Field Trip: Burke Museum of Natural History & Culture

When we lived in Los Angeles we were avid members of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles.  We loved it and could spend hours upon hours roaming the halls and taking in all the animal dioramas.  The special exhibits were fantastic and really we never did tire of it.  When we moved to Portland, OR the Natural History museum was missed so much, by both my kids and by T and I.  

Upon my research of museums and things to do in Seattle I was surprised to learn that the UW campus is home to the Burke Museum of Natural History.  Luckily my aviation museum membership has reciprocal member benefits via the ASTC.  The museum is open 7-days/week so we took the opportunity and checked it out last weekend after two back to back youth soccer games.  

 As mentioned above the museum is housed on the University of Washington and there is ample, FREE parking.  Just be careful as there were a ton of students roaming the grounds and not all of them were totally aware of moving vehicles in their direct vicinity.

There are some great Native American carvings at the entrance of the museum which I loved seeing.  The whale carving below is magnificent! 

What my boys really wanted to see were bones and fossils!  They just love that stuff.  They were not let down.  The collection is not massive but still impressive and blew my kids minds.  The boys are 6 1/2 and 8 and are really fascinated by natural history so seeing all the various specimens was so fantastic for them.  Since the 8-year old is an avid reader this was really the first time he took his time reading all the descriptions of the items.  Even my nearly 3 year toddler was blown away and was convinced that the dinosaurs bones were relics of Godzilla.  (Clearly the sister of two older brothers!)

There weren't just bones and fossils but there was a nice collection of gemstones and minerals, cultural artifacts (in fact there's an entire floor dedicated to cultural history of the pacific), a few hands on area's for the kids, and a more scientific area dedicated to plant life and birds of the Pacific Northwest.  It was nice that there was a little stopping point where the kids could rest for a bit by looking at books, doing some puzzels etc. before continuing to the second level.

The day we were there the museum was hosting a flautist and he was performing a free concert for all visitors.

All in all the museum is pretty small but packed with some great things.  We were there for just over an hour (mainly due to 2 of the 3 kids starting to melt down).  Although I took my 2 1/2 year old I would say that maybe this would be better for 3 1/2 years and up and even at that depending how engaged your preschooler is with bones, fossils and dinosaurs so you'll have to be the judge.  There is an onsite cafe with numerous tables to sit and relax at.  The gift shop is small and adjacent to the cashier/information desk.  If you take your kids distract them with the exhibits up front and they won't even notice the gift shop filled with kid bait.  While you are on the UW campus I would suggest take a stroll around the beautiful grounds.  There are some interesting old buildings, a small, old observatory and if you go in the next few weeks I'm sure it will be beautiful with all the beautiful leaves scattered about.

Here are some photos:

articulated Sabertooth:  I thought this was awesome and would totally showcase this in my home!

articulated Mastadon:  Big red thought this was AWESOME

Big Red & Donx infront of an impressive Maori carving

The most insane costume ever!!

Extremely large headresses

Such amazing, detailed puppets from various pacific region cultures

Museum Info:
University of Washington campus at the corner of 17th Avenue NE and NE 45th Street.  There are signs that will guide you in.

Open Daily from 10am-5pm

On the first Thursday of each month, the museum stays open until 8 pm—and admission is free.
Closed: Christmas Day (Dec. 25), New Year's Day (Jan. 1), July 4th, Thanksgiving Day.
Early closing: Museum closes at 3 pm on December 24 and December 31.
Weather closure: During inclement weather, call the museum after 10 am (206-543-7907) to confirm it is open.

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