MoPOP (Formerly the Experience Music Project)
If you are heading to Seattle Center, you can’t miss MoPOP! It’s the big, colorful building that used to be called the Experience Music Project. They changed the name to the Museum of Pop Culture. I think that was a smart move because this museum is so much more than just music.
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MoPOP has a special place in my heart because my first internship was at EMP the summer that their Science Fiction Museum launched. At one point, I knew every inch of that museum. In fact, my aunt and uncle donated a piece from The Central tavern to their Seattle grunge section many years ago.
So, What Exhibits Are at MoPOP?
The Seattle Museum of Pop Culture is set up with very distinct areas. They have a few rotating exhibits and some permanent collections. These exhibits cover music, video games, movies, television, and more.
NIRVANA: TAKING PUNK TO THE MASSES
Ok, when you think of Seattle music, the first band that probably comes to mind is Nirvana. This exhibit features more than 200 items and offers video kiosks for guest who want to learn even more. There’s not a lot for little kids, but teens and adults will definitely want to wander through.
INDIE GAME REVOLUTION
Kids will LOVE this area! There are a ton of monitors set up and you basically test out new, indie video games. This exhibit is sponsored by Nintendo, which makes it even cooler. This is a popular exhibit for kids and it can be tricky to get a spot to actually play. My 4 year old tried a few games before he found one that was geared for younger kids. The whole room has a white and purple glow, which is fun!
FANTASY WORLDS OF MYTH & MAGIC
This is my favorite area! They have a few little passageways for kids to walk through, which is pretty fun. The whole exhibit area has a magical feel in its design. There are some items from Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, and The Wizard of Oz.
INFINITE WORLDS OF SCIENCE FICTION
If you are a Trekkie, you’ll find some cool Star Trek memorabilia. There are a couple of Star Wars items, but not enough for my 4 year old! They have a few hands on areas, but they are geared for teens and adults. It’s really dark in this area and little kids might be scared of a few items.
HENDRIX: WILD BLUE ANGEL
Since The Experience Music Project originally started as a Jimi Hendrix museum, you really should walk through here as a sign of respect. This exhibit is 100% for teens and adults as it’s mostly just reading about Jimi Hendrix’s life on the road.
SCARED TO DEATH: THE THRILL OF HORROR FILM
We did not take our little kids into this area, so I can’t speak from first hand account. But, they feature costumes and props from famous horror films and TV shows like The Walking Dead, Friday the 13th, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Nightmare on Elm Street.
Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes Exhibit
My husband is a total Marvel fan and he’s been excited for this exhibit since it launched a few months ago. I’m not a huge superhero fan, but I thought this world premier exhibit was really cool!
MoPOP did a great job of incorporating video, costumes, graphics and props. So, it feels like a real multi-faceted exhibit. Plus, they have several awesome photo ops along the way. And a few interactive elements. There’s really something for everyone!
The first photo op area is this awesome couch with Thing. And that window behind him is actually a video screen where you can watch super heroes fly around. That was my 4 year old’s favorite part. He eventually sat down next to me on the couch, but he was very skeptical about the whole experience and really just wanted to watch the video behind him.
You can find Hulk at the staircase outside of the Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes exhibit. So, if you don’t want to pay extra for this special exhibit, you can still see Hulk! Oh, and there’s also the iconic newsstand that’s near the exhibit entrance that you can look at without a ticket. The line into the exhibit moves pretty quickly, so we had to walk back after to get a good look at it.
I was pretty impressed with how thoughtful this entire Marvel exhibit was. My 4 year old knew some of the characters, but my husband knew them all! He could have easily spent twice as long reading everything. And we kept hearing other visitors raving about how cool this exhibit is! I’d definitely recommend checking it out!
How Kid-Friendly Is MoPOP?
We went with our 4.5 year old and 21 month old. I’d say they were too young to get much out of this museum. They liked hanging out in the Sound Lab to play with the instruments. My preschooler liked playing video games, but he needed a lot of help with the instructions. And for the rest of the museum, they really weren’t interested in anything.
When I asked my 4.5 year old what he thought about MoPOP, he said it wasn’t his favorite. Usually, our family outings involve a lot of hands-on experiences for little kids. And there are usually lots of other little kids to play with. MoPOP is a more sophisticated museum, not aimed for young kids.
I knew going in that my kids would probably be too little to really enjoy this museum.. I think it’s geared more toward kids ages 6 and up, with an emphasis on tweens and teens. And it’s really ideal for adults who get the history and nostalgia. We saw quite a few older parents and teens walking around MoPOP.
But, I wanted to do my due diligence with this blog post and ask around about who else has taken younger kids. My friend is a teacher and she brings her students here (ages 10 and younger) every summer. She says these kids can spend hours in the Sound Lab and in the video game area. They are thoroughly entertained and it’s a fun field trip for them.
So, I think the important thing when doing MoPOP with kids is understanding that your kids might want to spend the majority of their time in these two areas. My suggestion is to go with another adult and take turns exploring the rest of the museum on your own. It’s a super cool museum and it would be a shame not to take advantage while you can!
