The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Seattle’s Museum of Pop Culture

Guitar sculpture at Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle.

In the heart of downtown Seattle stands the Museum of Pop Culture, also known as MoPOP. This quirky museum celebrates the stories and works that defined popular culture over the years. Exhibits explore music genres that shaped generations, TV shows and movies now ingrained into our society and iconic literature that will live on. There are remarkable artifacts, fun interactive displays, beautiful photographs, and immersive experiences. Below you'll find the ultimate guide to visiting Seattle’s Museum of Pop Culture. 

The museum was founded in 2000 by Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft. Originally called the Experience Music Project, but changed as it expanded over the past two decades to include all aspects of pop culture. Renowned architect Frank Gehry, who's most well known for designing Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and Walt Disney Concert Hall, designed the building. Thousands of stainless steel and painted aluminum shingles cover the massive structure, creating a futuristic appearance that's a wonder to behold. It's as beautiful outside as it is inside. 

Outside structural design of MoPOP in Seattle.

While visiting the city, MoPOP was my favorite experience in Seattle. Don’t get me wrong, I loved everything that Seattle has to offer, but the Museum of Pop Culture felt like it was made for me. There was an exhibit for all the things I love. Fantasy, sci-fi, horror, rock music, basically MoPOP had it all. It's a place where fans, families, and even people casually interested in pop culture are immersed in the literature, films, and music that are a big part of our lives.

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How to Get To MoPOP

The museum is located at 325 5th Avenue N at the Seattle Center. It’s easy to get to by car, bus or monorail. Plus it’s near several other popular downtown Seattle attractions, including the Space Needle and Chihuly Garden and Glass. One could easily spend a day in the area. If the plan is to drive, note that there are lots to park in, but must be paid. The historic monorail, built for the Seattle World Fair in 1962, is a convenient way to get to MoPOP in downtown Seattle. Find more information and the Monorails schedule here.

Chris Cornell statue outside of Seattle's Museum of Pop Culture.
Statue of Chris Cornell outside of MoPOP

How Long Does It Take To Walk Through the Museum of Pop Culture?

Depending on your interests in pop culture, how long it takes to walk through MoPOP will vary. I’d recommend allotting for at least 2 - 3 hours to have the opportunity to enjoy each exhibit. As a diehard fangirl and music lover, I spent a little over 3 hours on my visit to the museum. During that time, I was able to thoroughly explore all the exhibits. 

Admission Information  

Pricing: The cost of tickets fluctuates depending on the day and time of your visit. A regular adult ticket will average from $25 - $30. MoPOP uses plan-ahead pricing so you can purchase tickets online beforehand for discounted rates. 
Hours: MoPOP is open daily from 10 am - 5 pm. 
Website: https://www.mopop.org/

Museum of Pop Culture Exhibits 

Music

Guitar Gallery

Before MoPOP expanded into the pop culture museum it is today, it was originally dedicated to everything Rock N’ Roll. While it’s evolved over the past decade, the influence of rock music on pop culture is still a vital part of the museum. When visiting MoPOP, it’s impossible to miss the iconic two-story tornado sculpture of over 500 guitars that has become an Instagram sensation. That’s not where the guitars end though. In the guitar gallery, you can view almost 20 guitars from famous musicians. The gallery also displays a timeline of milestones for the guitar, showing its impactful evolution over the years. 

Jimi Hendrix: Wild Blue Angel

Jimi Hendrix, who was born in Seattle, is often considered one of the best guitar players of all time. Though he died in 1970 at only 27, he had a significant impact on pop culture. He's remembered today for hits including “Purple Haze” and “All Along the Watchtower.” At this permanent exhibit, view pieces such as handwritten lyrics, clothing worn by Jimi Hendrix, and countless guitars and records. It’s a unique collection of items from an influential musician. It even showcases the guitar Jimi Hendrix played the “Star-Spangled Banner” with at Woodstock 69’. 

