Recently, my kids and I visited the new 50,000-square-foot facility of theÂ Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI), which has now relocated to Seattleâ€™s South Lake Union neighborhood’s Naval Reserve Building (Armory), right next to the Center for Wooden Boats. It’s easily accessible byÂ South Lake Union Streetcar from downtown Seattle. The former museum was a place we visited…well, once.
What a difference $90 million and more exhibit space can make. Just walking into the intoÂ the museumâ€™s Faye G. Allen Grand Atrium, you’re wowed.Â Planes soar overhead, the Toe Truck is parked in the corner and a tower of Seattle-centric signs and brands is arranged along Wall of Icons. Using small cranks, you can make an Ivarâ€™s Clam dance, a cowboy raise and lower his pistol, and the Rainier beer sign light up. Thereâ€™s some cool art (“Wawona,” an 11,000-pound sculpture carved from a dismantled schooner, that seems to grow up through the ceiling and down into Lake Union below) and an interactive exhibit that takes your photo and asks questions like, â€œHow do you deal with all the rain?â€ and â€œHow do you take your coffee?â€
The previous building also didnâ€™t seem to consider the kids quite as much as it could. But now, children get in free (14 and under with an adult chaperone), and the museumâ€™s exhibits regularly offer interactive aspects. In the main exhibit, “The Seattle Journey,” Kids can help build the railroad in a Simon-says like game…
watch a humorous short musical film on the 1889 Seattle Fire (really well done, in my opinion â€“ watch for the glue potâ€™s star turn), and pull a casino-style slot machine to find out the fate of various early boomtown settlers. Push a button, and discover whether Puyallup is a Native American, Spanish, American or British word.
The history here covers Seattleâ€™s Native American days through our â€œWobblyâ€ union period to todayâ€™s multicultural Pacific Rim-focused tech boom (although this section is quite small).
Rotating exhibits are also engaging (I’ll cover those in a future post), and it looks like additional unoccupied room is available on other floors, so the museum could always expand in the future.
The Compass CafÃ©Â offers a lovely view of the water and boats. There are a good handful of childrenâ€™s dining options: spaghetti ($3.95), pb&j half-sandwiches ($2.50), mac and cheese ($3.95). My kids loved the Compass Cookies, which turned their tongues blue.
The front desk provided a children’s scavenger hunt, but honestly, we were so engaged in the museumâ€™s hands-on activities that we didnâ€™t have time to play the suggested games.
So I bought a membership; now we have one more wonderful way to spend a rainy day.
Bonus: Family and early-learning options, including Saturday morning “Family Lab.”
Read more about the hours and prices.