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As one of the city’s most popular attractions, a visit to the Seattle Museum of Pop Culture will likely be on your list of things to do in Seattle. Founded by the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen in 2000, the museum initially began as a tribute to Allen’s love of Jimi Hendrix and has since grown and become an institution dedicated to celebrating pop culture in Seattle and beyond.
Today you can see a wide variety of items and artifacts relating to all branches of pop culture – from TV and movie props and costumes to music memorabilia, in a museum that encourages you to see, hear, and play. There are interactive exhibits that let you try out video games and make your own music.
If you are heading to Seattle and want to add a visit to the Seattle Museum of Pop Culture to your list of things to do there, check out this handy guide so you can plan your visit accordingly. (And if you live in the Seattle-area, maybe it’s time for a return to visit to MoPop.)
The Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle has a great mix of permanent and temporary exhibitions, and the constant updating of the permanent exhibitions means that there is always a reason to visit or re-visit the museum. We usually go at least once a year.
The permanent exhibitions include:
- Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame- Celebrates the most important creators of the two genres and their works, including Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Stanley Kubrick, and Terry Pratchett. Here you can discover these sci-fi and fantasy greats through various interactive exhibits, films, and artifacts.
- Sound Lab – The perfect place for visitors to have a go at making their own music. There are 12 individual studio pods where you can play the guitar, sample some beats, and sing your heart out. It gives you the chance to learn about all aspects of music-making or head to the DJ Hall where you can have a go at spinning discs.
- Worlds of Myth and Magic – A fantastical journey to discover the inspiration behind some of the world’s great fantasy stories, including Harry Potter and The Princess Bride. You’ll see props from TV and movies, including weaponry from The Lord of the Rings and costumes from The Wizard of Oz.
- Scared to Death – The Thrill of the Horror Film explores some of the most terrifying monsters in the horror genre, with props and costumes from some of the most famous horror movies of all time, including A Nightmare on Elm Street, Dawn of the Dead, and Friday the 13th.
- Indie Game Revolution – Featuring the stories of over 40 independent game designers and developers, this exhibition explores how the video games industry has continued to develop over the years. You can also see a sculpture in the main hall consisting of more than 3,000 cubes, representing the pixelated world of video games.
The biggest highlight of MoPOP is the building itself. Designed by architectural legend Frank O. Gehry, the building is reminiscent of many of his other masterpieces, such as the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, with its sheet material construction and interior material exposure.
The exterior of the building is encased in thousands of sheets of wavy aluminum and stainless steel panels which have been arranged in such a way as to give the impression that the building is wrapped in metallic tablecloths. Very much like the exhibits in the museum, the colors of the building change frequently – depending on lighting and angle – so it is highly likely that it will look completely different each time you visit. If you take the Seattle Monorail to the Seattle Center, it goes through the building.
In addition to the permanent exhibitions mentioned above, current highlights of the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle include:
- Sky Church is an impressive hall that can host concerts for up to 700 people and is dominated by a huge video frieze that takes up most of one wall. The moving images, lights, and accompanying music is mesmerizing.
- Wild Blue Angel: Hendrix Abroad 1966-1970 is a contemplative look at how Seattle-born Jimi Hendrix spent life on the road during his rocketing stardom.
- Body of Work: Tattoo Culture is an in-depth exploration of tattooing as an ever-changing art form and how the acceptance of tattoos into the mainstream has been largely driven by popular culture.
- Minecraft: the Exhibition is an immersive exhibition that brings the virtual world of Minecraft to life through full-scale creatures, scenic backdrops, and audio effects.
- Infinite Worlds of Science Fiction showcases a variety of sci-fi movie artifacts demonstrating the range o storytelling within the genre. You can even head off on your own space adventure via an immersive, interactive space where you can explore alternate universes and discover alien civilizations.
How to Get There
Seattle Museum of Pop Culture is located on the Seattle Center campus. View their website here. One of the most convenient ways of getting to the museum is by the Seattle Center monorail which provides a direct connection between downtown Seattle’s Westlake Center and the Seattle Center. Trains depart every ten minutes every day.
If you are driving into town and planning on visiting other Seattle museums and attractions before or after the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle, there are a number of all-day parking lots in the vicinity that are close to Seattle Center attractions (Space Needle, Pacific Science Center and Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum). Free on-street parking is limited.
If you know which day you will be visiting the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle, you will save money by buying your tickets in advance online. Alternatively, if you purchase a Seattle CityPASS, you can choose the Seattle Museum of Pop Culture as one of your optional two attractions included in the pass price.
If you’re local and enjoy pop culture, an annual pass offers lots of value. See the temporary exhibits when the launch, visit for the horror and fantasy exhibits during Halloween and take advantage of being able to stop off to spend time enjoying one exhibit at a time.
Find current ticket information here.
The Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm in winter and until 7 pm in summer, excluding Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Most visitors tend to spend around one-and-a-half to three hours in the museum, but if you are a huge fan of all things pop culture, you could easily spend five hours visiting all the exhibits.
Food and Drink
Food and drink purchased outside of the museum are not permitted, nor are any kind of food and beverages allowed in the galleries. Light meals can be purchased in the on-site urban cafe Culture Kitchen. You can also purchase freshly prepared grab and go items that can then be consumed in the museum’s public spaces.
Photography is allowed in the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle, but flash photography, tripods, and selfie sticks are strictly forbidden.
Additional Tips for MoPOP Visitors
As the exhibits change from time to time, we recommend checking the museum’s website to make sure that an exhibition you want to visit is still running. This is also a good way of keeping up-to-date with any temporary exhibitions which may of interest to you.
If you or anyone accompanying you want to experience the Seattle Museum of Pop Culture with lowered light and noise levels, the museum runs sensory-friendly mornings suitable for those families who would benefit from a low-sensory environment.
In addition to the regular exhibitions, the Seattle Museum of Pop Culture holds a variety of workshops, film screenings, concerts, lectures, conferences, competitions, and kids’ events which may be of interest to you. Keep an eye on the museum’s website to see if anything is happening during your visit.
It is not hard to see why the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle is one of the most popular of all the Seattle museums. Whether you are a huge fan of pop culture across all genres or just have a passing interest in one or two of the current exhibitions, save this to your favorite Pinterest boards so you can put it on your itinerary when visiting the city.