Girl in mask runs in front of Burke Museum and paddle art installation

Seattle Museums With Kids – Burke Museum

The Burke Museum’s current incarnation is relatively new — they re-opened last fall in a modern building with some wonderfully kid-friendly spaces and informative exhibits, and then along came the coronavirus. Just prior to the recent re-opening, we bought a membership because the location is relatively close to Julia’s preschool and we wanted to support another local organization that’s been hard hit by the pandemic.

We visited on a recent weekday afternoon to check out the new protocols. Reservations are required (even for members) and the hands-on exhibits have been temporarily closed with plenty of signs reminding folks to give each other space and wear masks.

Watching mat weaving from Tonga

I’ve wanted some more opportunities outside of books to teach my oldest (who is 4 years old) about the Native American peoples who made this land their home and the Burke was a great space for that. The entire first floor is dedicated to Indigenous culture. I felt they struck a nice balance between displaying beautiful artwork and tools from different groups to show their high level of skill and pride in their work, as well as discussing the horrific ways Native peoples have been forcibly removed from their homes and families. The exhibits aren’t just limited to the tribal nations from Washington State, such as the Coast Salish — they also include Pacific Islanders as well. On the top floor, we found more information about the traditional food gathering and fishing of the Native Americans, which I found really interesting. The museum has a board of Native American advisors and has consulted with other Native experts in curating its exhibits and I appreciated the Own Voices narrative.

More interested in watching trucks in the parking lot than mammoth skeletons. Kids!

The dinosaur and taxidermy sections were tougher to get through with young children – these are areas that normally include a lot of touching and they had more trouble paying attention without the tactile experience normally on offer.

Only animal specimens in this lab – no scientists!

The museum recently installed some beautiful bronze paddles designed by a Chinook tribal member that represent the arrival of a canoe carrying cultural heroes. It’s a great addition to the already lovely patio area and the kids spent almost as much time running around the paddles and climbing the stairs as they did in the museum.

Our visit inside the museum only lasted about an hour – my youngest mostly wanted to climb the steep stairs and touch things. To help extend a future visit, I might visit in the morning when he’s more fresh. I would also probably bring along some small dinosaurs or a book for my son and a scavenger hunt for my daughter to help give them something to hold while we learn.


Parking – Available directly in front of the museum. Download the PayByPhone app for touchless payment.

Tickets – Purchase timed tickets ahead of your visit for any guests over age 3. Prices range from $14-20 depending on age.

COVID Protocols – Make sure to bring masks for anyone over 2 years old and respect social distancing signs. Interactive exhibits are closed, so I recommend bringing a small toy or book of your own, especially for young children. Extra cleaning has been instituted and hand sanitizer is stationed throughout the museum.

Facilities Non-gendered restrooms are available. While the Off the Rez café didn’t appear open during our visit, the posted hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday with space to eat in a large alcove or outside on the patio.

Have you visited any local museums yet? What’s on the top of your list once you feel comfortable visiting?


Fall 2020 Bucket List

Note: as always, this blog reflects my personal risk assessment for myself and my family in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Your own evaluation of risk may differ from mine. We review our local government’s guidance and wear our masks indoors and/or when we can’t reliably create 6 feet of distance between folks and hope that you will, too.

As you’ll notice below, my bucket list for this year is mainly – get outside, do it a lot and make it through the year.

In normal years, I plan for all kinds of scheduled activities (museums, concerts, plays, etc), bucket lists and pumpkin patch visits via spreadsheets like the former accounting/finance nerd that I am. With the COVID-19 pandemic limiting what we can do, I’m still determined to enjoy the beautiful fall season that the Pacific Northwest offers.

Here’s what’s on my list for this fall:

Seattle Art Museum

Seattle Art Museum, Fall 2019

This museum holds a special place in my heart for the art it’s allowed me to share with Julia (I’ve talked about visiting with kids here). Pre-pandemic, this was our go-to girls’ day. We would visit the museum’s special exhibits for an hour or two, then have lunch together and head home. They’ve just re-opened and my in-laws have agreed to babysit James so Julia and I can have some much needed girl time together. I’m looking forward to seeing the Carpe Fin exhibit that blend Native and Japanese styles done by a Haida artist.

Woodland Park Zoo

Testing out her wings at Woodland Park Zoo, Fall 2019

I adore our local zoo (see a previous post about it here), and it’s especially wonderful in the fall. The wide variety of trees and plants means there are often colorful leaf-peeping opportunities in a space that’s close to home. While most of the indoor spaces are closed due to the pandemic, it’s still a nice place to visit on a rainy day because the tree cover provides shelter from much of the rain. Timed tickets, extra cleanings and face covering requirements also make the zoo feel safe in these uncertain times.

