Harry Potter, Picasso & Purses: Fall Museum Round-Up

Wow, cool exhibits are in Cascadia! From Vancouver, BC to Portland, Oregon, here are my picks for the very best fall exhibits in science, art, history and children’s museums. Most end in January or February, so visit before the exhibits pack up and roll down the highway to the next town.

Harry Potter: The Exhibition

Pacific Science Center, Seattle; October 23, 2010 – January 30, 2011.

This hands-on exhibit is a dream come true for Harry fans: A walk through Harry’s world. View the movie’s costumes and props, try pulling a mandrake from a pot, sit in Hagrid’s leather chair and toss a Quaffle. Online ticket purchase options include daytime visits, daytime visits with a movie and evening visits (weekends only); PacSci membership does NOT get you into this special exhibit. My kid cannot wait to go and is incessantly nagging me to buy tickets.

Identity: An Exhibition of You

OMSI, Portland; Sept 25, 2010 -February 6, 2011.

Who are you? Explore the meaning of identity through your physical, intellectual and social landscape. Age your face, morph your photo into a different gender or identity, discover whether you have a “male” or “female” brain and find out which social groups you think you fit into.


Portland Children’s Museum; October 8, 2010-January 4, 2011.

This exhibit brings tinkering to a brand new level. Use a 3D touch screen to plan your Tinkertoy designs, play with the “Tinker Tank,” a giant canister modeled on the instantly recognizable container and create a work of wonder with thousands of rods, spokes and fins.


Science World, Vancouver; September 19, 2010-January 2011.

Plastinized body parts – brains, lungs, hearts, feet and everything in between – are displayed at this Halloween-ready exhibit. These are real body parts, not replicas, so you’ll see the effects of diet and exercise on health. In one area of the exhibit, visitors can touch plastinized body parts. You do it and tell me all about it, because I’m not gonna. Tickets are extra, and cost $26 for adults and $13 for children.

Clutch It! The Purse and the Person

Museum of History and Industry, Seattle; November 20, 2010 -February 14, 2011

If you’re living with a budding tween fashionista who insists she hates museum visits, you may want to bring her to this girly exhibit. Developed from a private collection of over 3,000 purses (and no, it wasn’t Paris Hilton), from a flapper’s beaded handbag to a contemporary pony-print purse.

Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris

Seattle Art Museum, Seattle; October 8, 2010 – January 17, 2011

Big painter P is in the house! OK, that may not be a reverential way to refer to one of the 20th century’s greatest artists. Over 150 paintings, drawings and sculptures reveal Picasso’s unique way of looking at the world – even kids can marvel over Dora Maar, a woman with a double profile and hand bent at irregular angles. Modern art piques kids’ curiosity, and Picasso was one of the best. Note: Reduced ticket prices on Thursday and Friday nights ($20 for adults, $17 for military, children free)


At right: The school uniform worn by Harry Potter(tm) as seen in Harry
Potter and the Order of the Phoenix(tm). Photo courtesy of Pacific Science Center. HARRY POTTER, characters, names and related indicia are trademarks of and (c)Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. Harry Potter Publishing Rights
(c) JKR.

35 Free and Cheap Things to Do With Kids in Seattle

Visiting Seattle on a budget? No problem.

Check out these 35 free and cheap family-friendly activities in Seattle:

1. Ride a bike on the Burke-Gilman Trail.

2. Run through the 9,000-gallon International Fountain.

3. Watch fish and boats navigate through the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks.

4. Cower under giant traffic cones and play hide-and-seek among the art at the Olympic Sculpture Park.

5. Ride the West Seattle Water Taxi to West Seattle.

6. Sample fruit and meet the Doughnut Robot at the Pike Place Market.

7. Pick the Fremont Troll’s nose and take a picture with Lenin in the Fremont neighborhood.

8. Check out the cheese-making process at Beecher’s Handmade Cheese.

9. Visit a kid-friendly museum art on a free day.

10. Ride the Seattle Monorail between Seattle Center and downtown Seattle.

11. Buy a cheap cup of Ivar’s Clam Chowder and stroll along the waterfront piers.

12. Listen to buskers at a neighborhood farmer’s market.

13. Eat fish and chips, then people-watch along the seawall at West Seattle’s Alki Beach Park.

14. Ride the Seattle-Bainbridge route of Washington State Ferries for awesome views.

15. Sit in the $7 Center Field Bleachers at a Mariners game.

16. Go beachcombing for crabs and shells at the 534-acre Discovery Park.

17. Enjoy a storytime, pick out a comic book and consider the intestinally (!) colored Red Room at Seattle Public Library’s Central Library.

18. Fly that cool kite at Gas Works Park.

19. Chew a pack of gum and add your Hubba Bubba to the nasty-but-cool gum wall.

20. Wave at passing Amtrak trains and ride down a salmon slide at Carkeek Park.

21. Play on the giant tree and go camping at REI Flagship Store.

22. Check out vintage boats at the Center for Wooden Boats.

23. Pick up one piece of free fruit for kids (ages 12 and under) at a neighborhood PCC.

24. Take your toddlers to one of the Environmental Learning Centers.

25. Take your teen to a retro flick in at Fremont Outdoor Movies.

26. Go for a kid-friendly urban hike.

27. Skip along to ska and boogie to Brazilian jazz at the free Out to Lunch Concerts.

28. Travel ’round the world via a Festal! Event in the Center House.

29. Splash in a community wading pool and meet the locals.

30. Get a scoop of premium ice cream at Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream.

31. Rent a rowboat from the University of Washington’s Waterfront Actvities Center.

32. Check out a $2 movie at Seattle’s Crest Cinema Centre.

33. Grey day got you down? Visit the cacti in the Volunteer Park Conservatory.

34. Watch (and perhaps catch) a salmon at Pike Place Fish.

35. Buy Japanese strawberry-cream milk candy at Uwajimaya.

Find more great things to do with kids in Seattle in my book, Northwest Kid Trips: Portland, Seattle, Victoria, Vancouver (and if you decide to order it, please use my link! Thanks!).

Enjoy 20% off worldwide with last-minute Starpick rates at Westin Hotels!

Seattle Family Vacation

Mindport Art in Bellingham with Kids

Mindport art gallery and museum in bellingham with kids

Art galleries don’t usually welcome children with open arms. Or ask you to touch the art.

But Mindport, in Bellingham, Wash., is a different sort of gallery. The wooden works inside are meant to be used by hands big and small. It’s an artistic explosion of science, music and movement. Rube Goldberg would love this gallery-museum-playspace.

The light-filled entry gallery offers multiple workstations with awesomely odd contraptions, including a pneumatic ping-pong device that spins balls using forced air; a pun-riddled miniature train route; and a case with a hundred compasses — all controlled by the magnet in your child’s hand.

The second gallery has subdued lighting and natural items to explore — shells, bones — along with a music corner featuring a few guitars and light-and-sound invention that’ll have the kids dancing.

The gallery isn’t just for kids, and parents are expected to keep a watchful eye to ensure a child’s gentle hands. But the creators-owners encourage, explain and enthuse over visitors of all ages. After a short time, Mindport’s mellow calm will seep into your soul, and perhaps inspire an invention or two at home.

Best for: Children of all ages; not a place to go with cranky kids right before dinner or at naptime.

Mindport is located at  210 West Holly, in Bellingham, Wash. Hours are Wednesday through Friday noon-6 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday noon-4 p.m. It’s closed every Monday and Tuesday. Admission is $2.

Bellingham Family Vacation