Visit Seattle museums for free

Did you know most of the museums around Seattle have a free day, once a month? I’m always astonished by how many of my friends don’t know about this perk. Now that summer’s here and we’re looking for fun activities to keep the kids entertained, free museum visits are a great way to keep their minds busy (and get some exercise while you’re at it).

A handful of museums are always free on the first Thursday of each month — see the list below. BUT — here’s something I didn’t even know! — did you know you can print free passes for most Seattle museums if you have a Seattle Public Library card? Just choose your museum and the day you want to attend (up to 30 days in advance), print out the pass and bring it with you. There are some limitations so check out the free museum pass details on the Seattle Public Library website. They’ve got free admission to all sorts of awesome places, including the  Experience Music Project (EMP) and the Seattle Aquarium too!

If you don’t have a Seattle Public Library card, here’s a list of museums that give free admission on the first Thursday of every month*:

Museum of Flight

This one is only free from 5 – 9 pm on the first Thursday, but it is entirely worth it. They’ve got awesome airplanes to climb inside, an inspiring World War II room, a kids play area, lots of Seattle’s aeronautic history (including the birthplace of Boeing) and, outside in the Airpark, real airplanes like the Concorde and JFK’s Air Force One that you can walk inside. My boys love this museum, and every out-of-town visitor we’ve brought has loved it too.

Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture

Located on the University of Washington (UW) campus, this museum features lots of Washington’s natural history, including the first (and only) dinosaur skeleton found in the state!

Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture at the University of Washington in Seattle - Creative Commons License by Loren Javier

Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture at the University of Washington in Seattle – Creative Commons License by Loren Javier

Henry Art Gallery

Also located at UW, the Henry was Washington state’s first art museum and currently the only contemporary art museum in our region. They feature exhibits, lectures and hands-on activities for children.

Museum of History and Industry

The MOHAI sits right on Seattle’s Lake Union in a picturesque spot, next to the Center for Wooden Boats (another museum that’s always free!). It’s full of fun, hands-on exhibits all about Seattle. I especially loved the section about TV shows and movies that were filmed in or inspired by Seattle.

Kids Discovery Museum

KiDiMu is located on Bainbridge Island, just a short walk from the ferry terminal, so you can make a full day out of traveling to the island (and stop for ice cream after the museum). Explore science, art, and culture in a fun, hands-on way.

Also free on first Thursdays (but a little less kid-friendly): the Nordic Heritage Museum, the Northwest African American Museum, and the downtown Seattle Art Museum.

Happy exploring!

*Museums may have special events or change their policies at any time – always check their website or call to verify the free admission day before heading out.