Break up the Alaska winter by taking a field trip south for Seattle Museum Month

I arrived a little late for the start of Seattle Museum Month, running through the month of February. Participating museums around Seattle and surrounding communities are offering visitors 50% off regular admission.

So if you’re passing through the Emerald City between now and the end of the month, take time to see some of Seattle’s premier museums.

Although I’m not a museum person by nature, lousy weather can nudge me in that direction.

“It’s pretty gray out right now,” said Kauilani Robinson, with Visit Seattle. “And it’s threatening rain.”

That sounds like perfect February weather to me — so I understand why they picked this month to promote the city’s museums.

Even though we both were going through the eclectic list of museums in town, we bemoaned that neither of us had been to a Seattle Kraken hockey game. There are three more home games at Seattle’s Climate Pledge Arena this month.

Before you head to the game, check out some of Seattle’s more unusual museums. For example, there’s the Pinball Museum, which has more than 50 vintage pinball machines and presents them as “an interactive display of kinetic art.” The museum has machines dating back as far as 1934. Although I haven’t been there, I’m anxious to check it out, as I spent a fair amount of my misspent youth in arcades before Pac-Man and Pong changed things.

There’s also the Pacific Bonsai Museum. Located south of Seattle in Federal Way, the museum hosts 150 works of bonsai artistry, with trees from Canada, China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and the US There’s a rotating display of 60 trees on display, and the museum also hosts traveling exhibits. This museum offers free admission, by the way.

Take one of the Washington State Ferries from the waterfront across Puget Sound to Bremerton. The ferry is always fun, whether you’re walking on or driving your car aboard. Bremerton is a Navy town, and it has the museums to prove it.

The Puget Sound Navy Museum is a short walk from the ferry terminal. A featured exhibit portrays life aboard one of the Navy’s nuclear aircraft carriers. Puget Sound has been home to naval bases for more than 100 years, and the museum has many artifacts and photographs that it manages and preserves. This museum offers free admission.

The USS Turner Joy is a floating museum ship docked in Bremerton. It’s also just a short walk from the ferry terminal. The ship is a Forrest Sherman-class destroyer that was built in Seattle in 1958. It was commissioned in 1959 and sailed throughout the Pacific, including the Gulf of Tonkin, before being decommissioned in 1982. Visit the USS Turner Joy and you’ll learn about the history of the ship, its wartime operations and its capabilities.

Eleven miles north of Bremerton in Keyport is the US Naval Undersea Museum. There are exhibits on mine warfare, torpedo technology and the ballistic missiles inside nuclear subs. Other exhibits focus on naval divers, including SEALs, Seabee divers and aviation rescue swimmers. There also are two submarine rescue submersibles on display.

Back in Seattle, in the Ballard neighborhood, is the National Nordic Museum. According to Visit Seattle’s Robinson, it’s the “largest museum dedicated to the five Nordic countries,” including Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Iceland. The goal of the museum is to celebrate the values, art and spirit of the Nordic peoples while sharing these treasures with people of all backgrounds.

There’s a permanent exhibit on “Nordic Journeys.” This exhibit illustrates the story of Nordic migration and features artifacts which are more than 4,000 years old. Viking era rune stones, swords, keys and jewelry help tell the story.

Coming next week is a new Nordic glass exhibition.

Glass art, especially the work of Washingtonian Dale Chihuly, is very popular. If you haven’t visited the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum next to the Space Needle, use your half-off museum pass as an excuse.

Here’s the catch for the museum pass: You have to stay at a participating downtown hotel to get the discounts. There are a bunch of hotels participating, and they’re listed on the Seattle Museum Month website.

Choose the super-nice Hotel Monaco for $204 per night, or save a little and stay at the Travelodge over by the Space Needle for $85 per night. The Holiday Inn at Lake Union prices out at about $113 per night. I’ve included all of the taxes and fees in the prices, The hotel tax is 15.7%.

In addition to the smaller, lesser-known museums covered by the month-long promotion, there are some must-see museums, including the Seattle Art Museum. You can spend a whole day exploring the many different permanent and rotating exhibits. I’ve done it. Current exhibits include “Embodied Change: South Asian Art Across Time,” featuring “metamorphic and compelling images of the human body.”

I’ve spent hours in the modern and contemporary art area, but there are extensive collections of African art and Native American art. Don’t miss it.

If you’re traveling to Seattle with the kids, both the Seattle Aquarium and the Woodland Park Zoo are participating in the monthlong half-off promotion.

There are two fun museums on the shore of Lake Union: the Museum of History and Industry, or MOHAI, and the Center for Wooden Boats.

MOHAI features a “Kid-Struction zone” for those ages 2 to 7 years old. There are tool benches, reading stations, historic photos and plenty of building blocks.

But my favorite exhibit is the “True Northwest” story, which walks visitors through the history of the region from 1790. Learn about the mills, the seaport, the Gold Rush and how the region fared through two world wars.

If you’re an avgeek (aviation geek) like me, don’t miss the Museum of Flight. Located at Boeing Field between the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and downtown, the sprawling museum is a paradise for things with wings.

You’ll find the Concorde, Air Force 1, the first 747, a historic 727, a B-17 bomber and planes from every era.

The museum built a special hangar for the Space Shuttle Trainer, a full-size replica that astronauts used to prepare for their flights.

You can see the “red barn” where Boeing Aircraft started. You can see up close the fabric, the wood and the glue that held the very first planes together.

The bonus for any visit to the Museum of Flight is the chance to gaze out on the flight line at Boeing Field. There’s always an incredible array of aircraft being prepared for delivery to airlines around the world.

Whatever your interest, chances are there’s a museum just for you in Seattle. Even if you can’t get to Seattle in time for this promotion, many of these museums are worth visiting.

Seattle and King County require visitors to present their vaccination card on arrival to indoor venues including museums, restaurants and bars. Travelers who are not vaccinated must present a negative COVID test result taken within 72 hours. Masks are required indoors.

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