Washington State History Museum in Tacoma

Washington State has a very deep and interesting history. Sometimes history can be difficult to make interesting for children and adults since it can be a very bland subject.  The Washington State History Museum could not have done a better job at creating an interactive, creative, technology filled, artifact based location for those to learn how Washington evolved over the years to its current state.

The outside of the building is very similar to the neighboring Union Station.  The building was designed by Charles Moore and Arthur Andersson.  The 106,000 square foot museum is a sight to see and is a beautiful landmark located on Pacific Avenue in Tacoma, Washington.  Your curiosity alone will make you want to explore the inside of this building.

Begin Here

As you find your way through the main entrance you see the admissions counter, the museum and the and the information desk.  After paying the admission make your way over to the information desk and ask for a scavenger hunt list.  This is especially fun for children as it gives them items to look for and it is fun for parents to interact and assist them in their search.

The first thing you will see is the Great Hall of Washington History.  Explorers and modeled interacting with Native Americans. Various figures in Washington history are modeled with narrative displays to read which will explain the importance of the scene.  New interactive touch screens are now positioned in front of the recreated historical moment. These interactive devices draw in the visitor and makes for learning the early parts of Washington history much more interesting and fun.

As you make your way through the museum you will eventually come across the beautiful and unique handcrafted Native American masks in the Epidemic Memorial exhibit.  No two masks are alike in anyway.

As you get deeper into the museum you begin to see what live was life in the early years with the Walla Walla Schwabacher general History Museum Trainstore which is available for viewing.  You are able to see what a general store likely looked like and the type of products that were held in the store.  Near the general store is a portion of a life size train which is pictured.

Shack in History MuseumThere are exhibits of a saw mill, coal mine, printing press, packing company, the Columbia River Theater and a frame of a plane.  One of the more interesting exhibits is that of a shack base in the times of the Great Depression.  The characters Mac and Leon talk about the depression while in the shack. The floors inside the shack are floor boards and the bed hardly looks comfortable.  Visitors get a peek as to what living conditions may have been like for many families.  Outside of the shack is a clothesline with hanging clothes.

History Lab Learning Center

The learning and fun doesn’t stop on the first floor.  Make you way upstairs to see the History Lab Learning Center.  In the learning center there are interactive exhibits for children of all ages to participate in.  If you get a bit tired there is the Daily Planet Theater that plays movies about fun educational topics.  Take a seat with the family and take in the knowledge.  There are six different areas to explore in the History Lab Learning Center.

  • Place Gallery
  • Student Gallery
  • Schoolhouse
  • Daily Planet Theater
  • Time Gallery
  • Model Train

In the History Lab there is a theme of solving a history mystery relating to the state of Washington.  There are computer stations, educational games, educational based games and plenty of hands-on learning.  Many children and students will gravitate to the computer stations to read the interactive learning material.

One specific wall is dedicated to the different time keeping devices (clocks).  Another exhibit is that of an Oregon Trail Wagon being pulled by what appear to be two oxen.  Step right up and stand up in the wagon to get a feel for what it was like in those days.

If you like trains then you are going to want to see the model train exhibit. This amazingly detailed model train scene might be one of the largest model train exhibits that you will ever see that focuses on the history of Washington state.   This beautiful model train scene is full of trees, businesses and trains of course.  Push a button at the front of the exhibit to start the trains and watch them travel through scene.

There is plenty more don’t worry!

Instead of explaining and picturing everything you will see at this incredibly huge history museum, I think it best that you come to the museum and see for yourself how much fun and entertaining it is.


Interesting Fact #1 – You can rent out areas of the museum for luncheons, meetings or conferences.  The museum actually has it’s own auditorium that seats 200.

Interesting Fact #2 – It took 350,000 bricks to build the history museum.  That is a lot of bricks.


Parking for the History Museum is located behind the museum.  Find your parking spot and pay for parking at the automated machine.  If for some reason the machine is not working you can pay for your parking at the admissions counter.

This facility is truly amazing for the whole family to enjoy.  I know my family and I have enjoyed the museum each time we visit.

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