The EMP Museum in Seattle is like someone asked “what is Nicole a nerd about?” and made a museum (minus the board games, get on it EMP!). The EMP Museum used to be the “Experience Music Project” but has grown to be generally a pop culture – film, movies, music etc – museum in a gorgeous Gehry building.
I was lucky enough to be in town while the Star Wars costume exhibition was showing, and made a beeline to see that first. It is a mix of costume and design information from the newer prequels, and also the original trilogy. Even though I’m not as much of a fan of episodes 1-3, the costuming is incredible and it was amazing to see it close up.
But I did get the most, nostalgically, out of the older info, designs and costuming. I especially loved the sketches and inspiration cited for many of the costumes, and the droid design. Beautiful stuff.
Next stop were a couple of smaller exhibitions as part of the (what I believe to be) permanent displays. I didn’t know they were part of the museum (I planned my visit poorly, obviously) and I was so excited to wander through. The first was “Can’t Look Away: the Lure of Horror Film“. There’s a little bias on some of the content due to the directors that consulted & curated clips of their favourite films (Roger Corman, John Landis, and Eli Roth), but it does a great job at looking at the genre overall, highlighting the history of the iconic movies in the genre, looks at monsters and fear and has loads of cool artefacts on display. I legitimately flipped out at the Sean of the Dead shirt. It had a lot of great information, and was a good primer for those not familiar with horror movies. And the design of the space, plus the audio playing around there, was perfect.
Heading out of horror into Sci-Fi, the Infinite Worlds of Science Fiction exhibition has a bit less of a narrative, but still showcases the vastness of the genre in film and TV very well, old school and new. Terminator 2 is one of my fave all time movies, so I geeked out a lot at that little glass case, but really enjoyed all of the stuff on display. So much is from a private collection, I’d love to be in a place to have that stuff in my own collection!
Onto something slightly more laid back, the Fantasy: Worlds of Myth and Magic exhibition was thematically a gorgeous space (down to the stone walls, magic tree structures and fake pine needles on the floor) and had a lot of my favourites in there. I really enjoyed the interactives they had on various screens in this exhibition too – taking quizzes to see what kind of fantasy archetype you are, creating a map of a fantasy kingdom etc. It was a real treat to see the Princess Bride costumes and weapons!
I wandered the “main” part of the building after that, popping into the Indie Game Revolution exhibition and also checking out the very cool Sound Lab interactive (I learnt to play a little hook on the piano!). Marveled at the massive guitar installation, too.
My last stop was the Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses exhibition. I came a little late to being a fan of Nirvana, but in the mid 90s I was a huge fan of grunge in general, especially Pearl Jam. And that also influenced a lot of the music I ended up getting into, especially other punk and riot grrl. This blurb about the exhibiton says it as well as anything else: “Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses explores the public and personal story of a single band, but it also invites visitors to discover the underground music scene in which Nirvana developed.” I very much enjoyed the look at the band’s development in context of the local scene, and especially the ‘oral history’ of music around that time, which was accessible at screens throughout the exhibition to sit down and explore. There were also lots of music stations throughout the exhibition to listen to Nirvana’s music from certain periods, along with their peers.
I felt a lot of emotion and connection to the exhibitions I saw at the EMP Museum. Usually when I’m visiting a museum in a city, it’s pretty history-centric, about a place/culture/environment. This was about stuff I loved, and it was great to have that experience when visiting a museum.
The EMP Museum is open daily, you can buy tickets online & also (like I did) get them as part of the Seattle City Pass. The price is a little high, but for the extensive content on display, I believe it’s worth it – especially when you are passionate about pop culture!
One of my favourite travel things is seeking out and eating new and delicious vegan foods in cities I go to. My friend Susan had been to Seattle last year and raved about the eats there, so I was pretty excited, and armed with a great list of recommendations. I didn’t get everywhere I wanted to (it’s time consuming bussing around Seattle), but what I tried I was overall very pleased with!
