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The 6 Best Museums in Seattle

From The Museum of Flight to the Seattle Pinball Museum, these are the must-see museums in Emerald City.

U.S. News & World Report

The 6 Best Museums in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass

Chihuly Garden and Glass is a relative newcomer on the local museum scene.(Courtesy of Chihuly Garden and Glass)

Whether you're into fine art or the world of flight, Seattle has a museum that'll pique your interest. U.S. News reached out to local experts to find out which museums will give you a distinct taste of Seattle. Here's what they recommend.

Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Seattle Art Museum(Courtesy of Benjamin Benschneider for Seattle Art Museum)

Indulge your visual sense with the more than 25,000 objects in the Seattle Art Museum's collection. SAM showcases works from the Mediterranean, the Oceania region and more – but it's the Pacific Northwest collection that Seattle visitors should see. Pieces range from self-portraits to indigenous handicrafts.

Tracie Kahikina, head concierge at the Four Seasons Hotel Seattle, says, "What's great about SAM is that they have rotating exhibits from around the world. Right now they have the Seeing Nature exhibit [through May 2017] in addition to their ongoing collections." She adds, "They have items dating back to 300 B.C. and the Egyptian days, all the way up to futuristic things – it's great."

Admission is $24.95 for adults, $22.95 for seniors and military, $14.95 for students with ID and youths 13 to 17, and free for kids 12 and younger. The museum is open Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. It's closed Monday and Tuesday. SAM's collections and installations are free to see the first Thursday of every month, and special exhibitions are half price on that day.

Chihuly Garden and Glass

Chihuly Garden and Glass(Courtesy of Chihuly Garden and Glass)

Dale Chihuly, a famous pioneer of the studio glass movement, was born roughly 30 miles south of Seattle, in Tacoma. His work, best noted by its flowy lines and bright colors, is featured in more than 200 museum collections around the world. Chihuly Garden and Glass, a relative newcomer on the local museum scene (it opened in 2012), showcases the artist's magnificent blown glass pieces in eight galleries, a garden and the 4,500-square foot Glasshouse.

“Chihuly Garden and Glass is a must-see," says Jessica Gomes, VIP coordinator at Hotel 1000. "Dale Chihuly has a lot of temporary exhibits around North America, but this is a permanent exhibit and it is truly exquisite."

Admission is $22 for adults, $19 for seniors, $14 for children ages 5 to 12 and free for kids 4 and younger. The museum is open Sunday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI)

Museum of History & Industry(Courtesy of La Casse Photography)

If you want a keen understanding of Seattle, the Museum of History & Industry tells the city's rich and fabled history through a series of exhibitions and interactive experiences. Among the don't-miss permanent exhibits: True Northwest: The Seattle Journey, which explores the city's inventive spirit; Maritime Seattle, which explores its relationship with water; and the Bezos Center for Innovation, which highlights Seattle's role as an innovative force.

"MOHAI has a lot of history about Seattle and how it all was built up and came to be," Kahikina says. "If people want to learn about the diverse history of Seattle, it's the place to go."

Admission is $19.95 for adults, $15.95 for seniors, $13.95 for students and military, and free for kids 14 and younger. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with extended hours the first Thursday of the month.

Seattle Pinball Museum

Pinball wizards will travel back to their childhood days with more than 50 games dating from the 1960s to now, including Pac-Man, Galaga and Space Invaders. Machines are set on free play mode, so once you pay the entrance fee, you can play to your arcade-loving heart's content.

"People don't know about the Seattle Pinball Museum," Gomes says. "It's such a blast, but totally in that Seattle cheeky grunge magic way."

Isaac Tarin, concierge at Hotel Andra, adds that it's a great way to relive your youth.

Admission is $15 for adults and $12 for children ages 7 to 12. The museum is open Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m., as well as Friday and Saturday from noon to 10 p.m. It's closed Tuesday.

Living Computers: Museum + Labs

Living Computers: Museum + Labs(Courtesy of Living Computers: Museum + Labs)

Paul G. Allen's Living Computers: Museum + Labs is an ode to computing – from the late 1960s to the present day and beyond. The hands-on experience showcases the world's largest collection of retooled and working mainframes, minicomputers, microcomputers and supercomputers.

Ongoing exhibits feature robotics, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, big data, self-driving cars and an interactive video game makerspace. The Barbie Tech Dreamhouse exhibit (on display through September 2017) showcases the history of women in computing. The museum also offers events such as the Ms. Pac-Man Workshop, which uses a free programming platform from MIT Media Lab to teach participants how to create a downloadable game.

Tarin says, "Want to see how far we have come with technology? Check out the Living Computers museum, which holds the largest collection of restored and working computers from the '60s to today."

Admission is $12 for adults and free for kids ages 5 and younger. The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The first Thursday of the month, the museum stays open until 8 p.m. and offers free admission beginning at 5 p.m.

The Museum of Flight

The Museum of Flight(Courtesy of The Museum of Flight)

Visit the The Museum of Flight, one of the largest air and space museums in the world. It's a bit off the beaten track, but if you like space and aviation, it's well worth the effort. Be sure to check out the World War I and II Fighters exhibits, as well as The Boeing Story: 1916-1958 exhibit, which explores the history of Boeing Co. For something more high-flying, Spaceflight Academy features NASA's Full Fuselage Trainer and explores how shuttle astronauts trained for missions.

Chuck Watts, head concierge at Hyatt at Olive 8, says, "The Museum of Flight is a short bus ride for people who want to take public transportation, otherwise it's a 10-minute drive south of downtown. It's directly in the middle between the airport and downtown Seattle."

In-person admission is $23 for adults, $19 for seniors, $14 for kids ages 5 to 17 and free for kids 4 and younger. Purchase tickets online to save money. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The first Thursday of each month, it stays open until 9 p.m., and offers free admission beginning at 5 p.m.

To experience more of what Seattle has to offer, check out the U.S. News Travel guide.

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