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?



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?