Remlinger Farms

Did you see Jiaying Grygiel’s experience at Remlinger Farms on ParentMap’s website? She and her family really enjoyed the farm with the pandemic-driven adjustments and I’m really looking forward to going back. Julia was able to ride the roller coaster last summer and has been asking about it ever since! Right now they’re only open on weekends, but I also want to check back on their self-guided tours that are described on the website. It seems like the type of activity for which I could also tote James along.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day Commemoration

Sweetest Kulu Board Book, image via Inhabit Media

I’ve reflected recently on where my conversations with my kids have lacked discussion of the tribes whose ancestral lands we’re occupying. I want to change that by taking time to learn about them year-round, but also by using a special day to commemorate their many contributions to our national prosperity. However, I’m also cognizant of the fact that Native folks are part of the at-risk population we want to protect, so I want to avoid specifically going to reservations right now. Indigenous Peoples’ Day is on October 12th this year and here are a few ways I think we’ll observe it:

  • A mini road-trip – the Visit Seattle website has a Native American Cultural Heritage Guide with a map of heritage sites, many of which are open-air (such as the Salish Welcome statue near the Ballard Locks). I’d love to do a little trip around our area to stop and see some of these hidden treasures.
  • Take a hike – the Washington Trails Association has a post called “8 Trails that Tell a Native American Story” and there are a couple of shorter ones that I can use to talk about Native culture, such as the Traditional Knowledge Trail in Snoqualmie.
  • Read a book – we have really loved When We Were Alone (short picture book) and Sweetest Kulu (board book) lately. I would love to find more specifically Pacific Northwest-leaning children’s books about Native culture, but have more research to do there.


Wallace Falls, Fall 2018

With outside time becoming increasingly important in our lives, I’ve invested more in outdoor gear this year (like a rain suit for James and finally purchasing rain pants for myself). I want to make sure that typical misty and rainy Seattle-area weather doesn’t keep us from escaping the house regularly.

The Washington Trails Association is coming in handy again with hikes to ghost towns, hi-lo hikes for fall colors and interpretive trails for families. The Franklin and Moncton ghost town trails seem doable with little ones with some scenery to keep them interested.

We also love Franklin Falls (in the fall, there are often interesting mushrooms to peek at from the trail) and while Gold Creek Pond is a trail we usually hit in the winter to play in the snow, I’m looking forward to trying it this fall.


Oxbow Farms, Fall 2019

Apple Picking – ParentMap recently re-published a list of apple picking spots. Jones Creek Farms looks like a wonderful family farm that I’m looking forward to trying. We actually have a small apple tree that our home’s previous owner planted, but there’s something about a trip to a farm that makes picking apples extra fun. Staying home more often has pushed me to take on more cooking projects, so perhaps I’ll use our pickings to make applesauce in addition to our usual baked apples for snacks.

Pumpkin Patches – Have I mentioned that I’m a nerd with a pumpkin patch spreadsheet? Normally, I try to optimize going to patches with lots of activities (bounce houses, apple cannons, cow trains, etc). This year feels so different, however, and I want to visit some of the spots that are quieter and more focused on actually growing food. Favorite farms from prior years have included Oxbow and Jubilee (both in Carnation). I also love that these farms have stands where you can purchase other fresh vegetables, so it doubles as a grocery run.

Oxbow Farms, Fall 2019

Local Getaways

Dosewallips State Park, Fall 2017

We cancelled our planned trip to Kalaloch Lodge and Salt Creek Recreation Area due to the unhealthy smoky skies in Seattle. I’m disappointed in missing a trip I’d been looking forward to for months, but also am glad that our family is safe and that firefighters and organizations along the West Coast are working hard to make sure other families stay safe, too.

We still have some trips to look forward to, however.

Winthrop, WA – this is one of the first trips I’ve booked because I saw it on Instagram and it looked beautiful. Peter is on call for work and appreciates extra quiet and time to work, so I’m taking the kids on a solo trip to a cabin where we can hike, see the Western-themed town and its boardwalks, and enjoy some time together. If the trip goes well, I have another stay booked to include Peter in November when there more likely be snow and we can enjoy a hot tub with a river view. Yes, please!

Olympic Peninsula – every fall, we try to book a cabin at Dosewallips State Park (read more about our previous experiences here). The park, which is on the eastern side of the peninsula, has beautiful fall colors, spawning salmon, herds of elk and a lovely shoreline. This year, we’re also tacking on a few nights in Long Beach at the Boardwalk Cottages. I’m hoping to rent e-bikes, visit a cranberry bog (pandemic-permitting) and fly kites.

