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How to Visit the Burke Museum in Seattle with Kids

How to Visit the Burke Museum in Seattle with Kids

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Looking for a kid-friendly Seattle museum? Keep scrolling to see why you should visit the Burke Museum in Seattle with kids!
This post about the Burke Museum in Seattle, WA was written by PNW family travel expert Marcie Cheung and contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.

My family is always looking for fun things to do with kids in Seattle. We live here and it never ceases to amaze me just how many kid-friendly activities and attractions we have here.

After staying close to home this past year, we’re finally starting to get out and explore Seattle with kids again.

Last weekend, we finally went to check out the new Burke Museum at the University of Washington.

We hadn’t been for about 2 years (right before they closed their old location) but we’ve been hearing lots of good things about their new space.

Keep scrolling to get all the info about visiting the Burke Museum in Seattle, WA and tips to make your trip even more special. Find out why we think it’s one of the best things to do in Seattle with kids!

Don’t have time to read a bunch of Seattle blog posts and reviews? Here are some of our top picks for visiting Seattle with kids.

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Seattle Burke Museum FAQs

Is the Burke Museum fun for toddlers?

It really depends on your child. If they love dinosaurs, the Burke would totally be a great fit for them. And they will probably be re-opening their popular I Dig Dinos event where kids can dig for dinosaur bones at some point (it’s geared for kids 3-7.)

How long does it take to explore the Burke Museum in Seattle?

We spent exactly one hour at the museum, with timed tickets and limited visitors. We tend to do museums fairly quickly and it was easy to move through at our pace because it wasn’t crowded.

What are the hours of the Burke Museum?

The Burke Museum is open Tuesday – Sunday: 10 AM – 5 PM, with the last admission at 4:30 PM. On the first Thursday of every month, they are open 10 AM – 8 PM. The Burke is closed on Mondays.

What is the Burke Museum?

The Burke Museum is located at the University of Washington in Seattle. It’s a natural history museum that also highlights indigenous cultures.

A fun fact is that a group of teenagers (members of the Young Naturalists) actually founded the museum in 1885 in an effort to mark Seattle’s transformation throughout the years.

More than 130 years later, The Burke is still fulfilling that mission. They have even expanded to include more of the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

In 2018, they closed their former location and the new Burke Museum opened in October 2019.

What’s New at the Burke Museum for 2021

The Burke Museum was only open in their new location for a few months before everything shut down. They just re-opened recently.

So, like many places around Seattle right now, the Burke Museum is open for reservations.

Find out how to visit the Seattle Burke Museum with kids. Image of a dad and two boys looking at a large green wall filled with fossils.
Fossil display at the Burke Museum in Seattle, WA.

How to Make Reservations

It’s really easy to make your Burke Museum reservations. Just head to their website and select your date and time.

Right now, they are only releasing 60 tickets per time slot. You are welcome to arrive anytime within your time slot and stay as long as you like.

Get your timed tickets here.

Burke Museum Parking

There is a decent outdoor parking lot right in front of the Burke Museum. You can pay by phone or they have a little pay station right out front.

The museum will send you an email with detailed instructions on how to park at the Burke Museum right before your reservation date.

Oh, and parking is totally free on Sundays!

Museum Exhibit Areas

The Burke has 3 levels and you can access them by stairs or take one of the elevators.

Right now, there are arrows on the ground to indicate the direction and flow to walk through the museum while social distancing.

Culture is Living: Contemporary Culture

This is the first exhibit you’ll see on the ground floor of the museum. It’s filled with hundreds of cultural objects and a few video presentations.

Learn about different cultures at this Seattle natural history museum. Image of some cultural dolls at the Burke Museum in Seattle.
Native American dolls on display at the Burke Museum.

What’s extra fun is that they are some toys from around the world!

There are some cool hands-on activities (like a group weaving installation) that are currently closed for health/safety.

Northwest Native Art: Contemporary Culture

One of the first things you’ll notice in this Native American exhibit area is the 35-foot canoe as well as a few totem poles.

If your family is looking to learn a bit more about PNW tribes, this is an awesome place to start.

This gallery was put together by members of the Suquamish, Wasco, Haida, Kwakwaka’wakw, Tlingit, Okanogan and Lakes tribes.

Amazing Life: Biology

Being a Seattle natural history museum, the Burke has a large exhibit all about biology. In fact, it takes up the entire second floor.

