By Lauren Piette
Located on Pacific Avenue in Tacoma, Washington, you’ll find a breathtaking landmark with a red brick facade and vaulted arches adjacent to the bustling University of Washington Tacoma campus — the Washington State History Museum. Operated by the Washington State Historical Society, the museum works to preserve, collect, and display the rich and diverse history of Washington and teach visitors about the power of community and unifying aspects of history. The permanent and seasonal exhibitions at the Washington State History Museum are sure to keep you entertained for hours. Today, we're giving you the rundown on what exhibits are must-sees, so you’ll get the most out of your next trip.

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The Washington State History Museum Must-Sees

There's a reason the Washington State History Museum is raved about by all who stop by. With each visit, you're sure to uncover something new. While the museum has several permanent exhibits and collections, the rotating exhibitions are the stars of the show. Every few months, featured exhibitions and events created by local organizations, artists, or historians will step into the spotlight. In 2021, the 25th Annual Model Train Festival was a crowd favorite! On display until October 16 of 2022 is the exhibition “Todos Los Sacrificios Que Has Hecho” (All the Sacrifices You’ve Made). This is a collaboration between University of Washington students and Borderland Collective, an arts collective in Texas. The exhibition contains curated family photos from the students' family albums and preserves these stories for future generations. The permanent exhibitions provide visitors with an in-depth look at the history of Washington and the diverse experiences and individuals that have come to live in the state over time. Here are the exhibits you’ll want to visit at this museum of Washington State history:
  • Great Hall of Washington History
  • Washington: My Home
  • Remembrance
  • Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • 360
There are several excellent exhibits on the construction of the Columbia River dams, the Grand Coulee, and Bonneville that include a compelling 3-screen theater presentation. This presentation tells the story of how thousands of men harnessed hydroelectric power from the Columbia River for use during the Great Depression. At the Washington State Natural History Museum, you can step inside the beautiful replication of the Native American Salish Plank House. This home was built around Puget Sound and was shared by multiple families who lived by the fjord.

Things To Know Before You Go

This world-class museum can be enjoyed by visitors year-round. The museum’s interactive and dynamic exhibits make it the perfect destination for families and school field trips. But, before you plan your visit, we have some helpful information that’ll ensure you’ll get the most out of your time at the museum.
  • The museum is open Tuesday-Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. On the third Thursday of every month, the museum is open from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., and admission is free after 3:00 p.m.
  • The museum is located at 1911 Pacific Avenue, Tacoma, WA 98402.
  • Tickets can be purchased through the museum website, and admission is free for active-duty military members.
  • Washington State History Museum parking can be found on-site, and street parking on Pacific Avenue or on South 21st Street and Jefferson Avenue can be accessed if the museum’s lot is full.

Calling All History Lovers

The next time you’re visiting Tacoma, or if you’re stationed on Joint Base Lewis McChord, be sure to take some time away to visit the Tacoma Museum District — one of the jewels of South Sound. Home to diverse architecture and excursions, visitors can explore various aspects of Pacific Northwest arts and culture, gaining access to knowledge you can’t find anywhere else. In addition to the Washington State History Museum, Tacoma Museum District is home to several other noteworthy collections and art museums. While stationed on base, be sure to check out the Tacoma Art Museum, the Museum of Glass, or America’s Car Museum. A trip to the Washington State History Museum is sure to be an unforgettable experience. Whether you’re a returning visitor or a first-timer, we highly recommend that you plan to explore all this museum has to offer and make some memories sure to last a lifetime.

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Image: Travel Tacoma



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