered out kids who need a reset. They can use paint, markers, glue and scissors to create a masterpiece here. And we’re happy to report the full-body Spirograph is back too. Load the markers, turn the dial and watch as a mesmerizing pattern appears
A Work in Progress
When you visit, expect to see a few closed doors hiding unfinished areas still in the planning stages. Museum staff is considering using these spaces to expand current exhibits or to design new and engaging ones. As always, the museum continues to evolve to meet the diverse needs of the kids and families who love playing there. Also under wraps are the party rooms. Although not currently available, they will be soon. Keep your eye on the website for updates if you’ve got a kid’s party in your near future.
Because of its prime location, planning a full day of play that includes a trip to the Seattle Children’s Museum isn’t hard. Just outside its doors you’ll find all kids of kid-friendly activities at Seattle Center. A trip up the Space Needle is always a hit with little daredevils. And MoPOP’s Heroes and Villains: The Art of Disney Costume is still on exhibit, for another few weeks (it closes April 17). Families with big kids in tow should check out the challenging slides and climbs at the Artists at Play playground. And we’re pretty sure there’s nothing more refreshing than a run through the city’s biggest fountain on a hot summer day.
Good To Know:
1. Timed tickets are required to visit, and it’s best to reserve your spot before heading over. Making the reservation is free (you’ll be charged when you arrive), and you can start your visit any time during the one-hour arrival window.
2. Find the latest updates on mask wearing and COVID cleaning protocols online.
3. Did you have a membership when the museum closed back in March of 2020? If so, you’re in luck. The time that remained on your membership, plus a month, will be added back to your membership starting April 2, 2022.
4. While parking near the museum can be tricky, not to mention expensive, there are a few street parking options that will save you some cash. Look for spots on Republican Street or Warren Avenue to avoid public parking lot rates.
Hours: Fri.-Sun., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (April)
Cost: $12/person; Free, babies under 1
305 Harrison St.
All photos courtesy the writer