Insider’s Guide to the Seattle Icons You Thought You Knew
Behind-the-scenes secrets of everything from the Space Needle to the Duck Tour. Remind yourself what the city’s 10 million tourists are just finding out—Seattle is full of surprises.
They come from Japan. They come from the United Kingdom. They come from Indiana. Last year 10.2 million tourists came to Seattle and King County, and every single one of them clogged up the crosswalk at First Avenue and Pike.
Actually, visitors spend about $5.9 billion on hotels, food, and smushed souvenir pennies at the top of the Space Needle. And while visiting the city’s usual haunts, they had a darn good time—the city has ranked in the top 10 U.S. travel destinations by Condé Nast Traveler’s reader poll, Travel and Leisure, and travelocity.com.
What do they know that we don’t? Maybe where to find a free national park in the city or where you can sit on a chair gifted by the last empress of China. We poked behind the scenes of places you probably haven’t been in a while—the EMP, the Fremont Troll, the Museum of Flight. Sure, some of it’s cheesy (as if there was anything wrong with that)—so we measured the cheese factor at every destination. Turns out there’s a lot here for locals.
1. Ask the Captain
By land or by sea, the Ride the Ducks tour is a happy barrage of local facts, dumb jokes, Starbucks games, goofy headwear, and crowd participation. Marcus Luce, a UW grad with long brown hair and a penchant for showboating, goes by Captain Chaos when he leads a tour. Though his job includes seat-dancing to “East Bound and Down,” blowing a duck kazoo, and introducing himself with “Call me Chaos, call me crazy, call me maybe,” the four-year Ducks vet also holds a masters degree and Coast Guard certification.
Did you pick your own name?
Mine is a high school nickname. My brothers would call me Mar-chaos.
And you’re really a captain?
Everyone that drives the Ducks is a captain, because you have to have that Coast Guard license.
How many hats do you wear on a given tour?
Depends on the tour. When I do a tour with a lot of kids, it becomes less high-minded humor, more “Look at that stupid hat!”
What do you do when you have a grumpy group of people?
In my intro, when people are still a bit sleepy, it’s even more in your face. “Hey! You need my Starbucks?” Even if it’s awkward for a few minutes, I’m in your face, dancing. If I have to pull my hair out early, I will. That’s kind of my trump card.
You mention that the boat is only a few years old; are they all new?
We have four Ducks that are refurbished WWII landing craft, vehicles that saw action. Now the company figured, Why don’t we just fabricate our own machines?
What would locals like about the Ducks tour?
The thing is, locals may know it’s St. Mark’s Cathedral, but they may not know its unique history with World War II. Locals come off the tour saying, “I didn’t know that; it’s so cool!”
Any favorite tour memories?
By far, the fact that I met my wife on a Duck tour. About four years ago, she and her friends came…I meet people before the tour, see where they’re from and— this time—I made a really good personal connection! A little Duck romance. For Seattleites, if online dating isn’t working for you, maybe try the Ducks.
516 Broad St, Lower Queen Anne, 206-441-3825; ridetheducksofseattle.com $28
2. There’s a national park right next to Pioneer Square—but you might’ve missed it, since it doesn’t include a single tree, mountain, river, rascally bear, or even a mound of dirt. The single building of the Klondike Gold Rush National History Park is all about Seattle in the 1890s, when the Post-Intelligencer’s headlines screamed, announcing a “NEW LAND OF GOLD” in Alaska. There’s a recreated log cabin and a wheel of fortune that simulates the prospector’s 0.3 percent chance of striking it rich (and 0.05 percent chance of staying rich).
Because it’s a national historical park, yes, the staff up front are rangers, complete with green and khaki uniforms. A model of Pioneer Square during the gold rush showed Seattle’s priorities at the time—the light-up display shows six outfitters in the area but at least nine saloons.
