Blue Star museums and galleries offer free fun for active-duty families

Kitsap Military Times

Looking for fun and free places to visit before school starts?

Each summer since 2010, participating Blue Star Museums have offered free admission for active-duty military personnel and their families, including National Guard and Reserve. Besides artifacts and exhibits, some of these sites also offer virtual tour apps that direct you to historic sites.

Here are the Blue Star museums in Washington in alphabetical order by city. For a list of Blue Star Museums in other states, go to

The Lelooska Foundation and Cultural Center is a great place to learn more about Northwest tribes. The Lelooska Museum holds an immense collection of artifacts from many regions including the Northwest, Midwest, Northeast, Southeast, Southwest and the Arctic. These items are many and varied including baskets, parfleches, corn husk bags, dolls, spoons, cradles, moccasins, tomahawks, pipes, pipe bags, dresses, a 15-foot birch bark canoe and an entire replica fur trade store fully furnished to the period. Info: www.lelooska-museum-history.

Bainbridge Island Historical Society Museum is located in a 1908 schoolhouse. Learn about the Japanese American internment and the Native American families that used the island as their seasonal hunting and fishing grounds. Info: www.
Bainbridge Island Museum of Art focuses on artists and collections from the Kitsap and Olympic peninsulas, as well as the broader Puget Sound region.
Kids Discovery Museum features events and activities geared toward children, including a variety of hands-on exhibits encouraging sensory exploration and interactive play for the whole family. Info:
KidsQuest Children’s Museum is a hands-on, interactive museum for children infants to 8 years. Exhibits integrate science, technology, engineering, art and math for whole-body, whole-brain learning. Info:
Kitsap History Museum includes a timeline of the county and authentic local shop fronts from the early 1900s. Info:
Puget Sound Navy Museum collects, preserves and interprets the naval heritage of the Pacific Northwest for the benefit of the U.S. Navy and general public. Info:
Gallery One Visual Arts Center offers exhibitions, classes and even wine tastings. Look before you go! Take the museum’s virtual tour at
Pacific Bonsai Museum is a cultural gem that offers contemporary and traditional bonsai exhibits, group tours, education and special events. Info:
The Whale Museum
shares the natural history of marine mammals, with a special focus on the orca pods living in the Salish Sea, the inland waters around the San Juans. Info:
Gig Harbor History Museum is a regional maritime and history museum. It includes an 1893 schoolhouse. Info:
Maryhill Museum of Art is a must see. While you are there, be sure to tour the nearby Stonehenge Veterans Memorial, the nation’s first WWI memorial. Info:
Granite Falls Historical Society offers self-guided tours of historic sites all over Snohomish County. Pick up brochures at the front desk, download the app on your smartphone and off you go. Info:
Polson Museum, located on the banks of the Hoquiam River, gives visitors an impressive glimpse into Grays Harbor’s steam-powered logging era, complete with a blacksmith shop and a Railroad Camp. Info:
Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum showcases the history of the region where the Columbia River meets the Pacific, from the early Chinookan People through European exploration, pioneer settlement, and the industrial era. Info:
U.S. Naval Undersea Museum takes you through the evolution of undersea operations and warfare, from the American Revolution through the present day. Info:
Lynden Pioneer Museum cleverly put its historic main street all under one roof. Don’t believe us? Take the virtual tour on their website at
White Pass Country Museum has historical artifacts, photos, and documents from the underwater town of Kosmos to the summit of White Pass. Info:
Franklin County Historical Society is in the 1920 Andrew Carnegie Library and offers a collection of historic artifacts and information. Info:


Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture: is the oldest public museum in Washington state and was designated the State Museum in 1899. Its administration resides with the University of Washington College of Arts & Sciences. The Burke recognizes that the museum sits on traditional Indigenous lands. The Burke holds deep respect for Indigenous knowledge, and is dedicated to collaborating with diverse Native populations, sharing collections and learning together. The Burke is a research and collections based museum that serves many audiences and communities, including Washington state residents, tourists and visitors to Seattle, educators and students, Indigenous and Pacific communities, and researchers, scholars, and enthusiasts. The 16 million objects are used in many ways, including education, research, as a library of cultural heritage and to preserve diverse specimens. For more go to or call 206-616-3962. The museum is at 4331 Memorial Way NE in Seattle.
Frye Art Museum: is a living legacy of visionary patronage and civic responsibility, committed to artistic inquiry and a rich visitor experience. A catalyst for engagement with contemporary art and artists, the founders said access shall always be free. Located on Seattle’s First Hill, the Frye Art Museum first opened its doors in 1952 as the legacy of Charles and Emma Frye, prominent early-twentieth century Seattle business leaders and art collectors. One of the current exhibits is “Inye Wokoma: This Is Who We Are,” the first museum exhibition of Seattle-based filmmaker and visual artist Inye Wokoma. Inspired by meditations on land and lineage, nature and ancestry, This Is Who We Are investigates the evolving relationship between place and identity through the lens of spirituality and indigenous traditions. The exhibition reflects Wokoma’s family heritage, which has roots on his mother’s side in African culture of the American South, and on his father’s side in the Niger Delta Ijo/Kalabari cultures and traditions. To find out more go to The museum is located at 704 Terry Ave., Seattle, 206-622-9250.
Henry Art Gallery: is internationally recognized for bold and challenging exhibitions, for pushing the boundaries of contemporary art and culture, and for being the first to premiere new works by established and emerging artists. Through individual experiences with art, visitors are inspired to upend their expectations and discover surprising connections. The Henry is guided by our founding principle: that art expands hearts and minds. It is located at 15th Ave NE and NE 41st streets, Seattle, 206-543-2280. Go to for more.
Northwest African American Museum: At the heart of the African American experience in the Northwest is the story of our journey to this region, the establishment of our vibrant community and the ways in which we have survived. To tell this ever-unfolding story, the museum’s exhibits and programs feature the visual arts, music, crafts, literature and history of African Americans in the Northwest. Cognizant of the Black community’s continuous evolution, NAAM focuses on African Americans whose route to the new world was through slavery as well as recent immigrants arriving from places such as Somalia, Sudan and Ethiopia. Northwest African American Museum opened its doors to the public on March 8, 2008 — the realization of a dream 25 years in the making. For more go to It is located at 2300 S. Massachusetts St., Seattle, phone 206-518-6000.
The Museum of Flight: is a private nonprofit air and space museum in the northwest United States. It is located at the southern end of King County International Airport, in the city of Tukwila, just south of Seattle. Travel through time and space. The Museum of Flight is full of an incredible collection of aircraft, spacecraft, artifacts, galleries, exhibits, facts and stories that embody the past, present and future of flight. Soar higher than ever as Above and Beyond celebrates both the history and future of flight through a variety of immersive simulations, interactive design challenges, impactful stories of innovation and so much more. This large-scale exhibition invites visitors to experience what it takes to make the “impossible” possible. For more go to The museum is located at 9404 E. Marginal Way South, Seattle, phone 206-764-5700.
Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience: The Wing is dedicated to immersing visitors in uniquely American stories of survival, success, conflict, compassion and hope. Through our guided tours and ongoing exhibitions, visitors can experience real life stories of the Asian Pacific American community. The first version of the museum opened its doors on May 17, 1967 in a humble storefront at 414 8th Ave. South in the Chinatown-International District. Several decades later, the museum continues to be an important place where the Asian Pacific American community looks to for engagement, inspiration and leadership – a legacy that its namesake, Wing Luke, left to Seattle. It is located at 719 South King Street (between 7th and 8th Avenue South), Seattle, phone 206-623-5124. The website is