I’d like to get my couple of sad experiences out of the way… Flying Apron gluten free bakery. I had my suspicions, considering everything Adam & I had tried making from their cookbook was not great. But yeah. Sad gluten free goodies. When you know how light, moist & amazing GF can be, rock hard scones & sad crumbly donuts/cookies are such a disappointment. I didn’t try any of their savoury stuff, so can’t speak to that. The brew was a nice one, from a local roast. Sorry, Flying Apron 😦
My other less than enthusiastic experience was Cyber Dogs – a veggie hot dog place/internet cafe. It may have been that I was in a rush, or that I really just picked the wrong dog for me, but I wasn’t impressed with the quality or the taste. This is the Chicago-style dog. Maybe I’d try them again next time if someone can recommend something not so overwhelming.
I missed out on Violet Sweet Shoppe, which I hear is a great Seattle bakery – it was just a bit too out of my way for the time I had to get there! I did make my way to Cinnamon Works in Pike Place market the afternoon I was wandering around there. I marvelled at the GIANT vegan cookies they had, and then scoffed this wonderful cinnamon bun (which they slightly warmed for me!). They also have GF goodies.
I also grabbed a bag of these when I spotted them in Pike Place market. Tasty and spicy, but not salty enough!
By far and away the most amazing sweet treats I had while in town were Mighty-O donuts. I made a mad dash my last morning in town to make sure I didn’t miss out on trying them, and I’m so glad I did!! I had these beauties for breakfast (i’m still thinking about the incredible apple fritter…), and took a box to go for a little Seattle taste on the plane & work the next day. Such a delicious place with classic, amazing donuts.
I went to Cafe Flora for a nice team dinner with my gaming team & supporters (we took part in the Gauntlet board game fundraiser at Mox Boarding House!), and it was a great evening! A wonderful little restaurant with friendly service, and flavourful food plus a nice wine list – but also lovely local cider for folks like me! Everything from the starters to dessert was a hit, and I would go back there in a heartbeat because there’s so much more I wanted to try – it’s a vegetarian restaurant, but they have lots of vegan options and GF is well marked too.
Starters – and coconut tofu
My main – a delicious portabello mushroom french dip with side salad.
And a couple of the many desserts we tried!
Once upon a time way back in the day, I visited a Veggie Grill in Los Angeles, and was in love. The chain’s expansion into Seattle is a little less fast food-y, more a mix of burgers and proper meals and sides than I recall. I ate at two seperate locations in one day because it was so great – but I forgot to snap a pic of my 2nd meal which was an incredible Crispy Chikin’ plate – with mash and greens and gravy nom. Below is my lunch burger, a grillin’ chikin’ and also my face.
In a quite hungover state one day, and in need of some really filling comfort food, I made my way to the Wayward Vegan cafe. I wish I’d been staying closer to Wayward so I could’ve tried their breakfast and lunches too! It was amazing. Their massive ‘chicken fried’ seitan smothered in gravy, with greens and hash. Plus a bottle of nooch & a sprayer of Bragg’s on every table! Yaassss.
I really liked the decor there! Nifty painted plates, plus my table which was made of part of a bowling alley lane!
On my last full day in Seattle I was in dire need of refuelling between museum-hopping. Not far from the EMP Museum (plus the Space Needle, etc) is Bamboo Garden vegetarian restaurant. They have a huge selection on their menu, but I decided to go for a lunch combo so I could have a little of a few things. It was great value for money, tasty and filling. I had the hot & sour soup, and the plate with spring rolls, ‘chicken’ fried rice, sauteed green beans and broccoli, and sweet and sour ‘chicken’. I don’t get out much for Chinese food here in Toronto, and I think this would be the kind of place I’d want to have anyhow.
As a refreshing way to end my last full day in town, I had some bar time with friends! I met them at Capitol Cider where I had this really delicious cider flight. I would drink this again and again.
Then we walked up to the Highline, a vegan bar in Capitol Hill. They had a really nice canned cider I hadn’t tried so far in my trip, plus bingo! Plus AMAZING tacos. Seriously, incredible. We got the ‘fish’ tacos. Oh my god. A crumbed and fried soy protein with some nori for flavour, plus a cool slaw and fresh cilantro. They have a great range on their vegan menu (almost everything had a drink pairing suggestion, too!), and I’d go back for the not-so-divey dive bar food any day.
I’m bummed to have missed out on Violet Sweet Shoppe, like I said. I also didn’t make it to Plum Bistro which I’d heard both good & bad things about. Next time. There’s also the pie truck (High 5) and the vegan food truck (No Bones About It) that I missed. Plus loads of coffee shops, and a couple of other bars that I wanted to visit.. so yeah, Seattle will be seeing me and my appetite again sometime!!