319 Second Ave S, Pioneer Square, 206-220-4240; nps.gov/klse
3. Breakdown: The Fremont Troll
What’s in the time capsule inside the Bug? “Kurt Cobain’s ashes,” jokes Steve Badanes, a UW architecture professor who helped sculpt the troll. The only item of value in the capsule, a bust of Elvis Presley, was quickly stolen, and all that remains are drawings made by schoolchildren, now sealed in sand and cement.
The troll’s nose is modeled on Badanes’s—“well, a little exaggerated,” he says—after the artists reached a consensus that his was the most appropriate.
Troll upkeep is a constant battle. It’s tempting to plaster new cement over the vandalism, says Badanes, but it’s used sparingly so the troll doesn’t fatten up with the extra layers.
The Volkswagen Beetle’s nose is buried in the troll because its front end was mashed in a collision before it was donated by the now-defunct Black Duck Motors.
The four artists who built the troll (Badanes, Will Martin, Donna Walter, and Ross Whitehead) still own the copyright of the troll image, which they release only for nonprofits, a few movies, and a few fun items like the Troll Chia Pet.
3405 Troll Ave N, Fremont, fremont.com
4. Which way to Bruce Lee’s grave?
To find his headstone (and that of his son, Brandon) among all the Dennys and Borens and Yeslers in Lake View Cemetery on Capitol Hill, head for the circular road on the top of the hill and look behind a massive heart-shaped monument beyond the loop’s eastern edge. One gruesome epigraph to the life of Seattle’s martial arts legend: Shots from his open-casket funeral—including Lee’s embalmed body—were worked into his last film, Game of Death.
1554 15th Ave E, Capitol Hill, 206-322-1582; lakeviewcemeteryassociation.com
Sure, the Pike Place Market Starbucks has the original logo, with the signature mermaid flashing her breasts like it’s Mardi Gras. The blackboard inside reads, “This is where it all began”—but the chain’s first baristas actually began a half a block north in 1971 before opening here five years later.
1912 Pike Pl, Pike Place Market, 206-448-8762; starbucks.com
6. Even when the Seattle Great Wheel is only half full, operators worry about balance, loading six gondolas before rotating the wheel 180 degrees and letting more people on.
1301 Alaskan Way, Waterfront, seattlegreatwheel.com $13
7. Most of the 230 verdant acres of the University of Washington Arboretum complex are free to ramble, but it costs $6 to enter the walled Japanese Garden run by the City of Seattle—unless you shell out for a $75 Photographer’s Membership, which gives shutterbugs regular early access to the manicured grounds, like when the bubblegum-hued cherry blossoms are in bloom.
2300 Arboretum Dr E, Madison Park, 206-543-8800; depts.washington.edu/uwbg/gardens/wpa.shtml Free, $6 for Japanese Garden
8.How do you do eye surgery on a fish? Very carefully.
No, really, it can be done, and Seattle Aquarium veterinarian Lesanna Lahner is something of an expert. The canary and yelloweye rockfish are stars of the massive Window on Washington Waters tank, the first thing visitors see when they walk into the pier aquarium. Several of the rockfish are missing eyes, removed by Lahner in an OR setup that involves a V-shaped table (the fishy patient goes right in the crook) and a tube system that washes water full of general anesthetic over the fish’s gills.
Sounds like a lot of trouble, but since rockfish live, on average, more than 100 years, they’re well worth the primo health care. They’ve even brought human dentists in to treat the teeth of the aquarium residents.
A brand-new harbor seal habitat will open in June, bringing home the seals that have been vacationing at Tacoma’s Point Defiance Zoo, but Seattle Aquarium hopes to double in size in coming years.
Dr. Lahner’s expansion plans are considerably smaller—she’s working on prosthetics for the one-eyed rockfish. (What, you thought they’d wear eye patches like common pirates?) Since select other aquariums won’t display fish with an empty eye socket, she’s been experimenting with the eyes used by taxidermists, though she won’t try them on actual residents until the procedure is guaranteed not to hurt, only make them look more pretty.