Sequim Museum & Arts: The mission of the Museum & Arts Center is to be the stewards of Sequim’s cultural heritage by engaging the public in the preservation, study, and interpretation of the collections, and supporting the arts and humanities through inspiring education and exhibition. The website is
NW Museum of Arts + Culture: The Eastern Washington State Historical Society under the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture collects art, artifacts, and primary source materials. The collections includes fine art and material culture from the Americas, Europe, and Asia. Info:
Steilacoom Historical Museum Association: A major pioneer community, this charming village has preserved some of its most historic landmarks, including the 1895 Bair Drug and Hardware Store and the 1857 Nathaniel Orr Home and wagon shop. Info:
Sumner Ryan House Museum: Originally a one-room cabin built by Fred Seaman, George Ryan, who became Sumner’s first mayor in 1891, bought the property in 1872. Ryan added onto the house in 1875 and 1885. Info:
Suquamish Tribal Museum & Cultural Center: In addition to a large repository of photographs documenting tribal life from the 1860s to the present, the museum’s collection includes 496 archaeological artifacts recovered from the site of the former Old Man House, a massive longhouse that served as the Suquamish capitol until its destruction in the late nineteenth century, including harpoon points, smoking pipes, and jewelry, Suquamish ritual paraphernalia on display at the Suquamish Museum. The main gallery features a permanent exhibit, “Ancient Shores — Changing Tides,” showcasing drawings, documents, and historic photographs related to the Suquamish Tribe, contemporary and historic crafts, and interpretative panels and multimedia elements. The centerpiece of this exhibit is a 300-year-old carved canoe that was last used in the 1989 Paddle to Seattle, the first of a now annual series of canoe journeys through the Salish Sea undertaken by tribal members. For more go to


The 9th and 10th Horse Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers Museum: The museum’s mission is to educate, preserve, and present the history and outstanding contributions of Americas’s Buffalo Soldiers from 1866 – 1944, including WWII. Find out more at
Foss Waterway Seaport: Foss Waterway Seaport bulls itself as Puget Sound’s premier maritime heritage, education and event center, celebrating Tacoma’s rich maritime heritage – past, present and future. Located on the waterfront in a century-old wooden wheat warehouse, built for cargo arriving by rail and departing by sail (“where rails met sails”) during the early years of Tacoma. Check out
Job Carr Cabin Museum: This replica of founding father Job Carr invites visitors to take a step back in time to the mid 1800s. Bring the family for a picnic and have fun on the playground in Old Town Park. Check out
Museum of Glass: In addition to exhibits, the museum has its own hot shop where master blowers create work and give classes. See the hot shop live online
Tacoma Art Museum: In August, TAM’s exhibits include cowboy and native American art as well as glass works by Dale Chihuly. For more, go to
Washington State Historical Society: Native arts and quilt-making exhibits and events are highlighted in August. For more family fun, go online and sign up for the “The Great Washington Heritage Geo-Adventure,” and go geo-caching at 25 locations in 5 separate regions. Earn all five geo-path tags and you get entered for the grand prize. Info:


Clark County Historical Museum: Housed inside Vancouver’s 1909 Carnegie Library, the museum includes artifacts from the mid-1200s through the present, including Native American basketry and beadwork, territorial history and statehood, and The Spokane, Portland, and Seattle Railway. For more go to:


Fort Walla Walla Museum: The museum occupies 15 acres within Fort Walla Walla Park, part of the original 640-acre military reservation. It features exhibits, galleries, and a Pioneer Village. Info:


Shafer Historical Museum: This authentic pioneer log cabin village built in the 1890s is like walking onto a movie set for “Paint Your Wagon.” Check it out at