One place I don’t think I’d have considered going to without having it recommended to me is the Chihuly Garden and Glass gallery, right at the base of the Space Needle in Seattle. I’d heard a couple of mentions of it here at work, and also from people in the Seattle area. Although not as focused (I suppose) as the Chihuly museum in Tacoma (were Dale Chihuly is from), it is still a stunning showcase of his design and work.
Much of the time I like to visit museums rather than galleries – I always find the former to be more engaging and the latter to usually be aesthetically pleasing more than anything else. (On occasion I am wrong!) While there’s a little interpretive info in the Chihuly Garden & Glass gallery, mostly you are there to walk among the stunning pieces and to be dazzled. I audibly gasped at many of the pieces. Inside the gallery, bold colours & shapes along with dramatic lighting create an intense experience.
Those sea-creature-esque bowls in one of the last rooms before the garden were possibly my favourite thing. So delicate and rich with pigment. The way they were displayed around the edge of the room like some sort of coral reef was gorgeous. Of course, there were many beautiful and seemingly impossible pieces inside – on the way out, these pieces in the walkway above floated, but I don’t know how the weight was supported!
It is hard to believe how someone could dream these things up, let alone make them! Out in the courtyard/cafe, they have glass blowing demonstrations that gives you an idea of the difficulty and time involved. (It seems like quite a bit! But fascinating to watch.)
I also enjoyed seeing these pieces, design ideas/sketches for glass art from Chihuly:
The more external pieces are equally as stunning in daylight, rather than the spotlights of the gallery. The way every piece is integrated into structures or to the gardens is masterful, and it’s so refreshing to see art presented in this way. I haven’t ever before been so impressed by presentation of installations like this, nor by glass art itself.
I highly recommend a visit if you are ever in Seattle. I had a ticket as part of my Seattle CityPass, and you can also buy combined tickets with the Space Needle, which makes sense given the proximity! Find out about visiting here.
I did a bit of non-museum wandering while in Seattle – whaaat! While I pause for the moment on writing about the museums and galleries, here’s a little about the sights I saw. I also will be writing up on the food I enjoyed – and I have already written up my thoughts on the game cafes I visited while in town over at the Daily Worker Placement.
Now I think about it, I regret not taking any photos of the UW campus, which I should have – it was lovely and green – but that’s where the Burke Museum‘s building was, so you can see at least the outside of it there. First day in town I had a wander around the Pike Place Market general area in the downtown/central part of Seattle. I wasn’t interested in the actual market – especially the gross fish throwing, blergh! – but I saw some nice little nooks and crannies and it was a good way to have a relaxed and less focused visit somewhere.
I found this wonderful little urban garden – and there was a lovely view from there! It was such a wonderful little oasis, with lots of veggies & herbs growing, that I believe are used by some of the restaurants in the market.
A couple of little quirks I found wandering in the quieter parts of the market. Yes, the dudes washroom was XY.
I then hit the streets and little alleyways of the market’s surrounds. I saw the ‘original’ Starbucks which was hella busy, but I honestly just wished there was a really good indie coffee store around there somewhere! When I went to the gumwall there was a wee cafe called ‘Ghost Alley Espresso’ which wasn’t too bad – and it was a nice spot to chill out and watch people be grossed out by the gum 🙂
More random wanderings – first pics are from a neat installation near MOHAI. My second morning in town I took a really nice walk from where I was staying in Ballard over to Fremont. I was aiming to get a bite to eat at one of the vegan places in the ‘hood, but I also came across random Lenin, and visited the Fremont troll!
Whenever I go to a city with a big ol’ tower, I love to go up in it. I love getting the perspective! I love the views from the CN Tower here, and although the Space Needle isn’t quite as high, it’s lovely views. I had a pass that allowed me to go up both at night and during the day, which was great! Unfortunately, the daytime was too hazy to see Mount Rainier 😦
Bonus views from the elevator ride of the tops of nearby buildings/museums:
They had lots of great info for visitors, and interactives – like having an automated camera take your photo (included in your ticket price) that you could email to yourself, interactive live/archived views to look through on big screens, and interactivity like sharing your selfies or putting yourself on the visitor map.