Jimi Hendrix Woodstock 69' guitar.

Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses

When thinking of music and Seattle, the first name that probably comes to mind is Nirvana. Rightfully so, as back in the early 90’s it was Nirvana that put not only grunge as a music genre on the map but Seattle too as the heart of this new music revolution. The museum’s exhibit on Nirvana explores the history of one of the most influential rock bands, with over 200 artifacts and photos. Some of these incredible pieces include Kurt Cobain’s Fender Stratocaster and Dave Grohl’s Tama Rockstar-Pro Drum Kit. Hits that are still played today are proof of the impact Nirvana had on an entire generation. Seeing the journey of a band that defined a genre of music in this detailed exhibit is a remarkable experience. 

Nirvana exhibit Museum of Pop Culture, instruments and setlist.

Sound Lab

Anyone can be a musician at MoPOP in their highly interactive sound lab exhibit. No prior musical experience is necessary here as visitors are encouraged to play with fun installations to create sound and music. People of all ages can record their own songs in the jam studio, check out the turntables in the DJ hallway, listen to the big drum, and try out instruments in soundproof rooms. This is a fun exhibit where everyone can play and kids especially will have a blast. 

Temporary Exhibits

Contact High: A Visual History of Hip-Hop

If classic rock and Seattle grunge isn’t your thing, MoPOP also explores the story of hip-hop with their exhibit, Contact High: A Visual History of Hip-Hop. You'll see the journey of the iconic artists that define the hip-hop genre from the 1970s through today with countless photographs, flyers, and costumes. Some featured artists include The Notorious B.I.G., Tupac Shakur, Jay-Z, Missy Elliot, and Wu-Tang Clan. Not only will you learn about the experiences of these groundbreaking musicians, but the important moments in the genre that changed music forever. Sadly, this is a limited exhibit, open from now through January 2024, so go see it while you still can. 

Pearl Jam: Home & Away 

For five years, MoPOP was home to the Pearl Jam: Home & Away exhibit, but it sadly closed in the spring of 2023. There were over 700 artifacts on display from Pearl Jam, and it was a unique exhibit to explore the lives and music of an innovative band. Though no longer part of the museum, I wanted to share how much I loved this exhibit and show how immersive the galleries at MoPOP are. 

Pearl Jam Home and Away Exhibit seen while visiting the Museum of Pop Culture.

Film and Television

Scared to Death: The Thrill of Horror Film

Showcasing over 50 props and costumes from popular horror films and TV shows, Scared to Death: The Thrill of Horror Film is one of my favorite museum exhibits. There are pieces on display from Buffy the Vampire SlayerFriday the 13thThe Walking Dead, The Thing, and A Nightmare on Elm Street, just to name a few. This is an immersive experience in the horror genre with homages to different themes and endless photo opportunities. Tread carefully through a killer's collection of hanging corpses, settle into a vampire's coffin, and watch out for zombies in a biohazard area. MoPOP does an exceptional job of conjuring the sensations associated with watching a scary movie or TV show with lighting, artwork, and sound. It’s an experience no horror fan should miss. 

Plus check out the museum's list of 100 horror films to see before you die. I’ve currently seen 44 out of the 100 listed movies, so I have some scary movie binging to do! 

Fantasy: Worlds of Myth and Magic

When real life becomes too hard or complicated, turning to beloved stories of worlds filled with magic and wonder can bring us joy and comfort. MoPOP’s gallery dedicated to the world of fantasy explores the books, films, and shows in the genre that shaped pop culture throughout the past century. There are props, costumes, and interactive displays from Harry PotterGame of ThronesLord of the RingsThe Princess Bride, and The Wizard of Oz, to name a few of the iconic fantasy works showcased. It’s an immersive experience into the stories that give us magic. Some favorites of mine are the costumes worn in the Harry Potter films and the first White Walker head from Game of Thrones. There’s also a dragon safely locked away to see! 

