The other museums of Seattle


Look, just about every big city has a big art museum. Seattle is certainly no different; the Seattle Art Museum downtown is a major institution. And there always seems to be a museum focusing on the environment, like the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture at the University of Washington (named after one of Seattle’s richest residents in 1892). Moreover, a lot of populous places have an exhibition hall devoted to transportation, like the famous Museum of Flight at Boeing Field in South Seattle.

But seriously, how many cities have a museum devoted to pinball machines? Or large shoes? Or even just bizarre junk? Yes, Seattle has all these. You won’t find them in many tourist guides, allowing me–celebrating my one-year anniversary as New To Seattle–to expand your knowledge of what I consider to be a slightly quirky city.

The Seattle Pinball Museum is definitely a hands-on place. For an admission fee of $10 ($7 for kids), patrons can flip away on any of 40 classic arcade machines dating back to the 1930s. The facility sits at 508 Maynard Avenue S in the International District, which used to be called Chinatown before political correctness took over. One drawback is limited hours: open Thursday through Sunday, generally in the afternoon and early evening.

Located in the famed Pike Place Market, the Giant Shoe Museum calls itself the “world’s largest collection of giant shoes.” It might also be the only one. The exhibit–actually a wall in the store of print collectibles dealer Hanawalt’s Old Seattle Paperworks–consists of about 20 shoes, including a 5-foot-long leather wingtip and a shoe once worn by the world’s tallest man. Views of the collection cost $1. The store is open every day.

Only a few blocks away on Pier 54 at 1001 Alaskan Way, Ye Old Curiosity Shop is a 100-year-old gift shop open daily with a lot of strange stuff on permanent display: shrunken heads,  a perfectly preserved mummy named Sylvester, a 67-pound snail, and a 6 1/2-pound coin said to be the heaviest ever minted.The theme is somewhat elusive to me, but at least there’s no admission fee.  You get what you pay for.

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