Seattle Art Museum: 10 Awesome Things to Do in 2024

Seattle Art Museum (SAM) is one of the best places to visit in Seattle, especially for an art lover! It showcases global art collections, temporary installations, and special exhibitions curated from around the world.

Visitors love the stunning artwork at the Seattle Art Museum, which has educational programs and events for an artistic experience. In this post, I will share everything you need to know about this beautiful museum in Seattle.

About Seattle Art Museum

Seattle Art Museum, lovingly called SAM, is a lighthouse of art in downtown Seattle. SAM has become a sanctuary for art lovers and history enthusiasts with its diverse collections ranging from ancient artifacts to contemporary works. 

10 Best Things to Do at the Seattle Art Museum

The awe-inspiring collections will leave you speechless when you enter the Seattle Art Museum. SAM offers tons of activities and events for everybody.

1. Explore the Collections

The Seattle Art Museum is home to over 25,000 pieces of global art from ancient to modern day. You can explore various cultural artifacts, from paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts to contemporary installations.

SAM is home to permanent collections from around the world. The museum’s collections feature art pieces from European, African, Asian, Native American, and Oceanic cultures. You can also enjoy yearly rotating exhibitions that showcase modern and contemporary art styles.

2. Dive Into the Art Exhibitions

The Seattle Art Museum is renowned for its thought-provoking and diverse exhibitions, often featuring world-renowned artists. From ancient sculptures to contemporary installations, every exhibition offers a different perspective on the world of art.

  • One of SAM’s most highly anticipated exhibitions is “Flesh and Blood: Masterpieces from the Capodimonte Museum.” This exhibition features over 40 artworks from the famed Italian museum and is a must-see for any art enthusiast.
  • The Seattle Art Museum played a significant role in cultural enrichment, notably displaying a collection from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation in 1954. These pieces were later donated to the museum in 1961, enhancing SAM’s permanent collection.
  • In 1959, the museum hosted an exhibition of Vincent Van Gogh’s works, drawing 126,100 visitors and solidifying Seattle’s appreciation for fine arts.
  • SAM also organized a retrospective of Mark Tobey, a renowned Northwest School painter, which expanded its influence by touring four other U.S. museums.
  • The museum played a pivotal role in the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, showcasing Tobey’s works and highlights of its Asian collection, blending local creative talent with global artistic heritage.
  • In 1974, SAM honored Jacob Lawrence, a towering figure in African American art who had made Seattle his home four years prior.
  • In 1997, the “Leonardo Lives” exhibition showcased the Codex Leicester, a manuscript by Leonardo da Vinci, acquired by Bill Gates. This exhibit revealed the genius of the Renaissance master, highlighting SAM’s dedication to sharing exceptional art with the public.

But the list is countless! Explore current exhibitions and upcoming ones here to plan your next visit.

3. Visit the Libraries

The Seattle Art Museum is not only a haven for visual art but also offers rich resources for research and learning through its well-established libraries.

  • The Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library
  • The McCaw Foundation Library of Art

Both libraries welcome scholars, artists, and the public seeking knowledge or inspiration in art and culture. Both are available to the public by appointment. So while you are there, check out the vast collections of books, periodicals, and digital resources that cater to all ages.

4. Have Family Fun at SAM

The Seattle Art Museum offers many family-friendly activities and programs. The museum provides a dynamic and interactive atmosphere for children of all ages to engage with art. Weekly family activities like storytelling, art sessions, and tours make SAM the perfect place for creative bonding.

5. Attend an Event at SAM

The Seattle Art Museum organizes events that offer engaging opportunities to connect with art. Attend lectures, workshops, and performances to enhance your artistic experience. You can find all upcoming events on the museum’s calendar.

Obvious tip: Book tickets in advance, as events often sell out quickly.

6. Take Guided Tours

Want a deeper understanding of SAM’s collections? You’re in luck! The museum offers guided tours that bring you face-to-face with amazing art and the stories behind them.

Enrich your museum experience by taking part in one of SAM’s several tours:

  • Docent-led tours: Expert volunteers guide you through the museum.
  • Self-guided tours: Roam at your own pace and explore the museum. Buy it here.
  • Audio tours: Download the app, put on your headphones, and take the audio tour.

7. Dine in the Restaurant inside the Seattle Art Museum

After exploring the museum, visit MARKET Fishmonger & Eatery at the Seattle Art Museum. Enjoy a variety of seafood delights, like fresh oysters, crab, lobster rolls, and fish and chips.

Pair your meal with refreshing drinks. MARKET Seattle offers a unique and gratifying culinary experience at the intersection of art and flavor.

8. Attend an Educational Program

For those looking to deepen their understanding of art, SAM offers an array of lectures, artist talks, film screenings, and workshops throughout the year. These programs provide a deeper dive into various artistic disciplines and cultural topics.