We also came here years ago (when it was EMP) with my friend and her toddler when they had a Muppets exhibit. That was a ton of fun and they had lots of hands on activities for kids and yes, we all played with the Muppets! And they have had fashion exhibits that have been interesting for younger kids, too.
MoPOP Tips + Tricks
Ok, now that I have given you a complete run-down of our experience at MoPOP with kids, here are my tips for making it a fun, family outing:
We like to park at the Mercer Garage because it’s right across the street from MoPOP. The rates are pretty competitive with other area parking garages. It’s also right next to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Discovery Center, which is super cool and I HIGHLY recommend checking out!
YES, YOU CAN BRING A STROLLER
There are lots of big elevators and the exhibits are large enough that you can push a stroller through. They have stroller parking available for some of the exhibit areas. We used a baby carrier for our toddler for about half of the outing and then he wanted to walk around.
There are ways of visiting MoPOP for discounted rates or for free. The King County Library System has a limited number of free passes available online. They also participate in the Museums for All program, which offers free admission if you have an EBT card. And some Pacific Northwest nonprofit groups qualify for free tickets.
You can also buy a Seattle Citypass Card to save money on your MoPOP tickets, as well as other Seattle attractions.
DON’T SKIP THE SCI-FI/FANTASY AREA
I think the science fiction and fantasy exhibit areas are kind of hidden away in the back of MoPOP. Don’t skip this area! They feature a ton of cool movie props and costumes!
SET A TIMER FOR INDIE GAME REVOLUTION
Once your kids walk into this video game exhibit, they won’t want to leave. So, it might be best to give them a time limit so they can try out a few games before continuing on. Or, leave this for your last stop!
MoPOP has a lot of cool special exhibits. Check the calendar and wait to go until it’s an exhibit you’d like to see. That’s the best way to maximize the admission fee.
VISIT THE GIFT SHOPS
The MoPOP Gift Shops are pretty awesome, especially if you are a nerd or hipster. I mean, they sell RECORDS! Plus, it’s a good spot to get ironic t-shirts (and even baby onesies!) Plus, they carry quirky gift items.
While you are at Seattle Center, you might as well take advantage of this arts & culture hub! There are usually festivals and special events going on, so check the calendar to see what’s happening.
Ok, I still get giddy going up the Seattle Space Needle and I’ve lived here my whole life! It’s one of those iconic symbols of Seattle. Plus, it’s currently undergoing a huge historic renovation! They just opened the “Skyrisers” which makes the viewing area much easier for families. And soon they will launch the world’s first revolving glass FLOOR.
This is a really cool science museum for kids or adults. There are lots of hands on activities, a toddler play area, a planetarium and a butterfly garden. They usually have amazing traveling exhibits (like King Tut, Pompeii, Sherlock Holmes, LEGO, etc.) And we love their special events, like Hawaiian Days and their Miniature Railway Show.
ARTISTS AT PLAY PLAYGROUND
Kids will go NUTS at this super cool Seattle Center Playground. It’s located right outside of MoPOP and is awesome for older kids. They have several tall slides that can only be accessed by climbing up rope ladders. But, they also have a small little kid area and an interesting sand pit with a musical element.
SEATTLE CHILDREN’S THEATRE
I’m pretty passionate about theatre for young kids. I’m so glad we have Seattle Children’s Theatre! We’ve seen several amazing productions here. And they have one of the coolest theatre gift shops, complete with a hands-on puppet theatre!
This is one of my favorite spots at Seattle Center. The colors are stunning and it’s a gorgeous spot to take those Instagram photos. Plus, it was featured in an episode of Top Chef years ago! While we have taken a baby here, I don’t recommend it for little kids.
If you have a little kid who likes planes, trains, and all kinds of transportation, they will get a kick out of the Seattle Monorail! It’s just a 2 minute ride between Seattle Center and Westlake Center, but it can be a thrilling ride for children. I’d suggest parking at Westlake Center, taking the Seattle Monorail to Seattle Center for the attractions, and then heading back on the Seattle Monorail.
THE CHILDREN’S MUSEUM
My family visits a lot of children’s museums when we travel. I think that’s why the Seattle Children’s Museum isn’t our favorite. It definitely has seen better days. But, it’s conveniently located in the basement of the Seattle Center Armory. They do events from time to time and they have a cool global village section. And a train track that travels around a replica of Seattle.
SEATTLE CENTER ARMORY
If you get hungry at Seattle Center, this is an easy spot to grab food. It used to be called the Seattle Centerhouse, but changed it’s name to the Armory several years ago. The restaurants change from time to time, but some of our favorites are Skillet, Big Food BBQ, and Mod Pizza. Oh, that’s also where Starbucks is!
MoPOP provided us tickets in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Things to Do in Seattle with Kids
6 Tips for Enjoying the Pacific Science Center with Toddlers
Scaling Seattle’s Space Needle with Kids
6 Reasons Your Kid Should Ride Seattle’s Monorail
Spend the Day at Pier 57 in Seattle with Kids
Riding The Sounder Train to Seattle’s International District for a Play Date