1483 Alaskan Way, Waterfront, 206-682-3474; seattleaquarium.org $22
9. Tour the twisty, angled halls of the Rem Koolhaas–designed Seattle Central Library one of three ways: Download an audio tour on the library website, prebook a tour with a group of five people or more, or simply call -206-686-8564 and enter the codes posted around the building under signs that say “Cell Phone Tour.” You’ll learn what acoustic pillows do for the library and where to find the best views (that’s on level 10 in the Betty Jane Narver Reading Room). What else are you going to do there, read one of the million or so books?
1000 Fourth Ave, Downtown, 206-386-4636; spl.org
10. Breakdown: Adalinda the dragon
From the Fantasy: Worlds of Myth and Magic exhibit at EMP Museum
Built by the Seattle Opera Scenic Studios, the animatronic dragon’s six-foot head perks up whenever the dragon’s tail is touched.
Local musician Steve Fisk composed the score (otherwise known as the background music) for the exhibition, and he used the snores of his pug Sara for the dragon’s breaths.
The mouth was modeled on that of a great white shark, because designers wanted to base the mythical creature’s proportions in nature to make it feel anatomically correct.
The corner holds a suit of armor from 1581, the oldest artifact the EMP’s ever exhibited.
Touch the tail, repurposed from one used in the Seattle Opera’s old Ring cycle productions; the automotive upholstery is thick enough to withstand what’s known in the museum biz as “visitor juice.”
325 Fifth Ave N, Seattle Center, Lower Queen Anne, 206-770-2700; empmuseum.org $20
11. Zoo to-dos
About 1,000 animals reside in Woodland Park Zoo, including sloth bear cubs and Asian small-clawed otters in the brand-new Bamboo Forest Reserve. To catch some of the zoo’s superstars, plan your zoo day thusly—all times are approximate, because animals don’t wear wristwatches.
9:30amAs their pool is refilled on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays, the two resident hippos play under the stream of water.
10am The elephant trio is bathed first thing every morning in the elephant barn.
1pm The Western Lowland Gorillas get snack packs to stave off hunger in the afternoon and, just as important, keep them engaged.
2:30pm The grizzly bears are fed dead salmon sometime between 2 and 3pm, even though their stream is stocked with trout—some of those fish have evaded bear paws for years now.
3:30pm Giraffes clock out of their day shift, so foot traffic stops as they stroll across the path that separates the African Savanna exhibit and their barn.
Anytime it’s raining The zoo posts Rainy Day Discount coupons on its website, good for 50 percent off admission, on certain drizzly days.
Anytime at all Get a $2 discount for riding Metro Transit to the zoo.
601 N 59th St, Phinney Ridge, 206-548-2500; zoo.org $19
12. Ask the Fish Thrower
For 27 years, fish have flown over the counters of Pike Place Fish Market to the delight of the thick crowds. The fishmongers even do motivational presentations and released a cookbook this year. Justin Hall has been slinging seafood at the market for all 27 years—it’s the only job he’s ever had.
How did the fish-tossing thing start?
It became the faster way to get it behind the counter, where the scale was, and then it was like, That was neat! You just threw my dinner around; that was cool.
You ever drop a fish?
To put it in perspective, there are guys that make $15 million a year to catch things in the NFL; they drop ’em all the time. You know how much money I made last year?
Not $15 million?
Yeah. So I’m allowed to. I don’t think I dropped one last week.
If I want the biggest show, what should I order?
When someone buys a whole halibut, it’s like 35 pounds. It’s like this big dead animal flying over the counter.
What don’t people know about you guys?
One thing people don’t get about us is that people gather here because we love people! People don’t gather at the other places because they’re all business. They don’t like people as much as we do, and that’s the frickin’ truth. Tourists dig us because we dig them.