Leavenworth – I’ve been eyeing a fall escape to the Sleeping Lady Resort for a long time, but never managed to make reservations in time until this year. Leavenworth is just outside the circle of day-trip drive time for us, so I’m looking forward to spending some time in this area that is on many fall getaway lists.


Stamping envelopes for Vote Forward letters

With all the crises affecting our country right now, one of the fall traditions I’m most looking forward to is voting. Here are some key pieces of information to know:

  • Mail-in voting: We are fortunate to live in Washington, which operates 100% through mail-in voting so it feels safe and very easy to do. You can look up mail-in voting information here.
  • Early voting: I also plan to vote early in this election to try to avoid overburdening the USPS. Early voting in Washington starts October 16th, but it differs by state. The National Conference of State Legislatures has a chart available here.
  • Reading about voting: your local newspaper likely has endorsements for particular candidates, so if it’s a source you respect, that would be a good place to start (here’s an example from the Seattle Times for the 2020 Primary). If you want to help kids learn about voting, we love the book Vote For Our Future, which shows how kids can get involved even though they can’t vote for a few more years. I love Charnaie’s Instagram post (Here Wee Read) featuring books about voting, as well as her advice to talk to kids about issues, not politics.
  • Encouraging others to vote: If your state offers easy access to voting, that’s great! However, many people are underrepresented in our voting population because of historical obstacles (hello, systemic racism). A friend recommended Vote Forward as a way to write letters reaching out to people in more contested elections who might not otherwise vote. I asked Julia to help me put stamps on my letters, so it also turned into a nice activity for the two of us.

What’s on your fall bucket list for 2020? Have you adapted favorite traditions to fit in with our strange current times?

Seattle Museums with Kids – Washington State History Museum

Okay, so technically this one isn’t in Seattle, but Tacoma’s Washington State History Museum has an amazing Toytopia exhibit going on through June that was definitely worth the drive.

We arrived on a Sunday right as they opened at 10 a.m., so there wasn’t a line at all (they even let us come in the building a bit early since it was sunny, but chilly outside). Make sure to show your AAA card if you have one since you get a 15% discount on up to 2 adult tickets.

Since we didn’t know how long Julia would be interested and Peter had plans around lunch time, we went straight up to the top floor to see Toytopia. If we’d had more time, we would have started with some of the other exhibits, but will have to save most of them for another day.

The front of the exhibit focuses on toys from the 1960s and prior. Julia loved the dollhouse and rocking horse and would definitely have run right in to play with them if the museum hadn’t brilliantly put up a plastic window (it’s like they might know toddlers…)

So focused on the rocking horse

Next, we made it into the area with Lincoln Logs and Legos. I had a serious bout of nostalgia – we didn’t see my great-aunt and uncle often as kids since they lived in metro Chicago, but whenever we visited, I got to play with my second cousins’ old Lincoln Logs in the basement and loved fitting them together. They also just have a certain smell to them that is so reminiscent of childhood to me.


Julia’s favorite part of the whole exhibit was definitely the next room, which housed a giant playhouse/dollhouse and a keyboard you could walk and jump on (I didn’t get any pictures of it because I was too busy jumping and cartwheeling on it myself). She poured me about 45 cups of tea and served me lunch on the keyboard while Peter and I practiced chopsticks and scales on the piano.


Peter ran off to the arcade like a teenager, and Julia and I followed after I managed to rip her away from the dollhouse. They had a rather large variety of arcade games (and a fun theme song guessing game, which Peter scored 100% on) with free play turned on, so all of us had fun playing Pac Man, Donkey Kong, Asteroids, and an awesome driving game that Julia was obsessed with.

She’s not allowed to be my DD anytime soon, but man she loved this game so much

The last room had a giant Etch A Sketch (that didn’t seem to work), Connect 4, Jenga, and a few other games. Peter and I had fun playing Jenga together while Julia beat herself at Connect 4.


We had a few minutes left before we had to leave, so we also ventured into the Model Railroad exhibit on the same floor (which also gave us views over some of the other exhibits that I’d love to come back to). It’s really very impressive, with at least 4 trains and a detailed layout that looks pretty historically accurate and relevant to the Pacific Northwest’s logging history. Julia loved it because she could count the train cars and name their colors.

We spent about an hour and a half here and could have spent more, but I find it’s always best to leave a little before toddler crazy time (aka nap time). It was Daylight Savings, so Julia should have stayed awake longer, but she was asleep in her car seat about 5 minutes after we left because she’d had so much fun running around and exploring.

I would love to come back to check out the other exhibits at this lovely museum, especially since I didn’t grow up in Washington and learn the history in school. Honestly, the exhibit was so cool that I would even consider coming back just to see it again.

What toys from your childhood do you remember most fondly?