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?


Seattle Museums With Kids – Burke Museum

In addition to searching Red Tricycle Seattle and Parent Map’s events every week, our daycare sends out a list of events (mainly compiled from those sources, but sometimes including others) every Friday, which is how we ended up visiting the Burke Museum’sI Dig Dinos” event this past weekend. On the last Sunday of every month through Memorial Day weekend, they’re having special themed days for kids to come and learn about dinosaurs. They also have a “Dino Days” event this coming weekend, but that seems more formal and likely to be busier.

This weekend’s theme was a “Dino Days Preview” and even though the website says it’s geared for kids aged 3-7, our nearly 2 year old had a great time. The museum is located on the University of Washington campus and is free for kids under 4, with general admission costing $10, so it’s relatively inexpensive compared to other local museums. Parking is also free on Sundays, and there’s some street parking available that’s also free.

We kicked off the morning with breakfast at Portage Bay Cafe, which has a location about a 15 minute walk from the museum. Their pancakes are phenomenal (try the butternut squash with pear butter) and include a trip to the fruit bar that Julia thinks is the best thing since sliced bread. Brunching around 9 a.m. also meant that we beat the rush of UW students.

The event runs from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m., but the museum opens at 10 a.m., so we were there with time to check out the other exhibits. Julia liked pointing at the fossils and casts on display, particularly the “elephant” (woolly mammoth) and the whale.



The museum’s permanent exhibits aren’t huge, though, so we spent a lot of time doing dinosaur-themed puzzles in the discovery lab.

All Mine
Toddlers and T-Rexes say “All Mine”

So proud of her for putting together all those numbers herself (sorted by Mom, of course)

We also checked out the Work In Progress exhibit that shows how museum employees are packing up specimens to move to the new Burke location. Julia was mostly interested in climbing in and out of the crates, but did like seeing a T-Rex skull that is being excavated.

The main event was in the Burke Room by the front entrance and was well set-up for families with small kids. There were plastic dinosaurs to play with, dinosaur tails to try on (Julia was not interested), a photo booth, a spot to sort Dinosaur vs. Not Dinosaur pictures (toddlers + sorting = love), and a very popular digging pit. Julia loved it, but I think a 7 year old would get bored quickly.

Why ride a pony when there’s a perfectly good brontosaurus?

Yep, T-Rex, I agree. She’s delicious.

In the main lobby, you could also decorate a dinosaur mask (I can’t recall the dinosaur’s name, but nothing I recognized). Julia loved it and has been carrying her dino mask around with her all week.


I don’t know that we would make a regular trip to the permanent exhibits, but our visit to the Burke Museum for this special event was so much fun (ok, Daddy was bored, but I’ll bring more snacks for him next time) that it’s reminded me I need to keep better track of local museum-sponsored events.

Are there special exhibits that you’ve particularly loved with your little ones?