86 Pike St, Pike Place Market, 206-682-7181; pikeplacefish.com
13. Come for the toilets, stay for the philanthropy. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Visitor Center is full of polished-wood interactive exhibits made of ash and apple plywood explaining its worldwide initiatives, including where it stands on funding controversial areas like vaccines, crop biotechnology, and climate change research. But what you’ll probably remember is the latrine artwork on the bathroom stall doors and the waterless solar-powered toilet prototype from the foundation’s Reinvent the Toilet Challenge.
440 Fifth Ave N, Lower Queen Anne, 206-709-3100; gatesfoundation.org
Careful where you sit:
The ornate wood furniture in the Chinese Room in the Smith Tower Observation Deck was a gift from the last empress of China. Well, probably—no one can verify exactly who paid for the chairs, but they date back to when the building first opened in 1914. A recent face-lift has updated the 35th-floor room, but the teak and porcelain ceiling tiles are original.
Until the pesky Space Needle came to town, this observation room was the uppermost public spot in the city. Step outside for full-circle views of downtown, First Hill, Elliott Bay, and straight into CenturyLink Field (the higher Columbia Tower only offers 270 degrees). The white gates that curve overhead turn the outdoor patio into a kind of birdcage, echoing the original Otis gated elevator that brought you up.
506 Second Ave, Pioneer Square, 206-622-4004, smithtower.com $7.50
15. Ask the aerialist
Under a century-old Belgian Spiegeltent, the Teatro ZinZanni troupe performs comedy, drama, vaudeville, singing, and dancing, and some seriously acrobatic tricks. Oh, and dinner is served, too. In 2011, Pacific Northwest Ballet prima ballerina Ariana Lallone left the company and started a new chapter by joining the ZinZanni menagerie.
How did you go from being a ballet dancer to dangling from a hoop in the ZinZanni tent?
Two months after I left the ballet, I did a show here with Tommy Tune directing, who is just not to be believed. I just did ballet in it. I fell in love with working here and everyone I worked with. I wanted to do another show so badly, I thought, What can I do to make that happen? I toyed with the idea of doing aerial.
I missed jumping and I missed turning and I missed moving. What could I do to facilitate that? I set out to find a partner, and if the hoop was gonna do it, great.
What’s harder to work with, a partner or a hoop?
I had wonderful partners at PNB—but sometimes there are the same inconsistencies with a hoop!
I knew I wanted to do fouettes, the turns they famously do in Swan Lake. It’s normally done with arms and legs, it’s a spectacular type of turn. I was able to do that holding onto the hoop, which eventually lifts me in the air.
And you sing with the rest of the cast?
I went kicking and screaming and swore I could never do it, but I traded ballet lessons with a voice teacher.
What’s your next show here?
My third children’s show. In the first one I was a wizard, in the second show I was an ice queen; I imagined myself dancing in a snow globe. For the upcoming show I’ll be a genie.
You kind of ran away to join the circus.
I did, and I’m kind of proud of that! My career was incredible; I love everything about that life. But I’ve gained a strength I thought I would never have. The opportunity in this tent…this place is magic. You can feel it.
222 Mercer St, Lower Queen Anne, 206-802-0015; dreams.zinzanni.org $86–$163
16. The Space Needle’s windows are washed much like any other glass panes—from a tiny metal cage suspended on a track 500 feet in the air, accessed by brave scrubbers through the icon’s only window that opens.
400 Broad St, Seattle Center, Lower Queen Anne, 206-905-2111; spaceneedle.com $19
There’s more growing in the Chihuly Garden and Glass museum than simply three-foot stalks of orange glass—some 26,000 bulbs (tulips, not lightbulbs), were buried in the dirt this year. Despite the rooms of glass sculpture in the galleries, the venue has never had a major break—it helps that the major dusting is done by Denny Park Fine Arts, the authorized Chihuly cleaning company, using everything from cloth diapers to Swiffers. If all those shining surfaces aren’t enough to lure a local into the year-old spot, consider that King County residents get a $4 discount on admission.
