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20 Great Places to Visit and Enjoy While in Seattle – Part 3 of 5 (Museums)

Part 2 (Attractions) Part 4 (Tours)

Here’s another installment of my little series on the cool places to visit while in Seattle during the 2008 Global MVP Summit. In the past two articles, I’ve covered Activities and Attractions, respectively. This time around, we’ll take a look at four of the most fascinating and intriguing museums in the Seattle and Redmond/Bellevue areas.



Rosalie Whyel Museum of Doll Art ( – Located 15 minutes to the east of Seattle in downtown Bellevue, the Museum of Doll Art contains one of the world’s foremost private collections of dolls. In fact, the museum – which features more than 1,200 dolls dating back several centuries – was named the winner of the prestigious 1994 Jumeau Award for the Best Private Doll Museum in the World. The museum’s vast collection includes 17th century wooden dolls, 19th century China dolls and the original Barbie as well as museum exhibits featuring miniatures, teddy bears and many other doll-associated memorabilia. Knowledgeable curators are on hand to discuss the artistry, history, and technology of dolls as well as answer questions from patrons.


An especially pleasing touch to this wonderful museum is that its architecture and décor were specifically designed and built to house dolls. Built with Victorian influences, the museum houses a gorgeous English garden through which you can stroll while taking in the sights. You’ll definitely want to take a camera with you and have plenty of time to view not only the dolls, but their surroundings as well.


Finally, the museum store offers the opportunity to purchase everything from antique dolls to modern collectibles. They even have people on hand that can help you should you be in a situation – such as myself – where you knowledge of doll art is much less than your desire to pick up something special for someone in your life that enjoys and treasures these small wonders.


Museum of Flight ( – Located just 10 minutes south of Seattle, the independent, non-profit Seattle Museum of Flight is one of the largest air and space museums in the world. Attracting more than 400,000 visitors annually, the museum’s collection includes more than 150 historically significant air- and spacecraft, an airpark, the original Boeing manufacturing facility and even an area from which you can pay to have certified pilots take you up into the skies in a two-seater where you can channel your inner Red Baron!


When you park at the Museum of Flight, you’ll first see a number of antique planes – including World War II fighter planes – parked on the lawn in front of the “Great Gallery”. From there, you’ll typically enter the Great Gallery – a 3 million-cubic-foot, six-story glass-and-steel exhibit hall currently containing 39 full-size historic aircraft. 23 of these aircraft – including the nine-ton Douglas DC-3 – hang from the space-frame ceiling! The aircraft were specifically selected to trace the history of the first century of flight.


Once inside the Great Gallery, there a number of permanent and temporary exhibits to peruse. One to specifically call out here is the “Red Bar”. Originally built in 1909, Red Bar is the original manufacturing facility of The Boeing Company. Donated to the Museum of Flight by the Port of Seattle in 1975, this structure was subsequently moved to its present location at Boeing Field/King County International Airport that same year. Within the Red Barn you won’t want to miss is the The Boeing Story 1916–1958, which contains rare historical aviation and Boeing artifacts. In addition, there is a re-created factory workshop that shows the Red Barn as it was used during production of the Boeing Model C and Model 40! It takes very little imagination to walk about the Red Barn and transplant yourself back in time almost a hundred years where you can almost feel the sensation of aviation pioneers making history in this one-of-a-kind location.


The Airpark is located about half a mile’s walk from the Great Gallery and contains several noteworthy aircraft such as Air Force One, the very first 747, the original 737, a Boeing 727, and even a sleek Concorde. What’s really great is that you can board these planes and see what they look like from the inside – a special treat as the supersonic Concorde transport was retired in 2003. (Note that admission to the Airpark is free when you purchase a ticket for the Flight Museum.)


Pacific Science Museum ( – Located near the Space Needle in Seattle, the Pacific Science Museum – voted a “Top-50 Family Attraction” by Zagat Survey – is highly recommended to anyone “who loves science and even those who don’t”. You’ll definitely want to set aside several hours for a trip to the Pacific Science Museum, or “PacSci”, as the museum houses an enormous collection of hands-on exhibits, IMAX movies, interactive displays, laser fantasy shows, a planetarium and much more.


Here are a few of my favorites for myself and my kids:


Body Works – For those of us who are chronologically older – but still young at heart – you should visit the Body Works section where exhibits enable you to test your reaction time, gauge how much energy you produce on a “Calorie Bicycle” and try out computer games in the Nutrition Café. This is actually my favorite part of the museum!


Kids Works – Another great area is the Kids Works area where you can see yourself on television as the guest meteorologist in the KING5 First Alert Weather Center! Freeze your shadow on the Shadow Wall. Experiment with water at the stream table. And for the smallest scientist, there’s a special area just for tots where even the youngest of your clan can enjoy and learn!


Dinosaurs: A Journey Through TimeMichael Crichton and Jurassic Park turned many of my generation into amateur dinosaur buffs. This exhibit contains seven roaring, robotic dinosaurs in a lifelike environment and enables you to explore the Mesozoic world with interactive exhibits, real fossils, and dioramas. You can even stand in a giant duckbill dinosaur and take the controls of an “Air and Iron Lizard” (called a “Pneumoferrosaurus”) in order to understand how animatronic dinosaurs work. For more information on this area, I would suggest reading the Teachers Pre-Visit guide as it contains great information regarding exhibit itself and the dinosaurs on display.


Seattle Art Museum ( – Located in downtown Seattle near the waterfront and Pike Place Market, the Seattle Art Museum (or SAM) is one of the world’s most famous museums with a collection of Asian, African and Native American art. Of particular note for visitors is the fine collection of modern art produced by Pacific Northwest artists. The African art display itself is a wondrous display of masks, jewelry, and pictures of the people from the tribe in West Africa (who lent these pieces to the museum).


If you’re in town, SAM is always a great way to explore the art collections from all over the world for inspiration, enjoyment and education. And it’s an especially great opportunity now with a unique exhibit called the Collection of Roman Art. This exhibit – on loan from the world-famous Musée du Louvre, or Louvre, portrays nearly 300 years of imperial Roman life and history. The exhibition includes almost 200 pieces – many of which are in the United States for the very first time! – from the world’s most famous museum.

What’s Next?

In this post, I’ve detailed 4 of the most beautiful and educational museums in the Seattle area. With the Global Summit less than a week away, I’ll cover Tours in my next post so that you’ll have plenty of time to purchase your tickets and make reservations!


April 15, 2008 - Posted by | Microsoft MVP Program


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