Game of Thrones White Walker prop at Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle.

Infinite Worlds of Science Fiction 

Aliens, futuristic societies, robots, and space travel are some of the most popular themes in science fiction, a genre that has continued to influence pop culture. At MoPOP’s Infinite Worlds of Science Fiction, visitors can explore the impressive works of the genre with props, artifacts, and hands-on experiences. There are notable displays from several famed sci-fi series: Star WarsStar TrekDoctor WhoBattlestar Galactica, and Terminator. The artifacts are incredible for any fan to see, everything from lightsabers to a Dalek to uniforms. While I could nerd out about these fandoms all day, there's more to this exhibit than the iconic series that shaped science fiction. It's an immersive experience into the world of sci-fi with an interactive spaceship cockpit, lighted doorways, and a futuristic ambiance. 

Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame 

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame highlights and honors creators and works of art that made significant contributions to pop culture. This is a separate section in the museum from both the sci-fi and fantasy galleries. In the Hall of Fame, you’ll find tributes to legends such as Stan Lee, George Lucas, and Steven Spielberg. There are incredible artifacts on display that any fan would appreciate. Including Iron Man’s mask, the script from Alien, and the fedora worn by Indiana Jones. For my fellow Star Wars fans, there’s even Luke Skywalker’s severed hand prop and lightsaber from The Empire Strikes Back. Immerse yourself in the astounding innovations made by these creative figures who changed our culture. 

Bonus - Indie Game Revolution 

Calling all gamers to this unique and fun exhibit that explores the world of independent games. Both dedicated and casual gamers are familiar with the blockbuster game series and companies that dominate the market, but indie developers are changing the industry with fresh and exciting ideas. In this hands-on exhibit, visitors are welcome to explore and play different indie game titles. Gamers and children alike will enjoy trying out all the games and discovering more about how they were created.

Special Exhibits 

The Museum of Pop Culture often hosts temporary special exhibits. In 2022 there was ‘Heroes and Villains: The Art of the Disney Costume,’ and in 2018 they had ‘Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes.’ Both of which I sadly missed. From now through the summer of 2024, you can catch ‘Hidden Worlds: The Films of LAIKA,’ an exhibit showcasing the studio that brought the movies of Coraline and ParaNorman. Always check MoPOP’s website to see what special events are currently happening. 

So, Is It Worth Going to MoPOP?

Whether you’re a diehard or casual fan of the shows, films, and music that shaped pop culture, you’re sure to enjoy the countless interactive displays and unique exhibits at MoPOP. As I mentioned, I’m perhaps a little biased as this was my favorite thing to do in Seattle as a huge fangirl, but there’s something for everyone to experience at this fun museum. Plus, visiting Seattle’s Museum of Pop Culture is a great rainy-day activity in the city. No matter your interests, this is one place you don’t want to skip in Seattle, and is worth checking out. 

Throne at the fantasy exhibit at Seattle's Museum of Pop Culture.

What exhibit would you want to see at MoPOP? Let me know in the comments! 

 

More Washington Content:

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6 comments

  • Tia says:

    Its on the list! This place looks awesome and i love the body bag room lol

    Reply
    • Jillian says:

      It's such a fun place to visit! The body bag exhibit is so cool, feels like being in a scary movie!

      Reply
  • Vanessa says:

    Wow! I hadn't heard of MoPOP, and now I want to go to get a closer look at the rock/grunge music artifacts. Not so sure about the fantasy/horror movie section - eek!

    Reply
    • Jillian says:

      The grunge and rock exhibits are really impressive and gave me so much more insight into bands I love! The horror section definitely isn't for everyone but what's so great is that there's an exhibit everyone can enjoy!

      Reply
  • Justine Kimoden says:

    This place is so cool! I think you will like Calgary's Studio Bell if you ever come visit here!

    Reply
    • Jillian says:

      Oh I have to check that out now! Highly recommend MoPOP if you're ever in Seattle!

      Reply