There’s so many sights I didn’t see, and much that I didn’t photograph as I was busy hanging out or wandering around. I would have liked to see the statue park, take a little cruise, ferry to Bainbridge Island, and also do a bit of area-visiting like seeing Mount Rainier properly, and visiting the filming locations of Twin Peaks. But that means just more to go back and enjoy next time!
Previously: the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture
On a beautiful, sunny Seattle day I grabbed a coffee and made my way through a lovely park near the south end of Union Lake to the Museum of History and Industry (or MOHAI). I’d had this recommended to me by friends, and was glad that I stopped in.
The main gallery of the museum takes you through Seattle’s history, from the indigenous groups of the region and their culture & technology, through the settlement of the area by colonists, the development of industry through the wars, prohibition, to modern times and innovations in the area (including the musical accomplishments of the grunge era!).
There was also a section on Maritime Seattle specifically, which I found a little less engaging and interesting. As a little single-gallery exhibit, there was something called A Place At the Table, which is a nod to the Greek cuisine history of the area. It was like a little snippet of the ethnicity pie of the city, even though it wasn’t too in depth.
I really enjoyed the special exhibition American Spirits, the rise and fall of prohibition. It’s a part of history that the country I grew up in really didn’t experience, so it was fascinating to see how it really became part of life, culture and history.
Then there were some general things down in the main floor/lobby of the museum – their innovation space, and general displays that stood on their own.
I would recommend MOHAI if you’re interested in learning a bit more about Seattle’s history, but also their current efforts in innovation and industry. It’s in a lovely spot, and the building is beautiful (and accessible). I paid $17 to get in, and that included all of the exhibitions. There is a small store and a cafe on site, also. Plus, you can’t beat wandering around the grounds to see cool stuff like this..
Thanks for the great morning, MOHAI! I’ll be back.
Having cut my teeth at the University of QLD Anthropology Museum, and being surrounded by other great campus museums, I knew I’d need to stop in and check out the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture at the University of Washington in Seattle. Universities benefit greatly for research and student use of campus museums – when I was studying, I got a chance to work in the gallery and collections, as well as putting together exhibitions. And the benefit of the museums being open to the public means greater reach of your exhibitions and materials.
After meandering through the campus from the bus stop, I was greeted by some beautiful totem poles and wooden carvings, plus a lush ethnobotanical garden. Ah, the things you can get away with in a climate like Seattle’s. It’s a beautiful and welcoming front to the museum.
Heading inside to the small lobby/main hall of the museum, I paid my entrance fee (a modest $10USD), and beelined straight for the Pacific Voices exhibition. My familiarity with ethnographic collections lies with Pacific materials, having studied & worked in Museums in Australia – so it was like a little trip home in a sense.
Grouped broadly into cultural/geographic groups, you start with Hawaii and wind your way through the gallery. The displays have a great range of artifacts and both historic and recent information about the cultures they are from. I loved the section of Hawaii that had a section on hula – you could listen to recordings, and they had this great card from a local Seattlite on how to do hula.
I really enjoyed this exhibition, the content and the way they tried to engage visitors, especially school groups. I’m biased, because I love South Pacific material culture especially, but everything was beautiful. I loved the puppets case, and – of course – the stuff on North West Pacific First Nations culture.
Upstairs there was also a great exhibition tying together NW Pacific art and objects from the collection with new pieces of art that inspired local native artists in Washington state. It was intriguing to see the influences of the collection material on the new forms of art. These were my favourites:
The bulk of the rest of the exhibition space was dedicated to natural history, in some part detailing research at UW, but also on the natural history of Washington state, following through a linear narrative. It was great for someone like me, who’d never been to that part of the continent, but I assume it’s invaluable for school students on visits also. Lots of stuff about glaciers, volcanos, shifting sea levels, and how that all shaped the landscape and ecology of the area. Lots of fossils and specimens, but I particularly enjoyed these artifacts. The gorgeous patterns of the tree slices and the colour of the stone tool had me enamoured.
If you find yourself in the U District of Seattle with a morning or afternoon to spare, I encourage you to visit the Burke Museum. If you’d like to punctuate your wandering of the galleries and gawking at the displays with a bite to eat or some coffee, there’s a cafe on the premises. Take the time to enjoy visiting a small museum that subsists on donations and admission fees.