Wear Your Toddler Out and Dive into Seattle History with a Visit to MOHAI

We were itching to check out the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) in it’s new home in Seattle’s Southlake Union neighborhood.  When we decided to visit last weekend, we knew we would leave impressed and happy to have spent some time stepping back in time.  We did not however, know that we’d leave the museum with one worn out toddler.

MOHAI reopened on December 29th in the former Naval Reserve Armory, and we welcomed the change.  The former location will be bulldozed and demolished to make way for the new Highway 520 bridge, and the residents and visitors of Seattle will benefit from the wide open space to learn and reminisce.

Seattle MOHAI

We went into our visit with an open mind, and a loose plan.  Bergen would start out in the stroller as we explored, and when he couldn’t tolerate the restraint anymore, we would take turns playing “follow the leader” around the museum (with Bergen always being the leader), and maybe pay a visit to the children’s play area.

Atrium: Seattle MOHAI

We started out in the atrium and took some time to take in the space and get oriented.  The first thing to catch our eye was the enormous Wawona sculpture.  Made from a recycled ship’s hull, the work of art climbs it’s way to the ceiling giving us an idea of the true grandness of the space.  To tie everything together even more, there is a cutout in the floor just below the sculpture to view the water of Lake Union.

Wawona MOHAI

With it’s wide-open space and plenty of interactive exhibits (including the Wawona), the first floor-atrium is a great place for kids:

  • You can actually sneak inside the sculpture, have a look down to the water and peek through the holes (or in Bergen’s case, talk through them).
  • Opposite of the sculpture is a unique contraption that houses Seattle icons like the Rainier “R”, a cycling Ivar’s clam, and the old “All Roads Lead to the Dog House” sign.  Each icon lights up or moves in someway when you turn a crank below.
  • Desk-size touch screens allow kids and adults to play various “games”.  Through a series of questions, your ideal Seattle neighborhood (to live in) can be chosen for you.

As we meandered upstairs via the gorgeous glass elevator, Bergen held out for just a bit longer in the stroller.  We learned about the Great Northern Railroad, and checked out the exhibit where kids can hammer away on spikes that activate a screen to build railroad trestles.

Interactive Railroad MOHAI

At this point, he could take it no longer.  Bergen needed to be set free.  He was released from the stroller, wasting no time, sped up and down the hallways of the 2nd floor, toddled in and out of exhibit rooms, and showed off his signature pointing, eying all the wonders hanging in the atrium.  Thankfully we found out the museum is for the most part, childproofed.  Anything delicate, special, and breakable is behind glass.   The railings are safe, there’s nothing to knock over, and no tiny pieces to pick-up and pop in the mouth.

MOHAI for toddlers

When we had enough with the 2nd floor, we cruised up to the 3rd floor Maritime Gallery.  Here you can take in beautiful views of Lake Union, and the surrounding Seattle neighborhoods, watch for seaplanes, and marvel at the amazingly crafted wooden boats.  The star of the show is the old U.S. Navy periscope.

MOHAI Periscope toddler

Instead of heading back down on the elevator though, Bergen much preferred to get his exercise and take the stairs.

MOHAI stairs

We couldn’t leave without checking out the kid’s play area on the 1st floor.  While Bergen and Slaed put on puppet shows, built with blocks, get to know Seattle through books, I got to sneak away and take a few extra pictures and gather more information about the exhibits.

Children's Play Area MOHAI

Are you wondering just how worn out our little tot was after all this activity at MOHAI? Well, after a satisfying lunch, Bergen slept a whopping 3 HOURS.  I think it’s safe to say our visit was well worth it!

Info to Know:

  • MOHAI is located Seattle’s Southlake Union neighborhood: 860 Terry Avenue North 98109
  • Hours: Daily 10 am – 5 pm (Thursdays 10 am – 8pm)
  • Admission
    • Adults- $14 & Children under 14 (w/an adult)-Free
    • Free Admission for all-Every 1st Thursday of the month
    • Coupons for buy 1/get 1 admissions are available in both the Seattle Entertainment and Chinook book
  • If driving, bring your patience.  Ongoing roadwork is taking place in the surrounding area.

Where’s the best place for you to wear out your little ones?

Share your secret spots in the comment section!

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