How did Seattle get established? What were the first neighborhoods like? What’s the deal with the big red R? And have seaplanes always landed on Lake Union?
The Museum of History and Industry, aka MOHAI, offers a deep dive into how Seattle evolved from its earliest days to now. A mix of pictures, artifacts and hands-on exhibits make this indoor museum fascinating for those of all ages. And, a fun thing to do in Seattle — no matter the weather.
The Grand Atrium is a breathtaking introduction. From its rafters a Boeing B-1 is suspended. One of the first seaplanes to regularly land and take off from Lake Union, it was used to fly mail from Seattle to Victoria, British Columbia from 1920 to 1927.
Glowing behind the plane’s tail is the 12-foot tall Rainier ‘R.’ The iconic sign was originally at the Old Rainier Brewery in Seattle’s Industrial District, where it could be seen from I-5. At its nose, a 165-foot wooden sculpture rises from the ground to the ceiling. Carved from the salvaged wood of a schooner built in 1896, visitors can walk the half-moon interior, finding a skylight at its tip and a window at the floor, peering down to the sculpture’s base where it dips into the waters of Lake Union.
A suggested path can be found on the museum’s floor by following a series of orange dots and arrows. These helpful markers allow you to explore the museum’s collection of permanent and rotating exhibits in chronological order.
From the Grand Atrium, the guided path takes you to the second floor on the northern edge of the building. A series of extensive permanent exhibits have been engagingly constructed in several spaces. The displays are speckled with window views of Lake Union.
A variety of interactive displays invite visitors to try their luck at an ancient slot machine, move logs through a sawmill, help boats pass through the Ballard Locks and more! The second-floor displays continue, wrapping around the entire Grand Atrium along a terrace walkway.
The third floor features the Kids Construction Zone, a large play space filled with learning toys and small windows to Lake Union. The top story is the Maritime exhibit — a beautiful space generously filled with daylight and views. A captain’s wheel marks the space’s helm and at the room’s core is a submarine periscope.