Designed to look like a smashed guitar (when viewed from the air) and packed full of pop culture memorabilia and awesome interactive experiences, the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) is a fun destination for the whole fam. It’s also the only place in Seattle where you can unleash your inner rock star, try brand new indie video games, encounter alien lifeforms and immerse yourself in the history of the Northwest music scene. If you’ve never visited MoPOP with kids in tow or it’s been a while since your last visit, read on for our guide to visiting this iconic museum.

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photo: Helen Walker Green

Sound Lab
The first attraction on most kids’ agendas is Sound Lab which features 12 interactive sound proof booths (called studio pods) where you and your kids can play electric guitar, drums and keyboards or work on your vocal skills. You can choose to go solo or try out one of the Jam studio pods and play together. Once you’ve found your sound, head over to the Jam Studio where you can record your own song, download it and share it with friends. Maybe it’s time to start a family band.

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photo: Helen Walker Green

In addition to playing and recording your own songs, there’s plenty of other activities for mini-musicians to do in the Sound Lab. Budding musicians can play the Big Drum—an interactive instrument that’s captivating for kids, learn to play “Louie Louie” and 12-bar blues, experiment and create different guitar sounds with effects pedals or try out the turntables in DJ Hallway (think scratching records and mixing sounds!).

If your lil’ musician is craving more of the rock star experience, head to On Stage where he or she can step into the spotlight and feel the roar of the (virtual) crowd. The instruments are pre-programmed, so kids can pretend to play or lip-sync their vocals or go for the gusto and play live! Just beware… when you and your crew are doing your best Thrift Shop dance or pretending to be Hendrix, a real live audience can watch you (on screens around the Sound Lab). If you want to remember this experience, a souvenir poster and DVD are available to buy.

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photo: Helen Walker Green

Indie Game Revolution
Every 21st Century kid seems to love video games, so it’s no surprise that Indie Game Revolution—a purple pixelated area of EMP—is a magnet for mini-gamers (good luck getting them out of there). Your crew can try out new games on the cutting-edge of indie gaming – it’s a rotating selection of 20 and there’s always some kid-friendly titles. From deep-space battles to mystery quests and gravity challenges, this exhibit is awesome for kids and grownups alike.

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photo: Helen Walker Green

Infinite Worlds of Science Fiction
An alien spaceship has landed in Seattle loaded with artifacts from the farthest reaches of the galaxy. In Infinite World of Science Fiction, you will find a dalek from Doctor Who, a Terminator from Terminator 2, a green and rather large brained martian from Mars Attacks and much more. Older kids will enjoy seeing some of the props and costumes from productions like Star TrekStar Wars, Blade Runner and Battle Star Gallactica. Plus, there are even hoverboards from Back to the Future II (those hoverboards are from 2015 – must be an alternate universe).

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photo: Helen Walker Green

Younger kids can pretend to fly a scout ship as well as set coordinates for Alpha Centuri. Just don’t forget to turn the artificial gravity on!

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photo: Helen Walker Green

Fantasy: Worlds of Myth and Magic
You will definitely want to pay a visit to the Branch Library of Arcane Wizardry—housed in a gigantic armor-clad tree. Crawl through echoing caves and tunnels, but try not to wake Adalinda the dragon or she may get you with her tail! Speaking of dragons, grownups will enjoy original manuscripts and notes from George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones and Christopher Paolini’s Eragon. And Future Defense Against the Dark Arts Masters will love the Harry Potter memorabilia. You’ll also see costumes from The Princess Bride and the Wicked Witch of the West’s hat from The Wizard of Oz (just hope she doesn’t come looking for it with her flying monkeys in tow!).

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photo: Helen Walker Green

It’s a Scream!
Can’t Look Away: The Lure of Horror Film was curated by Roger Corman, John Landis, and Eli Roth—all iconic horror filmmakers themselves, so you know it’s going to be good. However, this exhibit is rated PG-13 and not suitable for small kids. If you think your kids can handle it, be advised that they can walk into areas screening excerpts from A Texas Chainsaw Massacre  and Friday the 13th. For this exhibit, we recommend having a quick look through first before deciding to let your little horror show junkies go through.

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photo: Helen Walker Green

What kids will enjoy in this exhibit is the Shadow Monsters wall where they can make some super-scary shadow puppets. For grownups, there’s fascinating props and costumes including the axe from The Shining, stakes from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and a creature suit from Alien. (Better run into the Scream Booth where EVERYONE can hear you scream!). 

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photo: Helen Walker Green

If VI Was IX
You can’t miss this stunning sound sculpture by Seattle artist Trimpin. It’s made up of nearly 700 instruments—40 are self-playing guitars that perform a number of compositions. Be sure to pop the earphones on, so you and your future rock star can listen to the music being played.

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photo: Helen Walker Green

We Are 12
If you’re a family of 12s, this exhibit is for you! It’s a celebration of the Seahawks and their devoted fans (big and little). The Hawks’ Vince Lombardi trophy is on display here along with a Super Bowl XLVIII ring. You can leave a message for the team, have a go at “calling the play” and see how big your hand is compared to wide receiver Doug Baldwin’s. You might also want to look at Pete Carroll’s speech notes and check out the Hawks’ weekly game plan.

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photo: Helen Walker Green

Grownup Exhibits
The Pacific Northwest has produced some legendary musicians from Jimi Hendrix to Nirvana to Macklemore. They’re all represented at EMP and there’s tons of history, photos and memorabilia to lose yourself in. Wild Blue Angel: Hendrix Abroad, 1966-1970 follows the guitar hero on his world-tour and features the mixing console from his Electric Lady Studios. In Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses, you’ll step back in time to the late ’80s and early ’90s, as the band begins their journey to fame. If you’re a fan, you could easily immerse yourself in the memorabilia for hours – from Kurt Cobain’s letters, to family photos, to his original Mosrite Gospel guitar and his old cardigan. Guitar Gallery: The Quest for Volume is also a fascinating collection that shows the evolution of the guitar from the 1770’s to the present. Original guitars from Gibson, Fender and Les Paul are here along with guitars belonging to Bo Diddley, Eddie Van Halen and more. You’ll also see movie props all around the museum including the chopper from Easy Rider.

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photo: Helen Walker Green

Shopping and Dining MoPOP Style
You will definitely want to check out the MoPOP store for a mega collection of music and pop culture swag. Then, hit the museum’s restaurant for lunch. There’s plenty of good food on the menu as well as ale on tap and a kid’s menu. Kid’s menu prices are reasonable, but other choices are quite spendy. If you’re on a budget you may want to pack a picnic and head outside or even picnic inside if it’s a rainy day. Psst…food and drink are permitted in public areas of the museum, but not the galleries and exhibits.

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photo: Helen Walker Green

Insider Tips 
1. We recommend having more than one adult in your party (or a responsible teenager). That way, you can take turns watching the minis and enjoy the grownup exhibits.

2. One of the most amazing playgrounds in Seattle is located right outside the entrance of MoPOP. This is the perfect place to burn off the crazies either before or after your museum trip.

3. There are several parking options near the Seattle Center. Pay lots are located near the museum and a parking garage is located across the street. There is also metered parking available on the side streets across 5th Ave. N. But if you’re feeling adventurous, consider riding the bus to MoPOP or better yet, take the monorail!

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photo: Helen Walker Green

Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP)
325 5th Ave. N.,
Seattle, Wa 98109
206-770-2700
Online: mopop.org or map it

Admission: $25/Adults (18-64), $22 online; $22/Seniors (65 & older) & Students with ID; $19/Military with ID; $16/Youth (5-17); 4 & under Free 

—Helen Walker Green

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