Learn all about the biology of animals at the Seattle Burke Museum. Image of a boy standing in front of a display of animal skeletons.
Biology exhibit at the Burke Museum.

Here, you’ll find lots of animal skeletons and taxidermy animals and learn about how things have evolved over time.

Families can see how the Burke prepares specimens at the Burke Museum. Image of a dad and two boys standing in front of a huge window into a research lab.
Check out how they prep the specimens.

There’s even a large window where families can see real-time work done to ready future exhibits (like preserving dead animals.) There are plenty of warning signs, so it’s easy to skip if you like.

Our Material World: Archeology

If you’ve been talking to your kids about recycling and minimizing waste, this is a pretty eye-opening exhibit. There are big displays that show buried trash from decades ago.

While it’s impactful to see just how much waste we produce, it’s also fascinating to see what that says about what life was like in the 1950s to today.

There are also some areas that highlight Native American culture and what they have learned from their own archeological digs.

Fossils Uncovered: Paleontology

Ok, if you’ve been looking for a dinosaur museum, Seattle has you covered here at the Burke!

See the world's most complete T-Rex skull at the Burke. Image of a dad and two boys in front of a T-Rex skull at the Burke Museum in Seattle.
T-Rex skull at the Burke Museum.

There’s a really awesome dinosaur exhibit the features the most complete T-Rex skull in the world. There are tons of impressive displays that kids will want to see again and again.

Plus, these are the only real dinosaur fossils you can see on display in Washington State.

Indoor Play Area for Kids

Another cool thing to do at the Burke Museum for toddlers and preschoolers is to explore their new play area.

We didn’t have an opportunity to try this out for ourselves, but I snapped a quick photo to show you what it looks like.

Is the Burke Museum in Seattle for kids? Check out this cute indoor play area perfect for little ones. Image of an indoor play area with a climbable orca, a log, and a tent.
Play area at the Burke Museum in Seattle.

Right now, they are limiting this area to one family at a time.

I can see this being a fun place to get some wiggles out once it’s open to more people. It’s a fairly small area, though, so probably good for about 10-15 minutes.

Burke Museum Gift Shop

We always joke that we haven’t met a gift shop we didn’t like. This one is really well done with lots of quality products.

The Burke Museum gift shop is pretty impressive. Image of a shelves filled with animal-related gift items.
Gift shop at the Burke Museum.

It’s located right behind the ticketing counter and they have awesome stuffed animals, geodes, artsy things, shirts, indie games, and tons of things you’ll feel good about buying.

We walked away with a T-Rex and Saber Tooth Tiger.

Burke Museum Cafe

Something super cool is that the Burke Museum cafe is actually the first brick-and-mortar location of Off the Rez. They stared off as a food truck and Food Network ranked them as one of the top 26 food trucks in America!

The Burke Museum cafe is run by a Native American food truck called Off the Rez. Image of a dad and son choosing what to order at the Burke Museum Cafe.
Off the Rez runs the Burke Museum Cafe.

The cafe is located near the lobby with an exterior entrance by the parking lot. There’s lots of seating inside or you can do grab and go.

We’ve been wanting to try Off the Rez for a few years now, so we were really excited to have that opportunity.

OMG the food is super yummy! I highly recommend the Fry Bread (both the plain and the one with cinnamon and sugar.)

What Did We Think of the New Burke Museum in Seattle?

We seriously LOVED it!

I think I was most impressed with how beautiful the museum was. The exhibit areas were really well-thought out and I love that they partnered with artists to really elevate the entire experience.

We’re really looking forward to coming back in the future when we’re able to do all the hands-on activities.

I highly recommend visiting the Burke Museum in Seattle with kids. Image of two boys dancing in front of a dinosaur display.
My kids give the Burke Museum 2 thumbs up!

While we were there, the staff offered my kids a scavenger hunt for the paleontology area where they needed to find some little stuffed animals.

Their reward was a cute sticker that they gave us to award our kids when they completed the hunt. It was a BIG hit with my kiddos!

Having timed tickets and limited visitors made our family feel really safe. And staff was readily available to answer questions and help ensure safety measures were being followed.

I definitely recommend visiting the Burke Museum if you’re looking for a socially-distanced indoor family adventure!

Looking for more things to do in Seattle with kids? Check out our posts about the Amazon Spheres, Seattle Tour Bus, Seattle’s Pier 57, and the Argosy Cruise.

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