305 Harrison St, Seattle Center, Lower Queen Anne, 206-753-4940; chihulygardenandglass.com $19
18. Though the mile-long monorail ride works out to a cost of $2.25 per mile, it pales in comparison to, say, the London Underground, which on its shortest route is $37.63 per mile. The South Lake Union Streetcar is $0.96 per mile, if you ride the whole route. G 370 Thomas St, Seattle Center, Lower Queen Anne, 206-905-2620; seattlemonorail.com $2.25
19. You can hardly cross Pioneer Square without seeing Underground Tour goers following the leader like ducklings, descending down stairs to the city’s buried sidewalks. The enduring tour was actually born as a conservation movement: In 1954, Seattle Times reporter-turned-publicist Bill Speidel wanted the area to be named a historic district, and he pointed to the original first floors of the city, purposely buried after the Great Seattle Fire of 1889 to raise the town out of the muck. After 500 people showed up for his first one-buck tour in 1965, a business was born.
608 First Ave, Pioneer Square, 206-682-4646; undergroundtour.com $16
20. Breakdown: Hiram M. Chittenden Locks
1. Five months out of the year, three different species of salmon—Chinook, coho, and sockeye—can be viewed through the fish ladder’s underground windows.
2. Thanks to fishing treaties, Suquamish tribe members can net salmon on the freshwater side of the ladder and Muckleshoot members can harvest on the other.
3. It’s unusual to have two different locks side by side; the big lock was second in size only to the Panama Canal’s when it was built.
4. Boat traffic is about 80 percent pleasure craft and 20 percent commercial boats.
5. The Renaissance Revival buildings around the locks were designed by Carl Gould, one of the men who did UW’s Gothic Suzzallo library.
6. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers owns exactly one botanical garden—this one, begun by a groundskeeper who traded seeds from around the world.
In 2011 the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks surpassed the Space Needle in number of visitors, netting more than 1.2 million sightseers. The most common question at the locks:
“When do the Deadliest Catch boats come through?”
3015 54th St NW, Ballard, 206-783-7059; www.nws.usace.army.mil
21. At 902 feet, the Columbia Center Sky View Observatory is the highest publicly accessible view-point in the West, and the 40th floor Starbucks is the world’s loftiest.
701 Fifth Ave, Downtown, 206-386-5564;
22. Even with its big new armory home on South Lake Union, MOHAI can only display about 2 percent of its 100,000 artifacts. So it stores the rest in a massive warehouse in South Seattle—picture the storehouse from the Indiana Jones movies, only the treasures are all unboxed. A selection of what’s inside:
• The stuffed body of Bobo the Gorilla, raised by an Anacortes family before his size necessitated a move to Woodland Park Zoo.
• The Dodge Challenger dragster driven by high school teacher–turned–hot rodder Al Young, in which he became one of the first Asian American professional car racers
• The Yesler Way Cable Car from 1888; the line’s other car sits in the Smithsonian
• The letters that once spelled out “The Bon Marché” on the facade of the downtown department store
• The Mariners pitching slab from the Kingdome, where Randy Johnson once scuffed his cleats
• Givenchy dresses made especially to be sold at Frederick and Nelson
860 Terry Ave N, South Lake Union, 206-324-1126; mohai.org $14
23. Ask the Beak dancer
The recreated Coast Salish buildings of Tillicum Village are just a boat ride away on Blake Island, a state park eight miles off the shores of West Seattle. The four-hour experience includes a potlatch with traditional dances and cedar-plank salmon cooked over alder-wood fires. Walter Chester, a Nuu-chah-nulth tribe member from Seattle, has been part of the Tillicum Village crew for 15 years.
What’s your role here at the Village?
I’m a dance trainer, I do the salmon cooking, and I’ve trained the other cooks, too. I’ve got my hands in a little bit of everything.