These programs are for students, teens, families, and just about anybody who wants to learn more about art. Check out the museum’s website for upcoming educational events and programs.

9. Relax in the Olympic Sculpture Park

Step outside the main museum building into the Olympic Sculpture Park, a 9-acre modern and contemporary art sanctuary. Among soaring trees and tranquil green space, sculptures by renowned artists beckon for reflection and admiration.

The park also offers stunning views of Puget Sound, nearby mountains, and the city skyline. Take a stroll or picnic while enjoying the beauty of art and nature. 

10. Enjoy the View from the Rooftop Terrace

Wrap up your visit and ascend to the SAM’s rooftop terrace. It’s probably one of the most underrated things to do at the Seattle Art Museum that helps you reflect on the beauty and inspiration from the collections. The panoramic views of Seattle’s skyline are a perfect end to a day of artistic awe. 

Address and Locations

You can find SAM at the heart of Seattle, with its entrance located on 1st Ave and Union St. SAM’s proximity to other key attractions makes it a central spot on any Seattle tourist’s itinerary. It’s just one block from Pike Place Market. Global art collections and exhibitions from around the world bridge cultures and centuries.

Hours of Operation

Monday & TuesdayClosed
Wed to Sun10 AM – 5 PM

SAM’s doors are open to visitors from Wednesday to Sunday, welcoming guests from 10 AM to 5 PM as I write this. The museum remains closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, allowing for new installations and restoration work to occur behind the scenes.

Tickets for Admission

Teens (15-19)$22.99
Kids (14 & Under)Free
SAM MembersFree
Seniors (65+)$27.99
Militar Personnels$27.99

Securing your Seattle Art Museum tickets in advance is convenient and can save you money. When you purchase your SAM tickets online, you’ll save $3 compared to the day-of-visit ticket price.

So, plan ahead and buy your tickets on the first Thursday of each month to make the most of this opportunity. Your admission guarantees entry to the museum and all exhibitions, offering an expansive artistic experience.

Seniors, military personnel, students, and teens enjoy reduced rates. Children under 14 and SAM members have free admission!

Seattle Art Museum Free Day

The Seattle Art Museum has special free days where admission charges are waived, mostly on the first Thursday of every month. This offers free admission for the entire day, allowing visitors to explore SAM’s diverse and extensive collections without cost.

The first Friday of each month is free for seniors to visit the museum! However, special exhibitions downtown require a $7.99 fee for access to exclusive pieces. Also, The museum offers free admission to the Seattle Asian Art Museum on the last Friday of every month.

Seattle Art Museum Parking Rates

The Seattle Art Museum provides parking vouchers for discounted rates. Pick up a voucher at the ticketing desk before returning to your vehicle.

Seattle Art Museum offers discounted parking rates of $8 for up to four weekend hours. The parking garage beneath the museum is conveniently accessible from Union Street.

The facility is ADA-accessible and includes an elevator for easy access to the primary entrance and art sanctuary. Don’t forget to insert your parking voucher after your entry ticket to enjoy the weekend discount when exiting the garage.

Another parking option, located just four blocks from SAM on Stewart Street, is the 3rd and Stewart garage. It offers discounted rates from Wednesday to Sunday. Park here for $10 up to 4 hours, with standard fees afterward.

Locations of the Seattle Art Museum (Facilities)

There are four major facilities worth mentioning:

  • Main Facility
  • The Modern Art Pavilion
  • The Asian Art Museum
  • And the Olympic Sculpture Park.

The Main Facility of the Seattle Art Museum offers a cultural odyssey featuring art from various periods and regions. From Renaissance masterpieces to Indigenous art, each visit unveils discoveries. The Modern Art Pavilion, located nearby, showcases groundbreaking contemporary art.

The Asian Art Museum offers a deeper understanding of Asian history and aesthetics. Its art pieces span centuries, including traditional and modern works from various Asian cultures.

The Olympic Sculpture Park merges the beauty of nature with creative sculpture, making art accessible in everyday spaces.

Visit the Seattle Art Museum

Getting to SAM is easy, whether by car, public transit, bike, or ferry. Drivers can take exits off I-5 and I-90 that lead to the museum. Commuters using Seattle’s transit system will find multiple bus stops and light rail stations nearby. Cyclists and ferry passengers also have convenient access to SAM.

Remember: Regardless of how you plan to visit, cross-reference with the museum’s official website for the most up-to-date information on exhibitions, tickets, and hours of operation.

Now, let’s talk about what you can do there.

My Final Words for the Seattle Art Museum

The Seattle Art Museum offers a complete art experience for everybody. With its diverse collections, exhibitions, and programs, SAM always has something new to discover. This museum has something for all types of explorers, from families to solo adventurers.

So, next time you’re in Seattle, don’t miss out on visiting the Seattle Art Museum and experiencing everything it offers. Let the beauty of art unfold before your eyes at SAM! Happy exploring!

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