Seattle is open for art and culture once more. The city’s museums are now welcoming culture-hungry visitors who’ve made do with Netflix for the past six months. Here’s a guide enjoying Seattle’s culture and arts scene — safely.

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Start your day by exploring Asian Pacific American art and culture at the Wing Luke Museum. One new exhibit looks at “what beauty truly means,” through examining the history, culture and the industry of beauty through an APA lens. Advance-purchase admission tickets offer a smart hybrid experience — one day of an in-person gallery visit, and the following day, a virtual historic-hotel tour offered by a live guide.

Other live virtual options for purchase include a tour of historic buildings important to immigrants, and a “dinner date” with chefs from the Chinatown-International District — guests can cook along at home.

Then move on to First Hill, where the Frye Art Museum began welcoming back visitors Nov. 5. The museum features contemporary video and sculpture, along with a presentation of late-19th and early-20th century paintings from the permanent collection examining depictions of women and femininity.

If you’re inspired to make your own art after visiting the Frye or Wing Luke, the warehouse-sized Blick Art Materials sells paint and canvas, pencils and pens, ceramic materials and more. If you’d like to explore the literary arts, you can a browse the shelves again at Elliott Bay Bookstore, or request curbside pickup of the new Tana French novel or preordered Barack Obama biography.

Some restaurants are closing off streets and expanding outdoor seating at “streateries” or street eateries. Capitol Hill hosts Seattle’s most street-to-supper outdoor corridors, including Broadway Court, Melrose Avenue, East Harrison Street and 11th Avenue, where you’ll find a wide variety of dining options for brunch, lunch or cocktails.

From Capitol Hill, it’s a quick 5-minute drive to downtown Seattle and environs. Near the Space Needle, the Museum of Pop Culture (MOPOP) is open Fridays through Sundays, with an advance ticket. Visitors receive stylus pens to use with interactive exhibits, and the museum is operating at 25% capacity to increase the ease of 6 feet of distance. The Sound Lab (the museum’s music-making area) is closed for now. Kids and teens will be thrilled to hear that the immersive “Minecraft: The Exhibition” has been extended until Spring 2021, and is included with general admission (for a limited time).

Seattle Art Museum: “City of Tomorrow: Jinny Wright and the Art That Shaped a New Seattle.” Virginia Wright’s home. (Eirik Johnson photo)
Seattle Art Museum: “City of Tomorrow: Jinny Wright and the Art That Shaped a New Seattle.” Virginia Wright’s home. (Eirik Johnson photo)

Not far away, the outdoor spaces at the 9-acre Olympic Sculpture Park has even more opportunities for social distancing. However, you can also now admire Seattle Art Museum’s exhibits with a timed ticket in hand and mask on your face, Fridays through Sundays. The new exhibit City of Tomorrow: Jinny Wright and the Art That Shaped a New Seattle” opened Oct. 23, and features 64 modern and contemporary works (including Cindy Sherman, Andy Warhol and Mark Rothko) collected by Seattleite Jinny Wright.

For Saturday dinner, consider one of Pike Place Market‘s many restaurants with pop-up patios, takeout menus, dining balconies and other creative COVID-safer solutions.

On Sunday, start your day with artisanal fare, locally grown foods and handcrafted arts from the outdoor Ballard Farmers’ Market. Shoppers are asked to wear masks, leave pets at home, and preorder when possible.

A short walk away, enjoy the National Nordic Museum‘s physical space, which focuses on Nordic history, past and present — with a permanent exhibit on Nordic life, culture and immigration, and a temporary exhibit on colonialism’s legacy with work by artist La Vaughn Belle.


From Ballard, take a drive to the University District to The Burke Museum. On the museum’s ground floor, pick up lunch at Off the Rez Cafe’s warming wild rice bowl, Indian tacos, or fry bread, served with Nutella, seasonal jams, or cinnamon-sugar (although it’s also delicious “naked”). The Northwest Native American restaurant offers limited indoor seating, some outdoor seating, and to-go service.

Then visit The Burke Museum, which has reopened as well. One of our area’s newest museums, the Burke features striking gallery spaces with ancient fossils, life-size taxidermized animals, and Northwest Native art and foods. Don’t miss the museum’s fascinating 60-foot-tall “Synecdoche” mural by RYAN! Feddersen (Okanogan and Lakes) where symbols transform into creatures that transform into everyday items, or the 16-foot-tall Tiffany stained glass window.

“Synecdoche” mural by RYAN! Feddersen (Burke Museum)
“Synecdoche” mural by RYAN! Feddersen (Burke Museum)

Upon returning home, remember, that you can also support many closed museums offering free virtual programs and events, including the Museum of History & Industry, Northwest African American Museum, and the Henry Art Gallery. Virtual events might include exclusive interviews with the artists, interactive gallery tours, live discussions with historical re-enactors, digital storytelling workshops, discussion panels and more. It’s one way to extend support to beloved institutions — and enjoy some evening entertainment. In slippers, even.

Note: Keep Seattle’s COVID-19 case rate low and attractions open — by wearing a mask and adhering to all rules and requirements. Most venues now require either timed tickets or advance purchase, and will not admit you otherwise. Many institutions have limited hours, with most open on the weekend. If you plan to dine outdoors, dress for the occasion, or have a backup plan. It is Seattle, after all.

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