Do you have a preshow routine?
I just go with it. I stretch a little bit before. I grew up dancing these dances, so it’s really easy for me.
What’s your favorite dance?
The Beak Dance. I love wearing the beaks. The crooked beak is about 20 pounds, and there’s a six-and-a-half-foot-long one that is 25 pounds. It’s a lot of weight in front of you; if you lean too far forward, you might hit the ground and hit your face inside.
Have you ever had a costume snafu?
My second year here, there were a lot of wardrobe malfunctions—your pants would fall off in front of the crowd, so you’d just be wearing your boxers underneath. Sometimes we’ll slip onstage because it gets real dusty. I haven’t seen anyone fall off, though. —Cassie Sawyer
1101 Alaskan Way, Waterfront, 206-622-8687, tillicumvillage.com $80
The Curious case of Ye Olde Curiosity Shop
When “Daddy” Standley opened his Free Museum and Curio at Second Avenue and Pike Street in 1901, the city was just a rangy upstart, fishing port, and newly enriched transportation hub for gold miners headed to and from Alaska and the Yukon during the height of the Klondike Gold Rush.
At the time, traveling far from home was a rarity—especially in the Pacific Northwest, when the threat of a hatchet in the head, whether real or imagined, loomed large. Seattleites with money to spend appreciated having someone display bits of what lurked in the wilds to the north. “It was a time when people in Seattle were starting to learn more about other places, particularly Canada and Alaska,” says Kate Duncan, an emerita art professor and author of 1001 Curious Things: Ye Olde Curiosity Shop and Native American Art.
Standley’s shop advertised “Curios from Alaska” and “Indian baskets.” Visitors walked through a 20-foot arch made from the jawbone of a whale. Inside the wood-floored shop, shelves and walls were crammed with miniature totem poles, narwhal tusks, the dried husks of strange sea creatures, and even an alleged mermaid.
As Seattle established itself as an exotic locale, Standley contributed to visitors’ curiosity about and fascination with the wildness of this rough-hewn city that abutted the abyss. Though a few other small-time museums and curio shops operated throughout the West, “I don’t think there was anyplace as big or expansive,” says Duncan. “It was the only place to go to see unusual things.”
Renamed Ye Olde Curiosity Shop in 1904, it’s been a waterfront mainstay ever since. Today, it’s the kind of place most self-respecting Seattleites would rather avoid, unless dragged there by an out-of-town nephew or aunt. But the pierside shop is going strong in its second century as one of Seattle’s must-see tourist stops; posing beside Sylvester the Mummy remains among the definitive Seattle photo ops.
My personal introduction to the shop was through Robert Ripley, the world-traveling “Believe It or Not” cartoonist and obsessive curio collector whose biography I spent five years writing. Ripley visited at least twice and spent a thousand dollars on giant clamshells, a carving, and a totem pole for his curio-crammed mansion outside New York City.
Hooked by the Ripley-Standley kinship, I dutifully took my kids and visiting relatives to the shop. But my own curiosity about the place was aroused anew in 2010, when I began reading about Native American woodcarver John Williams, who was shot and killed by a Seattle police office while crossing a downtown street. I learned that Williams’s grandfather, Sam, had carved one of the totem poles Ripley purchased, including a 37-foot masterpiece that stood outside the shop entrance for a decade.
The shop is now run by fourth-generation proprietor Andy James, who remembers his great-grandfather as a man who loved to talk and made friends fast, a one-man chamber of commerce who “really believed in Seattle.”
Standley kept a list of visitors in a guest log, and was known to write letters of thanks to visitors, sending along a local twig or a piece of a leaf. He never charged admission, opening his doors to everyone. Known for his honesty and trust, he worked closely with native people, a rarity at the time. James said Standley developed relationships with native artists, basket weavers and woodcarvers, supporting them and encouraging their work. They’d paddle up in their canoes, and spread their baskets and carvings on the wooden pier, and Standley would walk along putting dollars next to each work he wanted to buy.
