First Thursday in Seattle: Where to Enjoy Free Museum Admission

Posted on: January 14, 2016

For a Seattle native, the phrase “First Thursday” requires no further explanation. For those who are unfamiliar, however, it helps to know that museums across the city offer free admission to the public on the first Thursday of every month.  All of Seattle comes to life with creative energy and excitement. This is not just a great time to check out what the museums have to offer; it’s a great time to be out and about, in general.

Here’s a rundown of where you should go each month on First Thursday in Seattle, along with a few pointers for making the most of your visits.

For the Art Aficionados

The Seattle Art Museum (SAM) is the premier center for world-class visual arts in the Pacific Northwest, and it is spread across three locations. Its main museum is the downtown location, and the second is the Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park, both of which participate in First Thursday. The third location is Olympic Sculpture Park, which is always free. Check out the online map and guide, which will give you a bit of history on each of the locations, as well as instructions for getting from one location to the next.

Out-of-town guests and new Seattle transplants will especially enjoy the Native American galleries in the downtown location, which feature local Northwest Coast art. If you’re visiting during the summer, be sure to stop by TASTE as you make your way from SAM to Olympic Sculpture Park. TASTE is open every weekend between Memorial Day and Labor Day, and offers seasonal-inspired pastries, espresso, assorted sips, and organic snacks.

For the History Buffs

The Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) is the place to go if you’re interested in exploring our region’s rich and diverse history. This museum is anything but stuffy, with everything from toy exhibits to an interactive exhibit titled The Legacy of Seattle Hip Hop (running through May 1, 2016). Don’t count MOHAI out if you’re looking for something a bit more conventional, however. The museum is also home to such permanent exhibits as Maritime Seattle, the Bezos Center for Innovation, and True Northwest: The Seattle Journey.

The point is that MOHAI has something for everyone, and on the first Thursday of every month, you can enjoy all of it absolutely free of charge. Other history museums that participate in First Thursday are the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, the Northwest African American Museum, the Nordic Heritage Museum, and the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience.

For the Young at Heart

The Kids Discovery Museum is located on Bainbridge Island, just a short walk from the ferry terminal. Here, children and their families are encouraged to explore art, science, and culture in very hands-on, engaging ways. Examples of the type of sensory-based, interactive installations that you’ll find inside of the museum include a Pirate Tree House and Science Hall.

If your little ones are especially energetic, don’t limit your free museum trips to First Thursday. Imagine Children’s Museum is in the heart of Everett and offers kids a rooftop play area, an indoor water play area, an art studio, and so much more. Imagine is free on the third Friday of every month, and it also offers half-price admissions every Thursday from 3pm until 5pm.

Also, while the Seattle Children’s Museum does not participate in any full free admission days, the last hour of every weekday is by donation only. That means that on Monday through Friday from 4:00pm to 5:00pm, you simply pay what your family can afford.

Other museums that participate in First Thursday include the Living Computer Museum, the Museum of Glass, and the Museum of Flight. There are quite a few others that offer scheduled free admission days outside of First Thursday, so be sure to check out FreeMuseumDay.org to find something that works for your schedule. Seattle is never short on exciting and affordable things to do and see.

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