Standley decorated his home with their work, too, along with giant clamshells and whale bones, turning his one-acre property into an outdoor museum and tourist attraction he called Totem Place.
“My great-grandfather was very interested in natural curiosities and anything that had a good story to it—the biggest, the smallest, the most unusual,” James says. “He kind of turned a hobby into a business.”
In a final twist almost worthy of Ripley, Standley was hit by a car on Alaskan Way in 1937, not far from his shop; he never fully recovered and died in 1940 at age 86. —Neal Thompson
1001 Alaskan Way, Waterfront, 206-682-5844; yeoldecuriosityshop.com
25. Voted both Seattle’s Biggest Public Eyesore and the second-germiest tourist attraction in the world (only the Blarney Stone was grosser), the Gum Wall began not as art or fun but plain old vandalism by comedy fans waiting to enter the improv shows at Market Theater.
1428 Post Alley, Pike Place Market
26. The nine acres of the Olympic Sculpture Park may be literally rooted to the Pacific Northwest, but the skies photographed by artist Teresita Fernándes for the glass bridge of Seattle Cloud Cover are actually from her hometown of Miami.
2901 Western Ave, Belltown, 206-654-3100; seattleartmuseum.org/visit/osp
27. Breakdown: The space Shuttle Full fuselage Trainer
Donated to the Museum of Flight by NASA in June 2012
Scuffs on the sides of the trainer won’t be painted over during future upkeep, since they represent the heels of countless astronauts scraping the trainer during fire escape training—including those of John Glenn.
Though the instrumentation doesn’t work, the cockpit looks just as the shuttles did when they started spaceflights in 1981. It’s all metal switches and levers, with none of
the fancier screens that came later.
The trainer was primarily used for habitability training, meaning astronauts got to know the 100 square feet shared by five to seven people. Movies like Space Cowboyswere also filmed here.
The back doorof the payload bay was enlarged in 1991 when Queen Elizabeth II visited; the queen doesn’t stoop.
Yes, there’s a space potty onboard, with another replica at floor level for viewers who don’t take a tour.
The front half of the trainer is accessible by tour ($30) only; the crew compartment is too tiny for unlimited access. Head back to the payload bayto stroll in for free.
9404 E Marginal Way S, Tukwila, 206-764-5720; museumofflight.org $18
28. What’s the signature element at UW’s Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture? The stegosaurus and allosaurus skeletons have a certain Jurassic Park appeal, but the bones of a 12,000-year-old giant sloth unearthed during Sea-Tac airport construction—it looks like a rodent of really unusual size—might be the coolest. Possibly its most famous stored specimen is the very old and very intact Kennewick Man. Courts named the Burke a neutral repository for the prehistoric dude’s bones while the federal government and Native American tribes wrestled with anthropologists over control of the remains.
17th Ave NE & NE 45th St, UW campus, University District, 206-543-5590; burkemuseum.org $10
29. When the Pacific Science Centerreplaced the 1962 cedar seams of the complex’s reflecting pools, workers found World’s Fair trinkets, a class ring, and even a decayed tooth. Now annual draining allows the staff to sweep up all the change tossed into the water as wishes, which they haul to a grocery store change machine.
200 Second Ave N, Seattle Center, Lower Queen Anne, 206-443-2001; pacificsciencecenter.org $16
30. On the fifth floor, hidden from visitors, is Seattle Art Museum’s conservation studio, where conservator Nicholas Dorman removes traces of past shoddy fixes which, in the case of Jackson Pollock’s four-by-five foot Sea Change (1947), included delicately prying off a varnish slathered on the painting in the ’70s by a well-meaning but calamitous owner.
1300 First Ave, 206-654-3210; seattleartmuseum.org Suggested donation $17
Published: June 2013